The following article was written by Brian Tart. He can be reached at TartWrites.com
You're driving down one of those long, winding roads in Washington on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and you just can't help it. You put the pedal down, just for a minute, roll down the window and let the speed wash all over you and just as you hug that curve, you hear it. That unmistakeable sound of a police siren, you know, the one that goes “whoop, whoop”. The blue lights bounce off your rear-view mirror as you carefully pull over. Now you can see her in your mirror, getting out of the police car and she's already flipping the cover on her ticket book. You're getting a ticket Mr. Nascar.
O.K. You've got your ticket and you and your “by-the-book” officer have said your official goodbyes. You're mad at yourself for being so irresponsible, or more likely, for getting caught. You check out the ticket and see the price tag. $220. Now you're really mad and you naturally start thinking of all the reasons you shouldn't even have this ticket and what you are going to do next. Here's (just about) all you need to know to get out of this with the least amount of damage.
Option 1) Just Pay the Ticket
Just like on “The Price is Right”, you have a few options available. You could just pay the ticket. Fast, simple and easy. You can pay that ticket online, by mail, by phone, or in person. BUT. Choosing this option may be easy, but it comes at a cost beyond that price tag you see on your citation. By paying that ticket, you are pleading “guilty as charged” and you might want to consider the following before you do.
- In addition to the ticket, which can be anywhere from $100 to almost $500, you have to pay various assessment fees that can more than double your total fines. Don't forget to respond to that ticket within 15 days either. You guessed it, more fines.
- While there is no set point system in Washington, you could still end up losing that license if you have too many infractions within a certain amount of time. If you get more than 6 moving violations within 12 months, you could lose your license for 60 days.
- You know your car insurance is going to go up, right? That ticket is going to stay on your record for 5 years and depending on who your insurance company is, that could be higher rates for quite awhile.
- You may be required to attend a defensive driving course, which can be 4 to 8 hours, depending on how many tickets you have had. Yes, you have to pay for this also!
Option 2) Plead “Not so guilty”
Plead “not so guilty”. You've got the option of pleading guilty, just not as guilty! In Washington, you can have a ticket deferred. Here are the rules:
- You can't have a moving violation ticket deferred in the last 7 years.
- The length of the deferral is for 1 year.
- You must pay an administrative fee and remain ticket free for 1 year (or you can kiss that deferral goodbye and go back to door number 1)
But there's more! You can request a Mitigation Hearing that might ease some of your pain and can include some or all of the following. Keep in mind that if you go this route, you can't appeal the judge's decision in a mitigation hearing.
- Fine reduction. You may qualify to pay an amount that is less than the original amount. The reduction will be based on several things such as how many tickets you've had, what kind of tickets and in what period of time.
- Community service. No, you won't have to wear an orange jumpsuit but you may have to wear a reflective vest or some other unattractive attire! Community service can reduce or even eliminate your costs under certain circumstances if the judge determines that you aren't able to pay in full or within a reasonable time.
- Payment plan. Most of us don't have several hundred dollars to just hand over, so the great state of Washington will sometimes allow you to pay in installments. If you go this route, make sure you keep up the payments or it's going to cost you even more.
Option 3) Plead “Not guilty”
Plead not guilty. You can potentially avoid all those horrible things mentioned in option 1 above by fighting the charge. You could represent yourself, or you could consider the following and hire an attorney to help get you out of this jamb.
- An attorney experienced in speeding tickets can represent you and will be able to find any loopholes or other opportunities to eliminate or at least reduce the fines.
- With the right attorney, you can possibly keep that driving record nice and clean. This will not only keep your insurance rates from increasing, it will also minimize the impact of the next ticket you get. (Just covering the bases here!)
- An experienced attorney is just better prepared to put up the best fight. They understand the traffic laws, which can be hard to decipher for us regular folks, and they very often are familiar with certain judges and how to present your case to those judges.
- Many attorneys will offer a free consultation so you don't have to worry so much about those up front costs. A good attorney will be able to tell you what your options are, what the best, and worse, case scenarios will probably be and will be able to give you an idea of what their cut is in getting you out of this mess.
So how do you find the right attorney?
You could just Google it and see what you can come up with. You'll find plenty of options, you just may not know which one is the right option. Or. You could let attorneys come to you! You can simply upload your ticket to BernieSez for free and let attorneys bid on your case so you can find the one that fits your situation and your budget. Save yourself some time and guesswork and let BernieSez find the right attorney for you.