At some point or another, most drivers will be cited with at least one traffic violation. When this occurs, many people's knee-jerk reaction is to bite the bullet and pay the fine. What motorists don't realize is that this method of handling traffic citations can be damaging in the long run.
Traffic violations are perceived as a minor offense by the vast majority of Pennsylvania motorists. Nevertheless, the citing of a serious citation, or one too many citations, has the potential to snowball into serious legal issues that will ultimately lead to harsh consequences. Traffic violations have been an unsuspecting culprit for many penalties, ranging from costly fines and high insurance premiums to a license suspension or revocation. All of which inconvenience the average driver, and can jeopardize the livelihood of a commercial driver.
There are multiple ways in which you can challenge a traffic citation in an effort to either completely eliminate the ticket, or at the very least reduce the fine. If you're planning on fighting your ticket, it's recommended that you retain an attorney. A legal professional will be able to properly assess which course of action will work better for you in your unique circumstance. They will also undoubtedly maximize your chances of success.
For the purposes of this article, here's an overview of what fighting a ticket and succeeding entails in Pennsylvania.
Pleading Not Guilty
If you're contemplating fighting a ticket in Pennsylvania, you should act fast. The state requires motorists to submit their plea of not guilty to the county court in their jurisdiction within 10 days of receiving the citation. How motorists are permitted to do so depends on the respective court. Normally, drivers are to inform the court of a guilty plea in person. However, some state traffic courts may permit drivers to notify them online, by mail, or by phone.
There are a few things motorists should be aware of before pleading not guilty.
You have to post collateral. Upon notification of a guilty plea, the courts will request that you post collateral. In the majority of cases, this includes the fine that you're facing for your citation, court costs, and any surcharges. Although this may be off-putting, these costs are less expensive in comparison to the financial and administrative costs you'll have to pay in the event that you have multiple tickets on your record or are facing a license suspension. If you win your case, the traffic ticket fines will be returned to you.
Missing court dates warrant serious consequences. If you make the decision to plead not guilty for a traffic citation, keep in mind that you'll have to invest some time into coming to court. If not, you'll be subjected to some pretty serious consequences. Motorists who've missed or postponed court dates have been subjected to license suspensions, warrants for their arrest, and missed opportunities of being involved in their own case. Thankfully, missing a court date isn't the very end of the road. Drivers have the option of filing a request for a continuance either in writing or in person at their respective traffic court. This request should be handled promptly, as the court may have deadlines pertaining to submission.
Once your plea has been officially made, you're all set to fight your ticket in court.
Fighting Your Ticket in Court
Motorists either represent themselves in court or hire an attorney to do the legwork for them. As mentioned above, hiring an attorney who specializes in challenging traffic tickets will give you an advantage. This option should be seriously considered, especially if you're in a situation where you have multiple tickets on your record, or are facing a license suspension. If you're concerned about attorney fees, the costs associated with hiring a professional usually are far less than the cost of the ticket itself and the insurance rate increases you'll experience if you just pay the fine. The court may also appoint you counsel if (1) you don't have the financial means to hire a traffic ticket attorney on your own, or (2) if convicted, your charges could lead to a penalty of imprisonment.
The formula for winning a traffic ticket case is preparation sprinkled with a little bit of luck. Regardless of whether you have an attorney to represent you, any and all evidence should be used and considered when making your case. Presenting pictures that signify strange road and weather conditions, damaged speed limit, stop and yield signs, photos of where the officer was posted, and if they were obstructed from view are exceedingly helpful. This evidence should align with your argument, that should be well thought out and presented effectively to contest your ticket.
Remember, if the officer who cited your ticket doesn't show up to court, you automatically win and will be found not guilty. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't prepare. One common mistake drivers make is to show up to court hoping that the officer won't show because they didn't adequately prepare. Don't wind up losing your case because you didn't take the time to build a solid defense.
If this is your first time in court, you can expect the process to consist of:
- opening arguments made by you (or your lawyer) and a state prosecutor
- the presentation of evidence and witnesses
- Opportunity for cross-examinations and rebuttals
- Closing arguments made by you (or your lawyer) and a state prosecutor
- The verdict
Pennsylvania Traffic Ticket Defense Attorney
Being convicted of a traffic violation in Pennsylvania can expose you to dire legal and financial repercussions. Even if you feel that a ticket is unconquerable, it doesn't hurt to challenge it with the help of a legal professional. This is especially true if you're facing any of the consequences indicated above. Traffic ticket defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is dedicated to helping his clients manage traffic infractions the right way to avoid the serious consequences they carry. Contact him today for a case evaluation.