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For some minor infractions such as a minor speeding ticket, running a stop sign or making an illegal turn, most people do not hire an attorney (though one may be able to help you reduce the charges). If the penalty is only going to be around $100 - $200 and a point or two on your license, for most people the expense of hiring an attorney generally outweighs the cost of the penalty even if you are found not guilty. But where is the line between hiring an attorney and going it alone?
Traffic Court has Serious Consequences
For serious traffic offenses an attorney may be a wise investment. Receiving a citation for serious traffic offenses may not only result in a large fine and points on your license, but may also result in a suspension of your license. What is the monetary value to you of not being able to drive for 30, 60 or even 90 days? Would you pay $1,000 to $3,000 to an attorney if they help you keep your license?
Let’s face it. A non-lawyer is rarely equipped to defend themselves in court against even the most minor of traffic offenses. For more serious offenses the need for a lawyer is even greater.
Rules of Procedure
Because there will not be a prosecuting attorney in most traffic cases the officer will not be asked direct questions, but instead, will likely tell the judge a story about what happened. If you do not object during the officer’s testimony the officer may tell the judge whatever he wants. If the officer knows that you have an attorney do you think he may testify differently than if you did not have one?
All testimony must follow your jurisdiction’s rules of evidence. Your attorney would force the officer to follow the rules. Your attorney will object to statements that should not be allowed, and effectively cross-examine the officer. If you represent yourself you are given the opportunity to cross-examine the officer as well, but how well do you think you will do? Will you know what questions to ask, will you know how to ask them? If you do not ask the question in the correct manner the judge may not even allow the officer to answer it.
More than just Defending you
Even if the facts of your case make for a sure conviction hiring an attorney for the sole purpose of helping with the sentence may be a wise investment. Your attorney will be in a better position through their experience to help you negotiate a lighter sentence by pleading guilty if you choose to. They likely know what most other defendants receive for pleading guilty to the same offense.
If you do not plead guilty and are convicted your attorney will also be in a better position to advocate for a sentence in your best interests with the judge. After you are sentenced you may not even realize until later the true extent of the sentence. If your license is suspended did you know that you could have possibly been allowed to drive to and from work? If having your license is more valuable than a higher fine could you have asked for a higher fine in return for keeping your license?
Serious driving offenses carry serious penalties. Though you may scoff at having to hire an attorney for “traffic court” it may be in your best interest. There are many attorneys who specialize in traffic court. Walking into court with an experienced one may make a lot of difference.