By itself, a traffic ticket is more of an annoyance than a disaster. It can, however, lead to a chain reaction of consequences that constitute a substantial financial strain for everyone except the wealthiest people. Paying for rideshare rides to commute to work every day while your driver’s license is suspended can push your already tight budget over the breaking point, but many Americans, even in consumer-friendly states like New Jersey, are in sufficiently precarious financial circumstances that paying the fines and surcharges associated with traffic violations minor enough that they do not involve license suspension would mean missing other required payments.
Meanwhile, getting a ticket on your record means that you are only one or two driving mistakes away from a driver’s license suspension. Therefore, it is in your interest to avoid getting a traffic ticket from going on your record in the first place if you are able to do this, even if the ticket is for a relatively minor traffic infraction. There are several ways to keep a traffic ticket off of your record, and the best way to accomplish any of them is to contact a New Jersey traffic ticket lawyer.
Take a Defensive Driving Class
New Jersey is one of several states where, in some circumstances, you can get a traffic ticket dismissed if you take a defensive driving class. This option is usually only available to drivers who do not have any previous traffic tickets. It is also unavailable for DWI tickets, although New Jersey offers other classes specific to first-time DWI defendants.
If you successfully complete a court-approved DWI class, the court will dismiss your traffic ticket, and it will not go on your record. Taking a defensive driving class costs time and money, but it is worthwhile because it means that you get to keep your sparkling clean driving record. Some defensive driving classes require in-person attendance, but an increasing number of them are online.
Plead Guilty in Exchange for a Deferral or Mitigation
Traffic court is not a criminal court, so, technically, you cannot take a plea deal for a traffic citation. Instead, you can do the traffic court equivalent of a plea deal, which is known as alternative disposition. With the help of a traffic ticket defense lawyer, you can get a deferral or mitigation in exchange for a guilty plea.
A deferral is when you plead guilty to your traffic ticket, but the court does not enter it into your record immediately. Instead, the judge sets a date on which the state will enter the traffic violation of your driving record and, if applicable, assess points on your driver’s license; this date is usually one year from your traffic court hearing. The catch is that if you do not get any additional traffic citations by the time of the scheduled date, then the court will dismiss the original traffic ticket.
Mitigation in traffic court is more like a plea bargain in criminal court. In some criminal cases, a defendant pleads guilty to an offense that carries a lesser sentence than the one with which he or she was originally charged. For example, the defendant might plead guilty to drug possession when the original charge was for possession with intent to deliver. If this happens, the defendant will still have to serve whichever sentence the court hands down for drug possession, which may or may not include jail time, and a conviction for drug possession will still go on their record, but the defendant will be able to avoid the prison sentence that goes with possession with intent to deliver. Similarly, with mitigation in traffic court, you might agree to plead guilty to speeding when the traffic court is accusing you of reckless driving. Having a speeding ticket on your record is much better than having a reckless driving ticket on your record, since it means that the court assesses fewer points on your driver’s license.
Contest the Ticket by Pleading Not Guilty
Perhaps the most straightforward way to stop a traffic ticket from going on your record is simply to plead not guilty and then persuade the court that the evidence against you does not clearly indicate your guilt. To do this, you must attend the traffic court hearing date listed on your traffic citation. In-person attendance at your court date is mandatory for not-guilty pleas, even if the officer that issued the citation did not check the “court attendance required” box on the ticket. If the box is not checked, it means that it is possible to pay the ticket without attending your court date, but this counts as a guilty plea.
Do You Need a Lawyer When Challenging a Traffic Ticket?
You have the right to represent yourself in traffic court cases, no matter what kind of plea you are entering. You also have the right to hire a traffic offenses defense lawyer to represent you when challenging a ticket or seeking an alternate disposition such as a deferral or mitigation. Unlike in criminal court, public defenders do not represent traffic court defendants who cannot afford to hire defense lawyers. It is better to hire a criminal defense lawyer when challenging a traffic ticket, however, even though traffic offenses are not crimes and even though a conviction for a traffic offense, even DWI, does not go on your criminal record. Serious traffic infractions can lead to thousands of dollars in fines, even if your license does not get suspended. Our attorneys appear in municipal courts throughout New Jersey on a daily basis and are deeply familiar with the prosecutors, judges and different situations to help you obtain the best possible outcome. The vast majority of the time we are able to downgrade a traffic ticket to zero points, lesser fines, or dismiss the ticket all together. Furthermore, the cost of hiring a lawyer to help you challenge the traffic ticket is much less than the financial costs associated with a conviction for a major traffic infraction. Contact us to discuss your case.