Almost all of us have gotten a traffic ticket before. Speeding, illegal turn, running a stop sign, driving in the HOV lanes, whatever it is, when you get the ticket the first thing you think of is how high your insurance rates are going to go and how much it is going to cost you. And then you talk to a buddy who says he fought his ticket and got it dismissed. And then you talk to someone else who says you are an idiot if you don’t fight your traffic ticket because they can be beat.
But you know nothing about traffic ticket defense and don’t feel like going to court, to look like an idiot or otherwise. So you consider hiring a traffic attorney. And let’s say you are in Seattle, for example, so you Google “Seattle traffic attorney.” And you get 1.5 million hits. And you know going into it you feel a little uneasy. Some of your friends have had great success working with an attorney, and some have had terrible experiences. So what should you look for in a good Seattle traffic attorney? Here are five things that might help.
First, you need someone that doesn’t claim that they will definitively be able to beat your traffic ticket. While that sounds a little counter intuitive (we all want someone that can win, after all), it makes sense when you think about it. Traffic law, like all other areas of the law, is predicated on two things – the law and the facts. If the law is on your side, but not the facts, you could lose. If the facts are on your side but not the facts, you could also lose. And if nothing is on your side, you might lose. But you never know until you get the opportunity to look at everything. So, a major red flag is that your potential traffic lawyer claims to have an unusually high rate of success.
Second, though, you do need someone that has as a major part of their practice traffic law. Don’t ask the attorney who put together your will to go in there and take care of your speeding ticket. He might be able to do it eventually, but like any other area of the law, there is a certain amount of specialized knowledge involved in the practice of traffic ticket law.
Third, don’t necessarily look for the cheapest traffic lawyer. For the most part, they are pretty cheap overall. For example, in Seattle I’ve seen charges anywhere from $175 to $350 for a simple traffic ticket. So shelling that out to have someone help is usually worth the payment (plus you don’t have to go to court, take off work, etc.). The thing is with paying a little more money is that you usually get better service. A smaller fee means that attorney needs to take on more cases to pay the rent. Fewer cases means more attention on you.
Fourth, make sure you get someone who’ll return your calls. If you call them to talk and they don’t call you back for a few days, that isn’t a good sign. Like any other lawyer, traffic ticket attorneys are usually busy people. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take ten minutes to touch base with you or shoot you an email to let you know they’ve received your information and are taking a look at it.
Fifth, don’t wait until the last minute to hire an attorney. The longer you wait, and the closer the date gets to your contested hearing, the less time and leverage you have to find the lawyer that is right from you (and probably cheaper). If you wait until the week of your hearing you may find your fee is higher because of the scheduling work that will need to be done by the person you hire. If they have to pay someone to appear somewhere else so they can be at your hearing, that may come out of your pocket.
Bottom line, hiring a traffic attorney is a lot like hiring any other service professional. Take a little time to check them out, make sure you can trust them, and don’t wait until the problem spirals out of control. If you do get a traffic ticket you should always fight it. The worst that can happen is that you pay the fine.