I have done tons of traffic tickets in my earlier days as a lawyer in private practice. Now I am an insurance regulator. You should know one thing – the real expense of a traffic ticket is the potential effect it has on your auto insurance costs. Tickets can get your rates raised or your coverage non-renewed.
As far as how to deal with it in court. First and foremost – an attorney can be very beneficial. It may not seem that paying somebody $50 – $100 to go stand up for you on a $50 fine is cost effective. But if it saves you $500 on your insurance rates (or being cancelled) it’s worth it. I also know from personal experience that the prosecutors will give an attorney a better deal than an individual. Also, you’ll get in and out of court a LOT faster. Therefore, recommendation number one is get an attorney. They know this stuff already. And make sure its somebody who does this type of thing. The corporate tax guy is probably not going to know anymore than you do about traffic court. You match the lawyer to the job, and it this case you want somebody who knows the lower courts (district courts in my jurisdiction).
That being said, if you can’t or won’t get a mouthpiece, here’s some advice to use on your own.
First thing – your goal is to either have the case dismissed (tough) or pled down to a non-moving violation. If it doesn’t appear on your driving record as a moving violation, it won’t affect your insurance. Where I used to do tickets, Prosecutors would plead speeding tickets down to a “Defective Equipment” charge as a matter of practice for attorneys in all but the most egregious cases. You’ll still pay a fine, but it won’t mean that Allstate will be using its good hands on you too.
A lot depends on where you are. If you’re in a busy urban court you’re more likely to be able to bargain than if your in a rural court that has more time to deal with each and every case (unless you know the prosecutor). Busy courts = not much time to deal with each case. Exploit this. Let the prosecutor know you are prepared to take the case to trial if you can’t work a deal.
The first thing to determine is if the arresting officer is in court. If not, move to have the case dismissed for the lack of a prosecuting witness. Sometimes this works. Usually, the court just reschedules the case and subpoenas the cop to be there on the next date. If the cop doesn’t show up the next time, they’ll generally dismiss. On the other hand, if he does, the state is less likely to bargain with you since they had to jump through the hoops.
Barring that, I would suggest having an excuse – i.e., my speedometer was not working, my axles were too well greased, something like that. If you can have documentary evidence (e.g. a receipt from a mechanic) to support your argument, you’re home free.
Of course, she could just take her medicine and pay her ticket. Naaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. That would make her part of the vast government conspiracy. Just kidding, C#3. Good luck, and let me know what happens.
President of the Vernon Dent fan club.