Oct 25

Jon Zimmerman

Why You Should Fight Your Traffic Ticket And How An Attorney Can Save You Time And Money

by Jon Zimmerman

Here you are in your vehicle, driving along, and you see blue and red lights flashing behind you.  A police officer is practically on your bumper.  You pull over and an officer asks you for your license, registration, and insurance.  The police officer takes your information, leaves to go to his or her patrol car or motorcycle, and a few minutes later the officer has returned with a traffic ticket.  You drive away, irritated and not knowing what to do.  

A few of the frequent questions I get asked are:

1.  Should I fight my speeding or other type of traffic ticket?  

2.  Why should I hire an experienced attorney to help me fight my traffic ticket?  

3.  My traffic ticket that I got in Everett or Seattle or Tacoma is *only* for $124, why should I pay a lawyer more than the face value of the ticket?  

These are great questions.  Maybe you are reading this blog and you just got a traffic ticket, or you are wondering how to fight your ticket.  Or perhaps you are coming to this blog because you understand some of the costs involved beyond what you see on a speeding ticket or other type of moving violation. 


Moving violations affect auto and life insurance premiums as well as your driving record.  For some people it even affects employment.  It's important to differentiate between a moving violation and a nonmoving violation.  The general difference is that moving violations usually affect your driving record and what you pay for insurance and nonmoving violations usually do not.  There are some unusual exceptions, but this is a basic, general difference in most but not all cases.  Want to keep your insurance from going through the roof?  Want to keep your driving record clean so you don't get suspended or revoked?  These are reasons why you need to fight your traffic ticket.  Paying or mitigating a moving violation means you are saying "please raise my insurance rates, please put this violation on my record."  Informed and smart drivers understand that they want to keep their driving records clean and drivers want to keep insurance rates low.  


In my practice I have fought thousands of tickets for people in most of the State of Washington's 39 counties.  I see people in court all the time trying to defend themselves.  In fact, some people tell me "I'm going to defend myself on this ticket, the cop was absolutely wrong, and when I tell the judge what happened, the judge will believe me."  I also hear others say "the judge just sided with the officer and didn't listen to anything I had to say."  The truth is that most people in court on a traffic ticket have rarely been to court.  They have no idea what to say.  They are nervous.  They often convict themselves by saying something that never or rarely works.  And I see people who represent themselves lose, time and again.  But these drivers aren't just losing $124.  They are losing jobs.  Drivers are losing more money to insurance companies (often thousands of dollars) and drivers then have tarnished driving records, making it financially more difficult to pay other expenses.  

It pains me to see drivers who represent themselves lose, especially when these drivers could often win if they had just said the right thing.  An attorney experienced in fighting traffic tickets and in defending people accused of traffic violations understands the law, an attorney is familiar with the rules the police must follow and what happens when these rules aren't followed, and an attorney understands court procedures.  In my experience, judges often treat people with attorneys better than those who fight traffic tickets without an attorney.  This isn't necessarily fair, but it's a reality I often see.  One reason is that sometimes judges feel that a person who has hired an attorney cares more about the person's driving record.  Another reason is that judges know that an experienced attorney understands where to start and often has some familiarity with the court's policies and sometimes with the prosecutor.  This usually helps the court calendars run more quickly and smoothly.  

Finally, people visit a doctor for medical problems, a plumber for plumbing issues, and a mechanic for car issues.  People do this because these providers can help in very specific areas.  The legal world is complicated.  Missteps are expensive.  They cost people money and create numerous other headaches.  Don't let a traffic ticket cause you a lot of stress.  Contact an attorney who focuses on representing people with traffic tickets and put your best foot forward (not just on the gas!).   An attorney can usually go to court without you having to appear, meaning you can stay at work and let your lawyer deal with your case in court.  


Except in exceptional and unusual cases, I always charge a flat fee to fight traffic tickets.  This creates certainty in the fee and lowers stress.  

Let's work with the example in the third question above.  A driver receives a $124 speeding ticket.  This is a moving violation that, if you lose the violation, pay, or mitigate the ticket, stays on the insurance record for three years and affects your premiums.  How does it add up?  

Imagine that you pay the ticket and disregard everything I've said on this blog.  For illustration purposes only, imagine your rates go up a modest $125 every six months for three years, just because of this one infraction, let's say a speeding ticket or unsafe lane change or stop sign infraction.  Forget employment or other diving privilege issues.  

Your potential cost in this example only:

$150 x 6 premium periods = $900


$124 cost of the ticket = 


$1,024 = Cost to driver of paying the ticket and not hiring an attorney to fight the ticket (for illustration purposes only, as every driver will have different factors that affect insurance premiums and overall costs).  

An attorney's fee for dealing with a speeding ticket and trying to get a traffic ticket dismissed or down to something that won't affect a person's insurance and driving record is often LESS than what you will pay in extra costs over time.  

To recap:  Fight your ticket, hire an experienced attorney who understands procedural (technical) and substantive issues, and do not get fooled into thinking that the amount on the ticket is the bottom line.  Know that you can fight your ticket and that you can hire an experienced attorney who will try to save you time and money.  


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