It is not uncommon for a police officer to mail out a ticket, or for a court to send out notice of a traffic offense or misdemeanor in the mail. The ticket will have on it the name of the offense, the location where the offense needs to be handled, and a date by which the ticket or offense needs to be addressed.
There are several reasons why the notice is sent out by mail, rather than given at the time of the alleged offense:
- Sometimes there is an ongoing investigation that needs to be completed before a decision can be made concerning a charge. Examples of this include: in a DUI case the police are waiting to determine the blood alcohol level from a blood sample; in a possession of a controlled substance case the alleged contraband needs to be tested to confirm the nature of the substance; the officer needs to conduct additional interviews to determine whether or not there is probable cause that an offense occurred;
- The officer does not have a telephone number or other contact information for the person being charged with an offense. Sometimes the only available contact information a police officer has is an address through secretary of state records.
- The offense is a lower level offense (such as a civil infraction) that will not result in arrest. The physical evidence that exists of the civil infraction may only consist of video or photograph that captures a license plate number.
If you receive a ticket or a court notice in the mail, what should you do? The answer is that you should immediately contact a lawyer. Time is of the essence because a delay could result in a default being entered (for a civil infraction) or a bench warrant being issued (for a criminal offense). A default being entered means that you waited too long, and because of that a judgment was entered against you or the ability to contest the ticket was taken away by operation of law. A bench warrant being issued means that a court order is in place, and a LEIN (Law Enforcement Information Network) entry was made, allowing a police officer to take you into custody to address the offense. If you choose to represent yourself, you should follow the instructions provided on the ticket or notice you received in the mail to properly address your situation.
A lawyer can help you with a civil infraction. If the civil infraction is untrue, a lawyer will help you defend the ticket. For a civil infraction you have the right to have a contested hearing in front of a Judge to challenge whether or not the civil infraction should have been issued. Your lawyer also has the ability to negotiate with the prosecutor/city attorney/police officer who issued the civil infraction to try and obtain a better result. Having a lawyer on board will give you the confidence to know that your ticket is being handled in the right manner, which will reduce your overall stress level. For civil infractions that result in points being added to your driving record, those points can lead to higher insurance rates, reduce your chances of getting a break in the future from a police officer due to having the offense appear in your driving history, and for people with poor driving records possible driver’s license sanctions (suspension, re-examination, etc.).
A lawyer is necessary for any criminal charge, criminal ticket, or criminal offense. If the criminal allegation is untrue, your criminal defense lawyer will help defend you to the maximum of his or her ability to try and obtain the best possible result given your circumstances. Your criminal defense lawyer will help obtain the lowest possible bond and otherwise try to help you remain free. Your criminal defense lawyer will negotiate (when proper) with the prosecutor/city attorney and/or Judge to try and obtain the most lenient result. A criminal lawyer will take the time to explain to you the strengths and weaknesses of the case, answer your questions, try to put your mind at ease, and to otherwise educate you as to the nature of the the process and possible outcomes.
Your best bet for any traffic ticket or criminal offense notice is to immediately contact a seasoned professional lawyer. The lawyer in Michigan that I recommend is attorney Daniel Hilf of Hilf & Hilf, PLC.