Let’s face it, traffic violations are a part of life. The majority of us have been pulled over and gotten a ticket at some point. Maybe you had an accident and were issued a ticket. Maybe you were late for work and lost track of your speed. The point is, most of us are going to get a ticket at some point in our lives.
For the most part we assume it’s no big deal. Most of the time we just mail in the ticket with the fine or go to court and get it knocked down to a lesser charge. No big deal, right? Many times, this is the truth. The penalties for most offenses, assuming you haven’t been caught too many times, are relatively minor. Sure, it’s annoying and most of us could think of better ways to spend $400.00 but it’s not the end of the world either.
Unfortunately, this common experience leads many people into a false sense of security. All too often I get a call from someone who is in court and just found out it wasn’t a simple fine they were facing. The truth is, depending upon the charge, many driving offenses can have penalties much more serious than fines.
One of the most common penalties to catch people off guard is suspension of driving privileges. We all know that we can have our license suspended for DWI. This was hammered into our heads during driver’s education class before we ever climbed in the driver’s seat for our road test. What most people don’t know is that a whole range of offenses under the driving statute can also result in a license suspension. A short list of offenses that can result in a suspension are driving without a license, driving without insurance, driving with CDS in a motor vehicle, and even talking on a cell phone while driving! Even seemingly minor fractions such as speeding can result in suspension if a person has been caught too many times. For most of us, losing our driving privileges could have a severe impact on our day to day lives, effecting our ability to commute to work or school, or take care of our children, as well as a whole host of day to day errands for which we rely on our driving privilege to accomplish.
Although not as common as driver’s license suspension another common penalty to catch people charged with a traffic offense off guard is a jail sentence. Yes, some driving offenses can result in a county jail sentence. Jail sentences are most commonly issued for DWI but are also regularly issued for offenses such as driving without insurance and driving on a suspended license. I have had more than one client call me in tears because they were in court and were told to get a lawyer because they may have to go to jail because of a “silly ticket.”
Possibly the most dangerous consequence of pleading guilty to a traffic offense isn’t even one that will be issued by the court hearing your traffic case. If you were involved in an accident which caused property damage or personal injury, you can also face civil liability. While beating the traffic charge won’t necessarily save you from being sued, it can affect your ability to defend a civil law suit should one be filed against you. You may not even be served with the suit until after you have pled guilty. Fortunately, there are ways of avoiding the civil consequences of a guilty plea. This however, won’t help you if you go into court unprepared and don’t know what you should be looking for. While there is no range of potential judgments you could face, the possibilities will make the fines and court costs look like pocket change in comparison.
If you’re charged with a traffic offense, don’t let yourself be caught off guard. Find out what the potential penalties you’re facing could be. Call my office at (732) 742-5556 and know what you are facing. Remember, even a simple charge may have a legal defense. I will be happy to speak with you about your case. As always, I never charge for first consultations.