If you receive a traffic ticket in Michigan, there are consequences beyond paying the scheduled fine for the offense. If the traffic ticket appears on your driving record it can impact your insurance rates, your ability to continue to drive (if you get too many points), your employment (if your employment involves driving), and the chances of getting a break from police officers, Prosecutors or City Attorneys for future traffic offenses.
The key is to have the traffic ticket not appear on your record when possible. There are a couple ways in which this can occur: you beat the allegation at a contested hearing; the officer fails to appear for the contested hearing and the matter is dismissed; OR there is a negotiated settlement of the ticket with the police officer, Prosecutor or City Attorney to resolve the matter in a way where the ticket does not get abstracted to the Michigan Secretary of State.
The best way to handle a traffic ticket is to seek the help of an experienced traffic lawyer. I recommend attorney Daniel Hilf for all traffic tickets.
At court you can seek a contested Hearing. You can request either a informal hearing or a formal hearing. An informal hearing occurs before either a District Court Magistrate or a District Court Judge in the jurisdiction where the traffic offense allegedly occurred. Sometimes the hearing occurs before the Court, and sometimes you are able to negotiate a resolution with the police officer. Usually there are only 2 witnesses at an informal hearing: yourself, and the police officer who gave you the ticket. At an informal hearing, attorneys are not involved with the proceedings. In most instances the District Court Magistrate or District Court Judge asks all the questions and decides the case based on the testimony and evidence received.
A formal hearing occurs before a District Court Judge in the jurisdiction where the traffic allegation arose. At a formal hearing, you have the right to hire a lawyer to represent you (you are not entitled to a court appointed lawyer). The Prosecutor or the City Attorney represents the interest of the police officer and the city. You can have a formal hearing before the District Court Judge to present witnesses and evidence, cross examine the Prosecutor/City Attorney witnesses, and make arguments as to why the ticket should be dismissed. Your attorney can also try to negotiate a settlement with the Prosecutor or City Attorney in lieu of the formal hearing.
Hearings on traffic tickets are often difficult (but not impossible) to win. First, there is pressure for the Courts to generate revenue for the city through imposing fines for traffic tickets. Second, the ticket is often a credibility issue between you and the police officer. The District Court Magistrate or District Court Judge sees the police officer on a regular basis, and probably has rarely or never seen you before. It is easier to tell you that you are wrong instead of telling that to the regularly appearing local police officer. Third, the local politics of the city and Court may make it hard for the Court to call the police officer a liar when the police officer (in a small number of cases, and not every officer) actually is a liar. Of course I am speaking in generalities – and the practices of the Court where your ticket is contested may not fall within these aforementioned generalities.
If you have a contested hearing it may be worth the effort to obtain any videos from the police car prior to the hearing. It is unlikely that the police officer will bring his patrol car video to the contested hearing. The video may provide clear proof as to the quality of your driving at the time of the ticket. If you are aware of any eyewitnesses that support your side of the story, you may want to have them appear in Court on your behalf. There is a possibility that a traffic light camera may have recorded your driving as well, which may be necessary to obtain.
If the ticketing police officer fails to appear for the hearing itself, you can ask the District Court Magistrate or District Court Judge to dismiss the ticket. With how local governments are claiming poverty due to declining revenue, the chances of the officer appearing at the contested hearing are very high. Many Courts will first schedule contested traffic tickets for pretrials to see if a resolution can be reached, and not require the police officer to attend the pretrial.
Most contested traffic tickets are resolved through settlement. Tickets are rarely dismissed outright, because the city needs the revenue that the ticket generates. How good of a settlement you receive depends upon a few factors: What is your prior driving record?; What happened that caused you to receive the traffic ticket?; Where did it happen?; Does the case involve a Prosecutor or City Attorney?; Did you argue with or somehow irritate the police officer that pulled you over?; How was the matter negotiated on your behalf?.
If you do receive a ticket, it is never a good idea to argue with the police officer – even if the police officer is clearly wrong. If the police officer does not like you, the police officer may tell the Prosecutor or City Attorney that they do not want a deal offered on the ticket, or they may oppose a better resolution to the ticket because they are holding a grudge. If you are respectful and curteous to the police officer, it may go a long way to the ultimate result that you receive.
Again, the key with negotiations is to resolve the ticket in a manner where it is not abstracted. When a ticket is abstracted it becomes part of your driving record. Hence, even if you admitted responsibility to a zero point ticket that is abstracted (such as limited access speed 60 in a 55 mph zone), it appears on your driving record. Insurance companies will raise your insurance rates even for a zero point offense. Furthermore, a police officer that stops you in the future will know your driving history through the computer in his or her patrol car. A blemish on your record (even for a no point offense) will likely make the police officer less sympathetic to your situation. The greater the negative driving history, the less likely you will receive any type of a break. The most common tickets in Michigan that carry zero points and are not abstracted are: impeding traffic, blockading traffic, and double parking.
Even though there is an added expense in hiring a lawyer to represent you concerning a traffic ticket, it is worth the expense to try and protect your driving record and the consequences it may bring. The attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC have handled hundreds of traffic related offenses, and are prepared to help you get the best possible result under your circumstances. Contact us today.