Many of us have gone to traffic court in order to fight our tickets. We think that we know what to do in order to get them dismissed, but we walk out of the courthouse upset and extremely frustrated. The following article is for those who find themselves in this exact situation and those who hope to avoid being in it.
Below you will find the top 10 mistakes that people make at traffic court.
1. Not Hiring a Traffic Ticket Attorney
Drivers think that it will be way too costly to hire an attorney. The truth is, however, most attorneys charge a one-time, flat flee that is relatively inexpensive.
Additionally, an attorney will allow you to cut the line and negotiate with the prosecutor much faster.
If you are represented by counsel, the judge will also allow you to make your appearance before everyone else who did not hire an attorney.
Aside from these perks, an attorney brings genuine knowledge of the law to your case and has more pull than you do when it comes to negotiating with a prosecutor.
After all, traffic ticket attorneys spend most of their time negotiating with prosecutors and have a much better feel than you do for getting the best deal.
2. Not Showing Up to Court
Many people make the mistake of thinking they can ignore their court appearance altogether, whether the ticket said it was mandatory or not.
Some think that the police officer has no understanding of what compels you to appear or not, so they think they can simply choose not to attend.
Worse yet, others think that so many tickets get issued that yours would slip through the cracks and be forgotten about.
This is a horrible mistake.
Aside from the fact that every ticket issued in New York is digitally recorded in a system (making it virtually impossible for yours to slip through the cracks), failing to appear carries with it serious consequences.
Since failing to attend could result in a warrant for your arrest being issued, the traffic ticket will be the least of your problems if you do not show up to court.
3. Not Negotiating With the Prosecutor
Drivers who do not wait on line to talk with the prosecutor are making a huge mistake. Although a prosecutor will be much more hesitant to cut you a deal if you appear without an attorney, it is always worth asking for one.
Wayne Gretzky famously said that you miss 100% of the shots you never take. Likewise, if you never try to negotiate with the prosecutor, you will never get a favorable plea bargain. It is as simple as that.
Never make the error of thinking the line is too long or convincing yourself that the judge is going to side with you over the prosecutor.
As a general rule, take the shot; it might just go in the goal.
4. Arguing With the Prosecutor
Those of us who do wait in line to negotiate with the prosecutor make the mistake of arguing with him.
This is probably the worst thing you can do when you are only going to be given 3 minutes (at most) of his time.
Instead, carefully and succinctly explain your side and make a request for a lesser offense.
If you feel that strongly about your innocence, request that the ticket be dismissed and explain, as eloquently as possible, why you feel that way.
5. Making a Fairness Defense Instead of a Legal Defense
Whether you are negotiating with the prosecutor or explaining your case to a judge, never say that the law is unfair.
Even when skilled lawyers appeal to fairness arguments in traffic court, they are usually shut down immediately.
No prosecutor or judge is interested in hearing why it was unfair that you got a traffic ticket.
The only defense they will entertain is a legal defense that will explain a logical reason for why you did not deserve the ticket.
6. Thinking Traffic Court is Like Law & Order
Remember, traffic court is not like what you see on television. It is not the place for theatrics or fancy Latin words that many do not know the meaning of (and have no place in traffic court).
Unlike the long-winded dialogues you see in the movies, traffic court judges do not have time to listen to your case all day.
The best thing for you to do is show up, patiently wait your turn, be polite to everyone, and quickly present your case by articulating two or three extremely salient points.
7. Being Cocky at Your Hearing
Being arrogant about your traffic court appearance will end up hurting you in the long run. Being cocky usually leads a person to overestimate their abilities, underestimate the prosecutor’s legal prowess, and causes the driver to go in unprepared.
Remember, both judges and prosecutors deal with people in your shoes on a daily basis, sometimes hundreds of them. You cannot simply roll in without doing your homework and expect to win the day.
Remain humble, prepare, and make good arguments.
8. Talking Way Too Much
Tons of drivers feel the need to explain their side of the story. They think that once it is their turn, they deserve their day in court—even if it takes the entire day.
The truth of the matter is that those who have a habit of talking too much are simply digging their own graves.
If you say 15 things, it is highly unlikely for anyone to remember all of them by the time you are done.
Furthermore, making two solid arguments, and politely waiting for the judge to respond, will be received much better and end much more favorably.
Trust us on this one: less is more.
9. Getting Agitated When You Wait Your Turn
We all have been there. It is 2:00 p.m. and we still have not met with the prosecutor or had our appearance in front of the judge.
Whatever you do, do not show anger or frustration.
Anger will cloud your ability to think reasonably and may even lead you to say things you will later regret.
More importantly, no prosecutor or judge wants to hear a driver pitching a fit over his ticket or the time he had to wait.
Stay cool and prepare what you are going to say while you wait.
10. Not Requesting a Continuance When You are in Over Your Head
If there comes a time during the hearing when you feel like everything is going over your head, ask questions. It is completely fine to say to the judge, “I am sorry, Your Honor, but I do not understand what you just said.” If this does not help, ask for a new court date, otherwise known as an “adjournment” or “continuance.” If granted, this will give you the opportunity to prepare more thoroughly or to hire a New York traffic ticket attorney who can better represent your interests.