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Beat the ticket

Fighting citation may save wallet in long term

Mar. 11, 2013 - 11:53AM   |  
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So you're no Kyle Busch on the roadway. But like any other local, you've been known to goose the gas pedal from time to time. And you've got the traffic citation to prove it.

So, after a personal vow to slow down in the future, what do you do to rescue your driving record and avoid an income-eating spike in your insurance rates?

Here are a few tips for minimizing the damage.

Come out fighting

Even if you have a perfect driving record, each and every ticket is worth fighting. The reason? The presence of a single moving violation on your driving record no matter how minor can cost you hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars over the three-to-five-year period it will be visible on your Department of Motor Vehicles rap sheet, especially if you are younger than 25 and single.

A couple of "minor" speeding tickets can easily increase what you pay for insurance by a third or more. Remember: Your insurance company is all about maximizing its revenue stream.

And even though your piddling 66-mph-in-a-55-mph-zone speeding ticket doesn't necessarily mean you're an unsafe driver, rest assured the insurance company will use it as a pretext for claiming that you are and will jack your rates up accordingly.

If your insurer hits you with a 10 percent surcharge annually for the three years that most states keep a violation active on your record, the dollars add up fast and can end up being several times the cost of the fine, perhaps more than the cost of hiring a good traffic attorney.

But the real catch is what happens if, during that three-year period, you have the bad luck to get pinched a second time. Now you have two moving violations on your record, and the points that go along with them.

Although some insurance companies will not mug you over a single moving violation, few leave you alone after No. 2.

Which is why it's crucial to fight that first one.

So, what can you do?


Many states allow any person charged with a moving violation to receive an automatic continuance, which means you can ask the court to change your original court date to a later date, often simply by requesting it.

Usually, it's a simple matter of making a call to the court clerk's office. What typically happens is the case gets postponed at least a few weeks, sometimes a month or more.

Why do this? Several reasons:

One, let's say you got a ticket in the fall and the original court date is in November. By getting a continuance that pushes the court date into the new year, you might avoid losing the so-called "plus" point that some state DMVs give drivers for going a calendar year free of convictions for any moving violations.

Also, ask the judge or the prosecuting attorney about allowing you to attend the DMV's driving school and/or pay a fine in return for dropping the charge.

Two, you increase the chance that the police officer might not show up to your second, continued court date. If that happens, the charge against you might get dropped.

Hire a traffic lawyer

The cost to rent a legal eagle to handle a minor traffic case (normal speeding, not reckless driving, DUI or a major charge that has a mandatory court appearance and the possibility you might get thrown in the clink) is typically $500 to $700. It's pricey, but for all the reasons outlined previously, it can be money well-spent especially if you have a lead foot and get another ticket at some point during the next three years.

Look for a lawyer who has been doing this for a while and who regularly appears in the court where you'll be appearing. The best defense lawyers are former prosecutors. Interview your prospect, and ask what his success rate is in getting charges reduced or dropped.

If he wins, you'll slip the insurance-rate noose and come out with a clean driving record. If he loses, you'll come out a little lighter in the wallet.

Answers by RallyPoint

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