Do I really need a lawyer for a traffic ticket?

The most common question we get is, “Is this really something that I need a lawyer for?”  While that’s a bit like asking a surgeon if you need surgery, I’d rather be honest with people and tell them what I truly believe, than take money from someone that I can’t really do much for.  I can tell you what the impact of pleading guilty will be, I can also tell you what I can likely do for you.  The true value of our service is that we obtain a reduction of the charges against you to reduce the points and the fine.  We also appear in Court without you, so that you aren’t put through the hassle and inconvenience of sitting in Court for hours on end.

Hindsight is 20/20

I can tell you that at least once a week, I get a call from someone that decided to handle their ticket on their own.  They pleaded guilty and received a notice in the mail for a fine that is much more than they thought it would be, or they get a notice from their insurance company that their premium will increase or their coverage has been dropped.

Two recent cases come to mind:

A good friend of mine had a simple ticket in his hometown.  He called me after he got a fine notice for hundreds of dollars. “I thought I was doing the right thing by pleading guilty,” he said.  “But the fine was ridiculous!”  I was able to withdraw his plea, after I told him never to do that again.  His fines went down substantially after I took over.

The daughter of a family friend got a speeding ticket in Erie County and called right away.  Her father is an insurance agent and he asked around about the impact of her ticket.  He emailed me, incredulous after discovering what a conviction would cost, “I had no idea this was such a big deal.”  I appeared in Court with her and her 6 point speeding violation was reduced to a parking ticket, with no points.  Tragedy averted.

Sometimes, it’s clear that I can’t really make a difference for a potential client.  I will not take a case unless I am confident I can make a difference by saving the client time and money.

You should know what’s at stake

Here’s a chart with the fines for the most common speeding charges in New York State:

There are a lot of lawyers and other businesses that make big claims about traffic tickets.  The fact of the matter is there is no magic trick that works in defending traffic tickets, and anyone that tells there is, is probably not doing you any favors.  Defending drivers that receive traffic tickets successfully requires a combination of skill and experience.

We have developed a system that allows us to manage these cases effectively.  Using a proprietary database that allows us to generate the necessary court documents, track case progress, and analyze each case effectively, we can handle most cases for less than other law firms because we do it more efficiently.

 Here’s how I save people money

Let me give you an example of a case  to demonstrate what I mean. This is a real case, but I’ve changed the names and town. I’m not going to pick the best case, or the worst, instead I’ll give you a case I handled this week.

  • John B. got a ticket in a small town near Niagara Falls.  He was visiting family from Florida, was going about 15 miles over the limit and was pulled over.  He had a decent driving record, maybe a couple tickets about four years ago, but nothing substantial.  So at 15 miles over the limit, if he pleaded guilty, he would be assessed four points and a fine that ranged between $175 and $385.
  • Points though, are the real cost.  Insurance companies use your driving record, among a variety of other factors, to set your premiums for liability insurance.  I did the research, and according to a couple websites, it turns out a single point on your license can cause your premiums to go up as much as 30 percent over three years.  Let’s say John pays $1000 a year for insurance.  That means that these points will effectively cost him $900 in increased insurance premiums over three years.
  • So pleading guilty would cost John between $1075 and $1285, if my math is right.  It seems ridiculous right?  I thought so to, but do your own research and you’ll find that it’s true.
  • John emailed his ticket to me and asked for a quote for our services and asked what we could do to help.   The town he got the ticket in can be difficult, only because it is a crowded court and I often have to wait for my cases to be called, it’s just the way the system is sometimes. So I had to charge him more, because it would take more time.  I charged him $300.00 to appear on his behalf.   He signed a waiver that gave me permission to appear for him, and authorized the Court to waive his appearance, meaning he didn’t have to come back to court.
  • I negotiated with the Prosecutor, got the points dropped, and the total fine was $180.  So the total cost of the ticket was $480.00.

Honestly, that’s the worst result I’ve gotten for a client in a while.  The Prosecutor in that case didn’t like his driving record, wanted to give him points, and wanted him to go to school, but I was able to get the points eliminated without school.  Nonetheless, I saved John at least $595.00.

Let’s do another case. Again, names are changed, but it’s in every other respect:

  • A Law Student in Erie County, Denise.  She got a ticket for rolling through a stop sign.  That’s a three point infraction.  Fine would range between $85 and $235.  She’s single, so her insurance premiums are less, only $600.00.
  • That means her premiums would only go up $540. Total cost of the ticket then would be  between $625 and $775.  
  • I charged her $200, and got the points eliminated. The Court imposed a fine of $75.00.  I saved Denise at least $350.00.