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5 Rules to Remember to Guide You in Dealing Traffic Offenses

Like many people, you probably agree that there's nothing more humiliating than getting pulled over by a police officer and handed a ticket. Whether it's for a minor moving violation like a speeding ticket or something more serious like a DUI, you'll need to take some sort of action to remedy the situation. But before you make a move, it helps to understand what the implications are for your ticket and what the best recourse is in your situation.

Understand the Penalties

Traffic tickets inevitably come with penalties of some kind, but some penalties are more apparent than others. If you get a traffic ticket, for instance, you'll be able to see right away that there is a fine. But what many people don't realize is that tickets may come with less obvious penalties too. In addition to the fine on the ticket that the officer issues, you might also be facing:

  • Higher insurance rates
  • Points added to your license
  • A license revocation or suspension

Generally, these more subtle penalties tend to be more of a problem if you've gotten multiple tickets in the past or if you've been convicted of a more serious charge. If you get a ticket for driving under the influence (DUI), for instance, you may have your license immediately suspended. If you get a ticket for a first speeding ticket, on the other hand, you will probably not have your license revoked.

Decide When to Pay a Ticket

Sometimes, the easiest solution seems to be just paying your fine. But before you make a payment, consider that paying the fee is considered an admission of guilt. In the eyes of the law, even if you've never actually pleaded guilty, the fact that you're paying a fine means that you are acknowledging that you were wrong, and you are therefore accepting the consequences of your actions.

Paying a fine makes the most sense for minor tickets, such as a speeding ticket. With a speeding ticket, the fines are usually relatively low, and you may not end up with points on your license. For a more serious conviction, however, like a DUI, you don't want to admit guilt without first speaking with an attorney, as it is a much more serious violation.

If you decide to pay the fine, you will find instructions somewhere on the citation for making a payment. Usually you have several options, which are to submit payment by mail or make a payment electronically. If you choose to pay the fee, it's important to send the payment in before the due date. Otherwise, you could end up losing your driving privileges, having additional fines tacked on to the original payment, and possibly receiving a bench warrant for an arrest. When you choose to pay a fine for a ticket, you do not have to make an appearance in court.

Decide Whether to Fight a Ticket

Most of the time, drivers opt for the alternative options to fighting a ticket. In addition to paying the fine, you might also be able to attend driving classes to prevent the violation from showing up on your record and preventing your car insurance costs from rising. Usually, drivers choose one of those options so that they can move on with their lives. But sometimes, you might decide that fighting a ticket is a worthwhile pursuit, as NOLO explains.

One reason why you might want to avoid paying a ticket is to try to reduce the penalty. Most of the time, you have the option to pay for a ticket electronically or by mail. You can pay the fine quickly and easily that way, but you'll also be paying the full amount. You're also admitting to guilt by submitting a fine payment. However, you do also have the option of appearing in court. If you make a court appearance, you have a better chance of having your fine reduced. You may also potentially avoid your insurance fees from going up.

You may also want to consider fighting a ticket if the implications are serious, such as you are faced with a large fine, you are being cited for a more serious offense, or both. In this case, a judge may reduce your fine and the charges, and he or she may even conclude that you are not guilty. Before you choose this method of dealing with a payment, realize that it can take quite a bit of time and money to go through the legal process. Therefore, it helps to evaluate how much time the court process might take and how much money you will spend.

Know When to Hire an Attorney

If you elect to fight the ticket, you may find that it makes more sense to hire a traffic law attorney on your behalf. There are several reasons why it makes sense to have a skilled attorney on your side, according to

  • Dismiss some or all of the charges
  • Reduce the charges through plea bargain
  • Arrange for classes at a traffic school

When you're deciding whether or not to hire a lawyer, there are several factors to take into consideration. First, there is the issue of how much money and time you have to invest in the court process. It will be cheaper to represent yourself, but a lawyer may also be able to arrange a better outcome, such as getting your charges dropped or reduced and appearing in court on your behalf if you can't or don't want to make an appearance yourself.

How to Handle Out-of-State Tickets

One of the most confusing aspects for drivers is getting a ticket issued from another state. Many drivers think that once they leave a state, they can ignore the ticket and not have to make a payment. But in fact, avoiding an out-of-state ticket is sometimes worse, as your home state can tack on an additional fee or penalty in addition to what you already received.

Getting a ticket is never high on anyone's list of fun activities, but the good news is you can do something about it. From paying the fine to hiring an attorney to negotiate the settlement, there are a number of options available to deal with a ticket and have a conclusion that you feel satisfied with.

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