Traffic Court Can Be A Trap For The Unwary
by Allen Brotherton
Most people recognize that it would be foolish to go to court on a serious criminal charge without the aid of an experienced attorney. In addition to the myriad procedural rules and technicalities arising from both the statutes and appellate court decisions, there are many unwritten rules and distinctive personalities that must be taken into account in successfully reaching a favorable outcome. In fact, even among those represented by lawyers, similarly–situated defendants can end up with vastly different results due to the relative skill and knowledge of their lawyers.
It is not so widely known, however, that traffic court can be just as treacherous, if not more so, for inexperienced navigation. There are separate and unrelated driver license and insurance premium ramifications for each traffic charge. The differences in penalties among the various potential outcomes are neither obvious nor logical; indeed, many are counter-intuitive.
For example, a conviction of speeding as low as 1 mph over the limit in a 55 mph zone carries 3 driver license points and will result in either a 45% insurance surcharge or no insurance increase at all, depending on the driver’s prior record. Meanwhile, conviction of Exceeding a Safe Speed carries only 2 license points but will always result in a 25% insurance surcharge, no matter the driving history. As another example, even with no prior record, a single conviction of speeding 76 mph in a 65 mph zone can result in a revocation of your driver license, while multiple convictions of speeding 55 mph in a 25 mph zone will not.
Some traffic charges may be resolved without appearing in court by simply paying the standard fine and court costs to the clerk. However, this is rarely a good idea; often such action will result in a significant increase in your insurance costs, and even a revocation of your license. Also, many times a ticketed driver is provided information about how to dispose of the charge by attending a driving school. However, while there are certain circumstances where this may be an appropriate disposition, often times the resulting prayer for judgment continued (“PJC”) is instead a bad result. Even if a PJC is an acceptable result, many times there are better results available that would not require the cost and inconvenience of the school and would preserve the PJC for later use.
At least once per week, I talk with someone who has handled a traffic ticket on their own and received an unexpected revocation of their license or a significant increase in their insurance premiums due to the outcome of their case. So unless you know the law and the court system well, do not assume that a “simple” traffic ticket equals a simple court case.
Allen Brotherton has been representing people charged with crimes, including traffic violations, for over 19 years. For more information, go to knoxlawcenter.com or call 704-315-2363 or 866-704-9059 (Toll-free).
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