So, you received a summons for a traffic violation in New Jersey and are considering your options? While you could go it alone, there are a few good reasons why you should consider hiring an attorney.
When you receive a traffic violation, the ticket will indicate whether you must appear in court or can simply pay the fine online without a Court appearance. Certain tickets, such as a DWI or a cell phone violation, cannot be resolved without a court appearance. Often, when someone receives a traffic violation, they question whether they need to hire an attorney. As an individual, you are permitted to represent yourself in Municipal Court. However, there are some valid reasons to consider hiring an attorney.
1. A New Jersey attorney can advise you as to the penalties associated with the statute under which you have been charged on your ticket. Every ticket for a moving violation carries a separate set of penalties, fines and/or points to be assessed on your driving record. Being issued points on your driving record may affect your insurance premiums, and if enough points are accumulated, can even limited or suspend your driving privileges. Having the assistance of an attorney can help you to understand the penalties you are facing and to weigh your options.
2. Municipal Courts are small, local courts, where your attorney will likely have appeared before and may be familiar with the judge and municipal prosecutor. This relationship can be of some help in presenting your side of the story and getting you the best possible if plea bargain. Some tickets can even be dismissed by an agreement with the prosecutor. Your attorney can best advise regarding the approach to take in your specific situation.
3. If you are not able to reach a plea bargain that is satisfactory to you (in terms of reduced fine, or reduced points, or both), you will have to go to trial on the case. In those instances, having an attorney on your side is even more important. Your attorney will understand the court rules for obtaining evidence from the other side (called “discovery”), including information about the speed-monitoring device in a speeding case, information about the citing officer’s history and training, and other information that court be important to your case. Your attorney will also be able to subpoena witnesses, and will be able to prepare you to testify, and to answer the questions the municipal prosecutor will ask under oath. Your attorney will also be able to most effectively question the citing officer and other witnesses.
4. Even if you are not able to reach a completely favorable outcome, the Municipal Judge may have some discretion to set the amount of the fine and/or points assessed for a particular charge. An experienced attorney can assist in presenting your case to the judge during the sentencing phase of the hearing for a reduced fine or other penalties. You attorney is in the best position to know the court rules and any specific requirements of a municipality to obtain the best possible result in your situation.
5. If nothing else, you will probably save time! Municipal Courts in New Jersey are very busy places. If you have ever been to Municipal Court, you likely found yourself sitting in a room with a lot of other people holding traffic tickets. The Municipal Courts in New Jersey will almost always take cases where the party is represented by an attorney first. That means that if you are represented by an attorney, you will most likely jump right to the front of the line, and if you are able to resolve your case with a plea bargain, can get in and out of court more quickly than if you go by yourself.
Whether you decide to retain an attorney or not, do not ignore a traffic violation or miss your court date without calling the Court to request an adjournment! If you do not pay your fine or appear in Court you may have to pay an increased penalty or may even be subject to an automatic license suspension or warrant for your arrest.
The attorneys of Siragusa Law Firm LLC have extensive experience in Municipal Court matters. Please contact us if we can help you with a traffic ticket in Hunterdon or Somerset Counties, or in other Municipal Courts in the State of New Jersey. We would be happy to meet with you for an initial consultation free of charge.
As attorneys we must give you the following disclaimer: the commentary and views expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the individual author or authors and may not reflect the opinions of Siragusa Law Firm LLC. In addition, the information contained in this article is intended merely as helpful background information that is general in nature. It is for informational purposes only, is not warranted as accurate or complete and does not constitute legal advice and, thus, should not be relied upon as such advice.
If you require legal advice or representation in connection with legal question, we urge you to consult with a licensed attorney. The attorneys at Siragusa Law Firm LLC would welcome the opportunity to be your attorney. However, the firm accepts clients only in accordance with certain procedures and renders advice only after completion of those procedures and when it is legally permissible for the firm to do so.