Traffic ticket: Should I go to trial or take a plea offer?
“I got a traffic ticket. Help me. The officer says I did something that I did not do. In an accident, the other driver claims that I ran a light, skidded into them, or was on my phone – they are lying. What should I do?”
Traffic tickets can be very emotional triggers for honest people because they come face-to-face with either (1) people who are not being honest or (2) people who honestly believe their facts and are wrong. In either case, when you are given a traffic ticket, you become a defendant. Defendants in traffic tickets have rights to go to trial to force the government to prove them guilty of the charges.
Deciding whether to go to trial in traffic cases can be difficult because the only source of facts in the case are often either police officers or participants in the accident. As such, the defense team has less than perfect certainty as to what facts will arise in the trial. These cases are usually “he said” “she said” disputes where the judge or jury have to decide who to believe.
Often traffic tickets result in fines of less than $500, and attorney fees can be many times that, especially when a jury trial is involved. Rarely does going to trial with a lawyer make good financial sense when dealing with a good driving history and no civil liability.
On the other hand, in accident cases, if the accident’s liability is being attributed to you, and either or both parties are uninsured, admitting criminal liability in the case will subject you to paying restitution to the other party, regardless of the civil case’s outcome. As such, consulting with a personal injury lawyer or your insurance will often be the deciding factor in whether to accept a plea offer or go to trial.