The Pitfalls of Traffic - Frequently Asked Questions
Many of us take to the road for work, to visit relatives and friends, or just to explore new territory. Sometimes we are driving in familiar areas, and sometimes not. Inclement weather only adds to the pitfalls Northeast Ohioans experience while driving. Here are answers to some common questions attorneys generally hear on the topic of traffic offenses:
1. I just received a ticket.
What do I do?
In typical lawyerly fashion, the answer is: “it depends.”
You have two options: pay your ticket or challenge it in court. Speed offenses, red light offenses, improper turn offenses, etc. are usually minor misdemeanor offenses and don’t carry jail time if they’re not one of several in a short time span, and not committed in a school zone. You’ll get a fine at most. If you pay your fine, that will be the extent of your monetary penalty. But depending on the number of past offenses, you’ll also get points on your license. Points can increase your insurance rates. Twelve points will result in a license suspension.
If you challenge your ticket, the outcome may be affected by many factors, such as whether you have any recent previous tickets, how far over the speed limit you were going, were you on a regular street or a highway, and, sometimes, how did you treat the officer? A common tactic is to go to court to request a non-moving violation (such as no headlights or a burned-out tail light), which carries no points. You will have additional court costs but may avoid the possibility of points driving up your insurance costs.
2. My ticket was in a school zone.
Now what do I do?
The above information also pertains to tickets in school zones. However, depending on speed and number of offenses, this may be a misdemeanor of a higher degree, as opposed to a minor misdemeanor. Because higher-degree misdemeanors carry the possibility of jail time, it’s wise to retain an attorney for those situations.
3. I don’t live in Ohio, but I received a ticket here.
What should I do?
If your ticket is a minor infraction like speed, and you are comfortable simply paying the fine, do that. If you need to challenge the ticket because you need a clean driving record to do volunteer or professional driving, consult an attorney about the possibility of obtaining a plea in absentia. Under this scenario, the court may allow your attorney to submit your affidavit accepting a plea, rather than your needing to show up personally. You would still be responsible for all the costs. This option is not guaranteed to be available under every circumstance, but an attorney should explore it for you. It may also be available if you do live in Ohio but live several miles away from the site of the ticket.
4. My car slid on ice and I accidentally hit a street sign. Now I’m being cited.
Why? It was just an accident.
This situation is very common. A failure to yield citation often cannot be defended in court. It is usually a strict liability offense, which basically means that the state doesn’t have to prove intentionally bad driving for the court to find you guilty. It may be possible to plead a charge down to a lesser infraction in this case as well.
5. I received a notice in the mail that I committed a school bus-related traffic citation. I wasn’t driving the car at the time. I let my son use it.
What should I do?
Challenge this kind of ticket. The bus driver likely wrote down your license plate number, and you were cited because the car is registered in your name. However, if you were not driving the car, you certainly have a viable defense to the ticket. This is also a situation where it would be wise to retain an attorney.
6. I was arrested and charged with an OVI. What should I do?
Obtain an attorney promptly. OVIs, or charges of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, are very serious charges.
Right at the onset, you will likely have an administrative license suspension. You have a very short window of time to challenge this suspension, but they are frequently upheld. Thereafter, the facts and circumstances surrounding the police stop of your vehicle—if that is what led to the OVI charge—are also crucial to strategy. Other important factors include your previous driving and/or criminal record, your temperament through the process, and more. I cannot stress the importance of obtaining an attorney for these charges.
Whatever your situation on highways and byways, let us help you put your matter behind you and get back on the road with no impediments. Drive safely!
by Leigh Prugh