Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why shouldn't I hire a lawyer to beat my ticket?

Saw something on the web that got me laughing. Back in '05 I did a post about lawyer marketing on the web. I critiqued some websites that claimed to help people with their tickets.

Well, someone from speedticketbeaters -dot- com tried to post a comment on that old blog post. I don't allow these sites to promote themselves through my blog. But it was funny. The comment asserted, among other things, that "traffic lawyers don't know anything about traffic law." This is quite similar to something on the site, which I quote below with more critique:

Why shouldn't I hire a lawyer to beat my ticket?
Here's several of many reasons:

"Several of many"??

Lawyers do not study traffic law in law school ....

I don't remember much traffic law in law school. But traffic cases in most of New York are handled in local criminal courts. Law school did cover Constitutional Law, Procedure, Evidence, Criminal Law. Along with a few other topics, those classes are quite relevant to traffic law. In addition, some of us actually learn more after law school. I've had over 40 jury trials. Maybe I learned something along the way.

... all [lawyers] ever ... do is plea bargain your ticket down to a lower fine. That is not winning, and still costs you big money in insurance ... and ... fines!

We do usually plea bargain. Our focus is not just the fine though. Most of our clients are concerned about the points and insurance impact. Many of them ask if we can get them a deal where they pay a higher fine so they can get less points - but it generally doesn't work that way.

And plea bargaining is not all we ever do. Our office has done several speeding ticket trials, and we win about half of them. We occasionally get tickets dismissed before trial too. But the strategy of fighting tickets is risky, and in most cases our clients prefer the safer option of a deal that protects their license and insurance.

Lawyers charge a fortune [and] ... do ... mediocre work ... on speeding tickets. ... Lawyers call us ... asking us to teach THEM ....

You'd think if they say we charge so much, they'd have the decency to publish their fees. They don't. They do at one point criticize other websites who charge only $50 as too cheap. There are places (like Florida and Texas) where lawyers don't charge much more than that.

There most certainly are some lawyers who do mediocre work. But most of the lawyers I see handling traffic cases do a good job for their clients. And if there are lawyers calling these guys for instruction, they strangely are not identified on the site.

One thing about hiring a lawyer - at least with most NY lawyers, we put our names and addresses on our websites. You know who we are. On this particular website there is no information identifying who really runs the site.

Another detail: It is true that in cases where the cop doesn't show up for trial, the case will sometimes be dismissed. But they usually do show up (I'd say about 95% of the time) and even when they don't, some judges won't dismiss the case.

There's also the nightmare scenario. Under NY law you can get up to 15 days in jail for speeding. You go without a lawyer to the wrong court with the wrong judge with the wrong set of facts, and then you don't handle things well, ... you might not be going home that night. It's pretty rare, but I remember one young woman who walked out of Court after the deal didn't go through, and was brought back in wearing handcuffs. I know of a couple judges who put people in jail for high speeds too.

These incidents are very rare, and not something I'd want my clients worried about. But if something does go wrong, do you really want to rely on a questionable website? You might feel more comfortable with a lawyer.


pml said...

The fee is $129.00. I sent them an email about my ticket. Got 3 emails and a phone call. When I wouldn't commit right then they got nasty and started telling me what a big mistake I was making

brianna said...

Sometimes you need a lawyer for traffic court, and sometimes it is a waste of money.

What to consider:

What are you charged with? If the charge is only 10 miles an hour over the speed limit in a 45 zone, there really is nothing to worry about. If you're articulate and do a little reading online before you go in, chances are you'll be able to plea bargain it down especially if it's a first offense. You'll pay a fine - maybe get a point or two on your license - and then move on. Just make sure to dress decently. You don't want to look rich, but you don't want to be showing off your lower back tattoo either. I once saw a judge throw the book at a woman because she was dressed like a whore. Oh and if the ticket involves not buckling kids up properly, get a lawyer. Judges hate that.

Unknown said...

Brianna's comment is roughly sensible, but not completely accurate. One mistake is that you can't get "a point" on your license. There are no one-point offenses in New York. Also most judges will try to avoid making any obvious judgments based on how you're dressed, and they're often too busy to notice anyway. Finally, tickets for 10 mph over are very rare. Most tickets we see are for at least 13 mph over the limit.

If you do have a ticket for 10 mph over, that is likely a "roadside write-down" where the cop gave you a break and wrote a lower speed as a "favor" to you. It is harder to get deals on roadside write-downs in some courts.