A fair share of my time, as a Metropolitan Detroit Attorney, is spent in Court handling Traffic Tickets. When I get a call from someone who is considering fighting a Ticket, they usually want to know 1 of 2 things:
1. Is there a way to “get out of” or “beat” the Ticket? or
2. Is there a way to at least avoid the Points?
Before I can answer that question, I have a couple of my own:
1. What does your Driving Record look like (i.e, any points, and if so, for what)? and
2. In what City did you get the ticket you’re calling about?
The answers my questions allow me to give a good answer to the caller’s questions. Let’s look at an example: The other day I went to Court in the City of St. Clair Shores for a guy who received a speeding ticket on I-94. He had no points on his record, and it had been more than two years since his last ticket. He asked what could be done about the ticket. He knew that “beating” the ticket would be an uphill fight, as he had been caught going about 16 miles an hour over the speed limit by radar. When I learned he had no active points, I explained that it was quite likely I would be able to negotiate a deal with the Prosecutor for him to plead responsible to a “no point” offense which would not go on his record.
He was pleased with my answer, and then asked it there was a way he could just have me handle the ticket and not have to go to Court himself. When I explained that in Ticket, or “Civil Infraction” cases a lawyer could go to Court and handle the matter without the Client having to be there, he was thrilled. He made arrangements to send me the ticket, my fee ($400 in his case) and another check for $150 to cover the fine. I went to Court, worked out the deal I had discussed with him, paid his fine and sent him the receipt. Two days later, I received an e-mail from him thanking me for helping him out.
Unfortunately, not all callers have such a clean record and a predictably easy case. In many cases, the caller is worried about getting more points on their driving record because they already have a few (or, in some cases, a lot!). Remember the two questions I’m going to ask, and I’ll explain why they’re so important.
First off, it’s much easier to negotiate a good deal for someone who has a clean Driving Record, or at least one that’s not so bad. Prosecutor’s become progressively more unwilling to give a person a break who, at least by looking at their record (and that’s all they have to look at) appears to do the same thing over and over. In other words, if a person begins to look like a habitual violator of Traffic Laws, it gets harder to argue that this instance of poor driving is out of character for them
Second, different Municipalities have different Prosecutors. Each Prosecutor has to follow the Protocol established by their office and within the framework of how any particular Court does things. In most cases, Traffic Tickets are handled by either the City or Township Attorney, but in some cases, (most often when the Ticket is issued by the Michigan State Police) the County (also called the State) Prosecutor handles the matter. How things can be expected to work out is often dependent on where Ticket was given and which Court will handle it.
Because I limit my Ticket Practice to Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties, I am quite familiar with each Court and how things can be handled there. To put it another way, there are certain Municipalities where a person with 2 tickets currently on their record can get a better deal than a person in another Municipality who wants to work something out on their first Ticket ever. I think it’s vitally important to know those things before anyone wastes any time or money chasing a deal that can’t be had.
Now, having just said that, let me point out one very important fact: In my nearly 20 years of Practicing Law, I have never handled a Ticket case where I did not get some kind of deal for my Client. In other words, in every Ticket case I’ve ever handled, I have always been able to work things out so that my Client was better off when I was done than they’d have been if they’d just paid the ticket, even in those cases where the Client has had a terrible Driving Record.
There are two conclusions we can draw from this information. First, it’s far better to fight the first Ticket you ever receive. This way, with no Points on your record, should you receive another Ticket, you can fight that one with an unblemished record.
Second, you have to talk to a lawyer who regularly handles Ticket cases and get a realistic appraisal of what can be done, and then decide if it’s worth the legal fees. Anyone facing that first Ticket would be missing a great opportunity to keep a clean record if they decide to just pay it. Anyone on the verge of losing their license because of a Bad Driving Record would likewise be well-advised to see what can be done to keep that from happening.
Currently, any Michigan Driver who accumulates 7 or more points on their Driving Record will also have to pay an annual Driver Responsibility Fee to the Michigan Secretary of State.
Even Drivers in the middle (those with some points but not yet in danger of losing their license) may find that the money they save from avoiding Driver Responsibility Fees, or on increased car insurance premiums over the 3 years insurance companies count Traffic Points, more than makes up for the legal fees involved in getting a better deal than just “eating” the Ticket.