If you’ve been driving for any length of time, you’ve probably gotten a traffic ticket. If you never have, two things:
- One—Congratulations! (he said sarcastically) and
- Two—Why are you reading an article about ticket dismissal?!?
After a ticket, you have some decisions to make. You could pony up and pay it, but what is that going to do to your insurance premiums? You could “have your day in court” and try to convince a judge to throw it out. You could hire an attorney to try the same thing instead. You could just blow it off like I did once. Let’s just say that wasn’t one of my better decisions…
So, what to do with your citation? Let’s recap your choices:
- Pay it now (and pay a lot more in insurance later)
- Hire a lawyer
- Throw yourself on the mercy of the court
- Take a driver safety course
- Hope it will just go away
Since this article is about dismissing tickets, we can throw out one and five. And since two, three, and four are the only ways I know of to have a ticket dismissed, they have to be the top three. But which of the three are the top of the three?
Now That We’ve Ruined the Ending…
…let’s look at the pros and cons of each one.
The Attorney Option
I’m sure most attorneys went to law school with dreams of one day trying a high-profile murder case or suing the tobacco companies for zillions of dollars. The problem is, there are a zillion more lawyers than trials like these. So what’s a humble litigator to do?
For many, traffic court seems to be the answer. The internet is full of lawyers boasting a 90+% success rate in getting tickets dismissed. Some will even guarantee their success by promising to pay your ticket themselves if you lose.
Someone posed this question on a site called “Traffic counsel—“A traffic lawyer will cost me more than the ticket. Is it true?”
The site (run by lawyers) started their answer by stating (surprise!) that this wasn’t the case.
The answer made the argument that if you enter a guilty plea and pay the fine that your insurance rates will go up more than the cost of the attorney’s fees. That is not a dishonest answer, but…
Attorneys often get your ticket dismissed by securing your right to take a driver safety course. NEWS FLASH! This is something you can do for yourself, FOR FREE!
The “But, Your Honor…” Option
Many people watch TV with the idea that they can do anything they see characters in their favorite shows doing. What better way to live out your vicarious fantasy than playing lawyer in your own trial?
There is a common conception that if you go to traffic court and the officer who wrote the citation doesn’t show that you’ll win your case immediately. Not only do I think that is not strictly true, do you risk it anyway? Besides, do you really feel good about getting the officer in on his day off or, worse yet, preventing him from “protecting and serving” because you have an axe to grind? Even if you truly weren’t at fault this time, aren’t there about a million other times you were grateful a cop wasn’t around?
There is an old saying that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. Now I am sure that a few of these fools are successful in getting their tickets dismissed. On the other hand, a larger number of them walk out with a judge offering ticket dismissal after completion of (you guessed it) a driver safety course!
The Defensive Driving/Traffic School/Driver Improvement Course Option
Like we hinted before, in most states and in most cases, simply asking to take a driver safety course is your best option. You’ll start by paying a court fee that is generally far less than the face value of the ticket. Then you’ll have a generous amount of time (usually around 90 days) to find a course, get it done, and return your paperwork to the court. A few bucks out of your pocket and a little bit of your time and it’s all behind you. but there’s still more good news ahead.
Depending on the state you live in, taking a driving safety course will prevent (or at least mask) points on your driving record. This means your insurance premiums won’t increase like they would have after a guilty plea. How much is that worth? A recent post from Nerdwallet said their findings were that the nationwide average premium increase after a speeding ticket was 25%. I’m not sure what you pay for insurance, but paying 25% more for the next three years is going to sting at least a little.
Want to know another secret? This deal could wind up making you money. How?
Many insurance providers offer premium discounts to policyholders for voluntarily taking a driver safety course. But, guess what? In some states (like Texas), you can double dip. You can use your course completion certificate to satisfy the court and your insurance agent. The savings you will receive over the next three years will certainly be enough to cover your court fees and the cost of the course and will probably leave you a little cha-ching in your pocket as well.
One Last Look at the Top 3
Let’s look at your ticket dismissal options one more time.
- Hire an attorney—Expensive and time-consuming and the likely outcome is you, taking a driver safety course
- Appear in court—Time consuming mostly, with the likely outcome of you, taking a driver safety course
- Take a driver safety course—Simple and straightforward, it’s you, taking a driver safety course!
I cannot stress how simple a choice this is, especially since, in most states, you can take your course online. No need to search (and pay through the nose) for an attorney or spend time formulating (and rehearsing in front of a mirror) arguments to present to a judge when you can get it done without leaving your house. Simply Google “driver safety course,” pick one of the dozens of providers begging you to take their course, grab a snack and a beverage and get it done.
One Last Thought
In case you are still considering #5, the “hope it will go away” plan, let’s just say I tried it once, and it didn’t go well.