To Pre-Pay or NOT to Pre-Pay
Spring is finally here and warm weather is on its way! That means vacations are right around the corner and people will be traveling and outside more in general.
Unfortunately, more time in your car and on the roads means you are more likely to get pulled for a traffic ticket. While sometimes a traffic ticket is also criminal in nature, classified as a misdemeanor or felony (i.e. hit and run or reckless driving), most traffic tickets are simple infractions which are punishable only by a fine.
Depending on the charge, many infractions are pre-payable (which will be indicated on the ticket) and mean that you can contact the Court, pay the fine, and never have to go before a Judge.
Sounds great, right? WRONG! OK, maybe great in theory – but NOT the best option for everyone. Before you decide to take the “convenience” of just paying the ticket and forgetting about it, contact an attorney that practices in the area where you were stopped. Many attorneys that practice traffic and criminal defense offer free consultations (including our office). Discuss the stop, including what lead up to the stop, anything you or the officer said, what you were charged with, as well as your driving record and any past tickets.
Here are the Top Four Reasons to NOT Pre-Pay that ticket:
1. Pre-paying a ticket has the same effect as pleading guilty
· If you pre-pay your ticket, you are in fact admitting that you are guilty of the offense charged. The Court will reflect that you have waived your right to a hearing and paid the statutory fine. While this is better than simply not appearing at the hearing, which would result in the Court finding you guilty in your absence and imposing a fine and costs, taking this route is likely still not the best option for protecting your record.
2. Pre-paying could negatively affect related civil case
· If the ticket you received has connections to another matter, i.e. a following too close charge may relate to a personal injury case, then pre-paying that ticket will likely work against you. Since the burden for a civil case is lower than that of a criminal/traffic case, if you pay the ticket (accepting guilt) then you have done the work for the other person.
3. No ability to reduce or dismiss
· Pre-paying the ticket means there is no hearing and you are not able to present your side to a Judge. In the vast majority of cases, people have defenses and/or ways to mitigate the offense charged against them. Fighting the ticket can result in a reduction in the severity of the offense (which can protect your record, as described below) or even a complete dismissal of the charge. If you pre-pay, then you forfeit this ability and are stuck with whatever you were charged with originally.
4. Certain traffic tickets carry negative DMV points
· Virginia’s DMV tracks the driving record of residents via a point system, with a “perfect” record maxing out at +5 points. While some non-moving violations do not carry a point value, the vast majority of traffic violations do negatively impact a person's driving record. These demerits range from 3, 4, and 6 points based on the severity of the infraction. While a rare ticket may not significantly impact your record, a significant accumulation may result in the DMV administratively suspending one’s driving privileges. In order to avoid this possibility, reject the option to pre-pay traffic tickets and be aware of the status of your driving record.
If you have received a ticket, contact our office today at 757-942-5717 to discuss your personal situation with an attorney. We will analyze your specific situation, any possible mitigating factors and defenses, and help set up a game plan to achieve the best possible result.