We routinely represent individuals charged with moving violations or traffic infractions in Oregon and Washington. Often, our clients will be so angry at the overzealous police officer, the amount of the fine, or a combination of the two, that they decide “I don’t care how much it costs, I want my day in court!”
Our firm has been successful in negotiating these cases with either the citing police officer or the attorney for the jurisdiction who can make decisions regarding dismissal, reduced charge, diversion, etc.
Here’s what you should know in dealing with a moving violation charge and evaluating whether it’s worth it to “lawyer-up”:
- · Moving violations such as running a red light; speeding; failing to signal, etc are NOT crimes which means that the penalty cannot be jail. HOWEVER, if you ignore the information on the citation in terms of responding within the designated time frame, a bench warrant will likely be issued and you could be held in jail on the warrant. So read the citation carefully and if you are handling things on your own, make sure to respond within the designated response time.
- When the officer pulls you over, you are obligated to cooperate, provide your driver’s license and proof of insurance/registration but you ARE NOT obligated to provide statements which help the officer’s case. So if he or she says something like “do you know why I pulled you over?”, the answer should be “no” – the end. Don’t go in to a long sob story acknowledging that you messed up but…our experience has sadly been that unless you’re a very attractive woman, the sob story angle never works. Seriously. Ask one of your very attractive female friends if they’ve ever gotten out of a ticket and they will unanimously say yes.
- If you are one of the said very attractive women, good for you for escaping the wrath of “the man”.
- · If you decide to hire a lawyer, do your homework: these cases are tricky and you should find someone who routinely handles traffic matters, is familiar with the traffic code and understands the tactical complexities of the jurisdiction bringing the citation against you. In other words, don’t hire Uncle Ralph, bankruptcy lawyer extraordinaire, to represent you in a traffic trial. Hire a lawyer who knows what they’re doing: an experienced defense attorney.
- · Every city/county has their own rules regarding traffic offenses. Some jurisdiction’s have diversion programs that will result in dismissal of the violation at the conclusion of a time period (usually one year). Other jurisdictions don’t have such programs so you or your attorney need to try to resolve the matter pretrial or go to trial, cross examine the police officer and fight. The other side has the burden of proof – not you. With weak cases, sometimes the best option is to challenge the citation in court and let the judge decide.
- · The rules are often different for individuals with commercial driver’s licenses. So if you have one, let your lawyer know right away
- · Finally, in Oregon if you get too many tickets within a certain period of time, the DMV will suspend your license. Really. They Will.
Whether or not to hire a lawyer to defend a moving violation is really case specific:
· Do you have a good case?
· What are the implications of a conviction?
· Do you have prior convictions?
· Does the jurisdiction have a history of negotiating/working things out with defense attorneys?
· Are you willing to spend the money on a lawyer with the understanding that you may end up getting convicted and being forced to also pay a substantial fine?
As we approach the holiday season, I will close by saying please do not drink and drive. But if you do, and you get charged with a DUI, give us a call…we can help.