Do I Need a Defense Lawyer for a Florida Traffic Ticket?
Rare is the motorist who never gets a single traffic ticket. According to Florida Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics, law enforcement in this state dole out nearly 2.7 million traffic tickets annually - most of those non-criminal moving violations and non-moving infractions. If you’re one of those people, is it truly worth it to hire a defense lawyer for a Florida traffic ticket? Wouldn't it be easier - cheaper even - just to pay for it?
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this common question, what we can say is more often than not, hiring a Fort Lauderdale traffic ticket defense lawyer will cost you less in the long run than simply sending a check to the court. This is true even if you know you committed the violation for which you were cited.
Here’s what you must consider: Paying a traffic ticket is an admission of guilt (or no contest). Consequences of that admission go far beyond the fines and court fees. They may include:Points on your driver’s license.
Not only is this likely to raise your car insurance costs (see below for more on that), it could result in suspension of your license. If you can’t drive, you’ll need to rely on friends, family, or public transportation to get to school, work, and daily errands. Driver’s license points also stay on your record for up to 10 years, potentially impacting future opportunities for employment, loans, and leases.Increase in your auto insurance rate.
As it stands, Floridians already pay some of the highest car insurance premiums in the country, with the average policy in a single recent year totaling $3,183. According to Bankrate.com, that’s 37 percent higher than the national average. Safety research firm The Zebra reports that a single traffic citation can increase your car insurance by a stunning 82 percent. Let’s say you’re paying the Florida average rate of $3,180. An 82 percent increase would up your annual premium to nearly $5,800 yearly. Your monthly payment would go from $265 to $483 monthly. Suddenly, “just paying” that $200 traffic ticket doesn’t sound like such a great deal after all. But even less serious infractions can have a big impact. For instance, a ticket for distracted driving/cell phone use can increase your car insurance rate in Florida by 20 percent. Using our previous example would mean a monthly payment increase of $53 and an annual increase of $600. Also, if you have previous violations and rack up enough points, you may be classified as a high-risk driver, which will mean an even pricier policy.Mandated safe driving courses.
You might be able to sidestep the points on your license, but often only if you agree to attend mandated driver safety courses - at your own expense. Courses can range anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, with costs typically ranging anywhere from $20 to $75. (With these, it’s not so much the money you pay as the time you’re required to dedicate to it, which is time away from work and other commitments.)Possible probation or jail.
Unless you were cited for a serious criminal driving offense such as DUI or hit-and-run, you probably won’t face jail time for a traffic ticket. One exception would be if you’re already on probation or parole. Most civil offenses (including non-criminal traffic violations) generally won’t be considered probation violations. However, you need to look carefully at the exact terms of your release to know for sure. Furthermore, if you lie about or fail to disclose the offense to your probation officer, that in itself is likely a violation that could send you back behind bars. If the traffic citation was issued for a criminal offense, that probably is a violation of your probation that will lead to at least some jail time.License suspension, arrest, or jail for failure to pay fines.
Government-imposed debts for minor traffic violations can quickly compile and grow if you don’t pay them in full or on time. This can have ruinous consequences, particularly for minimum wage workers.Risking admission of negligence.
If you were issued a traffic ticket in connection with an accident that resulted in personal injuries to someone else, you need to understand from the very beginning that there’s more at stake than just license points and fines. Whatever you say or do in reference to that traffic case - including entering a plea of “no contest” by simply paying the fine - can be used against you in any prospective or pending civil claims. Anything you say to the police or the court or your insurers will be carefully examined in the injury claim. If you don’t have insurance or the insurance you have isn’t adequate to fully cover the injured person’s losses, you could be held personally liable - meaning the court could issue a judgment against you and start seizing assets or garnishing your wages to cover those losses. Florida crash settlements can range (on average) to anywhere between $10,000 and $60,000. Serious injuries or death will be even more costly. Hiring a defense lawyer can help protect your rights and best interests.How Can a Fort Lauderdale Defense Lawyer Help With My Traffic Ticket?
If you received a criminal traffic citation and you’re facing possible jail time, you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer - no question. The stakes are too high.
With non-criminal citations, consider the aforementioned factors and then the fact that a defense lawyer can often help you avoid the worst of those. While no attorney can guarantee a given outcome, an attorney advocating for you greatly improves your odds of walking away with dropped or reduced offenses, lower fines (or no fines), fewer points (if any) on your license, and fewer court-imposed penalties and traffic school requirements.
This is true even if you know you committed the offense at issue. It comes down to negotiation. The police understand the law. The prosecutor understands the law. The magistrate understands the law. Chances are, you don’t - or at least not as well as them. You might not even realize your options. And even if you do, negotiating fair terms on your own behalf can be tricky. (Even fellow lawyers rarely represent themselves in any matter.)
In a lot of cases, we can even appear in court on your behalf - allowing you to avoid missing any work, school, or other obligations.
To learn more about how we may be able to help reach resolutions in your pending Fort Lauderdale traffic ticket case that are most favorable to your interests, reach out to the experienced Broward traffic ticket defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm.
A free initial consultation with The Ansara Law Firm can be scheduled by calling (954) 761-4011.