Know the consequences before you pay the ticket
An officer issues a citation or summons for a traffic violation. Most people are inclined to pay the fine and "be done with it." Only it's not the end of the story. Pleading guilty to a traffic offense could lead to license suspension and other problems.
Before you pay the fine or head to court, you need to clearly understand the consequences. Talk to a lawyer who can explain those consequences and your options for fighting the ticket or negotiating a more favorable outcome.
5 reasons to challenge a traffic offense
It may be worth the time and expense to fight a traffic violation, especially a serious traffic offense. At a minimum, you need to consider the possible consequences.
- When you pay the fine, you are pleading guilty. Some traffic offenses are misdemeanor crimess, such as reckless driving, DUI or driving on a suspended license. Depending on the circumstances or prior offenses, you could face jail, probation, community service, driving school or other court sanctions, in addition to the fines and the misdemeanor conviction on your record.
- Those points on your license add up. Accumulating too many points can trigger suspension of your Pennsylvania driver's license. If pleading guilty to the current offense doesn't do it, the next ticket might cost you your driving privileges.
- Your insurance rates may go up. Like Santa Claus, insurance companies know if you've been bad or good. They can hike up your premiums if you are deemed a risky driver, even if you did not have an accident.
- Your driving record is a public record. That minor conviction or history of driving infractions can haunt you in background checks, credit checks, insurance quotes and even employment. Traffic offenses in other states count in Pennsylvania, and vice versa.
- There is much to gain and little to lose. If you beat a traffic ticket, you avoid the penalties and it stays off your record. Even if you can't get the case dismissed, the prosecutor or judge may reduce the points or downgrade it to a lesser offense.
Get legal advice before you pay the ticket (or go to court on your own)
Fighting a simple speeding ticket may not be worth it, but other moving violations or license violations increase the stakes. Challenging a traffic offense is not as easy as it sounds. You need to find a lawyer who is knowledgeable about Pennsylvania's point system, the nuances of our traffic laws and how the local courts operate.