To Fight For Your Rights
What to Do When You Receive a Traffic Ticket - Part 2
Dec 28, 2017
Have you received a traffic citation? If so, you're in the right place.
North Carolina Attorney Bill Powers has been defending traffic matters for 25 years. In this episode, Attorney Powers answers the questions that matter to you when you receive a traffic ticket.
Robert Ingalls: Gotcha. So don't go copping to anything right there.
Bill Powers: Yeah and I'm not trying to be a Smarty-Marty about it. I mean if you're going 110 miles an hour on I-485 I think it's reasonable to assume you would say "Well I was probably going a little faster than I should have".
Robert Ingalls: Okay there's nothing that that admission will hurt you later in court?
Bill Powers: No, especially with speeding tickets. The discourse between, or conversation between you and the officer is very ... Very rarely is it brought in to any form of importance on a traffic ticket. Now that's different if the traffic ticket develops into something more. And when people say, "Well what do you mean by something more?" Maybe driving while impaired. Maybe the traffic stop was the basis of a drug charge or driving unlicensed or both. So it's traffic plus. So there are times where when you say things it's not necessarily to your benefit, but we're talking about traffic tickets. We're talking about speeding tickets, red light violations, lane violations, things like that.
Now I have seen tickets where the officer, if you get ornery with them, I've seen them write notes on the ticket saying "so and so Mr and Miss Smith said that they were gonna call my boss and have my badge." And that's probably not a good idea to say that to the officer.
Robert Ingalls: So do you think, have you noticed when you're in court dealing with citations like this that, that can sometimes make your job a little bit harder to get them what they want?
Bill Powers: Oh sure. Absolutely.
Robert Ingalls: Okay. So I think the takeaway there is be nice.
Bill Powers: Yeah, I mean and think about it, if you're a prosecutor and you're sitting in a room and you've got hundreds and maybe thousands of tickets you're trying to dispose of on a daily basis and then you come across one where the person really showed their tail feathers, I think you're a little less inclined to give them a little extra consideration. Maybe you'll look a little bit more carefully at their record to see if this is a problem as opposed to ... You know we all get tickets, it's normal. And I think most prosecutors understand that and aren't looking to kill you on them.
Robert Ingalls: Sure. So after you get that ticket, you go through the process, they end up writing the ticket because you didn't have a nice enough smile to get out of it and you get the ticket, what are the first steps you really should take in that moment because I ask that because frequently the officer will say, "Now you can go here and pay it."
Bill Powers: Right. Don't do that.
Robert Ingalls: Why?
Bill Powers: Well a host of reasons. I say this all the time and I really mean it. You hear the saying, "Don't just stand there, do something!" In law often times the best advice I give people is "Don't just do something, stand there." And what I mean by that is, don't just immediately pay off a citation. Find out what's going on in the background. And not that I think police officers are to any nefarious purpose, but when they give you the citation and say, "You can pay this off online" it may not be what's necessarily best for you, because they don't know always what your background is.
They don't know how many wrecks you've had. They don't know if you've had other moving violations. They don't know the status of your license. Are you commercial? Well they should know if you're a commercial driver's license, but there are a lot of moving parts and I spend as much time fixing problems that people have created themselves.
Now obviously they create it by getting the citation, but then they exacerbate the situation by paying off the citation or doing that online thing, which is the new thing in North Carolina without really understanding the nature and the consequences of doing that. So I tell people, "Hey listen, we offer free consultation. That means we don't charge anything if we think you can handle the ticket yourself. If we think that it's probably just the best idea to pay it off or even go online, we'll tell you that."
On the other hand, it makes sense to find out what the background is and say, "Well, you probably shouldn't do that. You may benefit from having some legal help."
Robert Ingalls: Gotcha. So is there anything else you should do? Should you contact your insurance company for a ticket? Or is that just for an accident?
Bill Powers: Well. Good question. Multiple part answer. For a regular ticket, assuming it doesn't involve a wreck, that's why I think it's a little bit more complicated response, I would not call the carrier right off the bat. I'm not aware of any duty in North Carolina for you to tell on yourself or put them on notice that there may be a ticket coming. I know that's a common thing where people call their carrier up and say "What should I do?" I think it's an important consideration to understand that carriers make money by raising rates not lowering rates.
And I have a Juris Doctorate for a reason; I'm looking out for the best interests of my client. But I also understand the nuance of the law. That doesn't mean we don't work with insurance carriers. I've had numerous times where I call up and say, "You can't raise the rate based on this" or "This is what a statute says", but again this kind of falls under the genre of if you get a free consult with a lawyer, we'll take 15, 20 minutes, 30 minutes and talk with you and tell you what we think the best thing is to do. But I rarely tell clients to call their carrier. Even if they have ultimately a conviction for a criminal matter or an infraction, which many tickets are infractions, I would still say, "Just wait and see what the carrier does if anything." Does it get reported back?