Got a Traffic Ticket?
So you received a traffic ticket. You are not alone. Just at the City of Houston alone, more than a million traffic and other violations are written into the City of Houston Municipal Courts every year. Add to these thousands of tickets written by Harris County deputy constables and Harris County sheriff's deputies in the sixteen Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts and the numerous other Municipal Courts in Harris County. Your chances of receiving a traffic ticket are probably the best they have ever been.
But I Was Speeding. I Did What the Officer Said I Did. Shouldn't I Just Pay the Fine?
If paying the fine was the only punishment, we might agree. But the punishments and other implications for paying many traffic violations have gotten so punitive that we do not agree.
As an example, a woman recently called our offices. She had been paying her seventeen-year-old son's traffic tickets whenever he received any. She believed she was being a good citizen and a responsible parent. But it turns out that paying the fine is not all that the State of Texas wants in the way of punishment. Because this woman had been paying all the tickets, her son's driver's license was suspended because the Department of Public Safety considered him a "habitual violator." The young man's license was suspended for six months. This meant his mother and others were having to drive him almost everywhere he went. This woman thought the only punishment for paying the traffic tickets were the fines. She had no idea how wrong she was until it was too late.
"You Are Not Guilty"
Let me say that again with emphasis, in the eyes of the law, "You Are Not Guilty!" Just because you received a traffic ticket from a policeman does not in any way mean you are guilty. It just means you received a ticket. If you maintain your innocence, you are presumed not guilty and you remain not guilty until the State, which has the burden of proof, proves you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, before you pay any traffic fine, remember you owe nothing to the Court until you are proven guilty.
Why Not Just Pay the Tickets and Get It Over With?
Before you do something so potentially harmful as that, take a few minutes of your time to read the following.
On the backs of most tickets, you will find what is known as the "window fine." The instructions will advise you that you can just pay this fine amount and court costs through the mail. However, they do not advise you of the effect of paying the ticket. If you pay the window fine through the mail, you will be found guilty and in many cases the convictions will appear on your driving record. Convictions on your driving record can make your insurance rates go up substantially. Convictions on your driving record can also cause your driver's license to be suspended. Besides the fines and court costs, the back of a traffic ticket does not warn you about any of these additional punishments.
If you do not pay the ticket through the mail, the ticket provides that you must appear for a court date known as an arraignment or an appearance date. Typically at the court date on your ticket the Judge or his staff will ask you how you want to plead to the charge on the ticket. If you plead guilty or "no contest" the Judge will find you guilty and assess a fine and court costs. If you are found guilty by pleading guilty or "no contest," the convictions will appear on your driving record. The convictions on your driving record can make your insurance rates go up substantially. Convictions on your driving record can also cause your drivers license to be suspended. Besides the fine and court costs, the Judge will not warn you about any of these additional punishments.
What Kinds of Charges Can Hurt My Driving Record?
Convictions for moving violations will go on your driving record. Some common examples of moving violations that will appear on your driving record upon conviction are:
· Running a Red Light
· Running a Stop Sign
· Changing Lanes Not in Safety
· Failure to Control Speed
· Failure to Yield Right of Way
As mentioned before, convictions for moving violations can be one of the ways that your liability insurance company can use to raise your insurance rates. If you are convicted of four or more moving violations in a 12-month period, your driver's license can be suspended. If your son or daughter still has a provisional license, his or her driver's license can be suspended upon their second moving violation conviction in a 12-month period.
What About a Ticket for No Automobile Liability Insurance?
A conviction for operating an automobile without financial responsibility (automobile liability insurance) can be a major problem. Not only are the fines and court costs very high for a conviction of no insurance, but your driver's license can be suspended for two convictions of driving without liability insurance. That's two convictions at any time during your driving career. Example: If you got a conviction for no automobile liability insurance five years ago and you just got another ticket last week and you are convicted for the new ticket, the Court may suspend your driver's license.
What Other Types of Convictions Can Hurt My Driving Record?
There are plenty of land mines out there for the uninitiated and the Texas State Legislature thinks of new ones every time they meet in Austin. Space and time do not permit a list of everything to look out for here.
But I will give another example that catches a lot of people by surprise. You have a Code A Restriction on your driver's license. You receive a ticket for driving without your glasses. You figure it's no big deal so you mail your money in to the Court. Because you paid the ticket you now have a conviction on your driving record. You may also have your drivers license SUSPENDED. That's Right! It only takes one conviction for driving without your glasses and your driver's license can be suspended. Tricky aren't they? It is a major inconvenience to lose your drivers license in Houston/Harris County but, you will not see a word about this on the ticket or any notices you receive from the Court.
What Happens If My Driver's License Gets Suspended But I Drive Anyway?
If you drive while your driver's license is suspended, you can be charged with a far more serious criminal offense. Driving while your license is suspended is a Class B Misdemeanor for which you can be fined up to two thousand dollars and go to jail for up to 180 days to a year.
Do I Need an Attorney?
An attorney who defends traffic tickets can assist you in many ways. They are very familiar with the Texas Transportation Code and the myriad of traps that await the uninitiated. Though they cannot guarantee dismissal of a ticket, they can help in many ways to try and prevent your ticket from becoming a conviction on your driving record and help protect your driving privileges and insurance rates. They can assist with proven strategies to help reduce the chance of conviction.
As an example, sometimes a case can be legally dismissed because there is a defect in the pleadings. Something you might overlook or have no idea is significant could be legal grounds for the dismissal of your case. Sometimes a deferred adjudication/probation or defensive driving may be your best alternative for protecting your driving record given your individual situation and prior driving record. Sometimes the case will need to be tried to a judge or jury. Attorneys are familiar with the rules of criminal evidence and criminal procedure which are used in these types of trials. Attorneys can counsel you as to what all your options are in the Traffic Court.
Because traffic ticket attorneys defend more than one client on a given docket, attorneys' fees to defend traffic tickets are very reasonable and affordable. Call for a free quote Monday through Friday, 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. For your convenience, we accept Visa and MasterCard.
I Missed My Court Date and The Court Advises Me I Have A Warrant.
WHAT CAN I DO?
You missed (or were merely late for) your arraignment or your trial date. The court informs you that you are in warrants. What does that mean? That means the judge has issued a warrant for your arrest wherever a peace officer may find you. You can be arrested at your home or at your work place. Most people are arrested on traffic warrants on a subsequent traffic stop.
In addition to the issuance of the warrant by the judge, the State almost always files a new charge against you called a "Failure to Appear" which is also a Class C Misdemeanor which you will also have to answer for.
To prevent being arrested, you should post a bond as soon as possible. This can be done in one of two ways. You can post CASH BONDS. Posting a cash bond involves posting your own cash money with the Court in the amount of bonds set by the judge. You are basically putting up your own money promising to appear at some future date. If you fail to appear, the court can keep all your bond money and new warrants will be issued for your arrest again.
You can also pay an attorney bondsman or a bonding company a non-refundable fee to post SURETY BONDS on your behalf with the Court to remove the warrant. This is less expensive than posting the whole bond amount in cash with the Court as you would when posting a cash bond. As with cash bonds, if a surety post bonds on your behalf, you must appear for your court dates or warrants will be issued again for your nonappearance.
We can help in most cases with the posting of surety bonds on traffic warrants in the City of Houston and most of the other Municipal and Justice of the Peace Courts in Harris County.
Do You Help With Other Matters Besides Traffic Tickets?
Yes, We defend traffic tickets which are criminal Class C Misdemeanors. We also defend other types of Criminal Class C Misdemeanors, including Ordinance Violations (such as Health Code, Fire Code, Plumbing Code, Electrical Code, Building Code, etc.), Public Intoxication, Simple Assault, Abusive Language, Minor DUI, and Theft under $50.00. You will probably never be charged with any of these, but if you are, we can help.
If You Received A Traffic Ticket, Give Us A Call
Kameron Searle looks forward to assisting you in the defense of your traffic tickets and other Class C Misdemeanors. If we can assist you in the defense of your traffic ticket, please feel free to give us a call Monday through Friday, 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. at 713-880-4529. Ask for Marisa.
Kameron Searle is a former City of Houston Municipal Courts Prosecutor who has tried more than a thousand trials at the City of Houston Municipal Courts.