For a first-time, simple traffic ticket you probably think you do not need the help of a lawyer. Usually you can negotiate the fines or costs or traffic school with the prosecutor on your own. However, it is not always apparent what is a “simple” traffic ticket. Three things raise the stakes on traffic offenses:
- First, all traffic offenses in Alabama are criminal offenses. This means that you can get jail time for forgetting to renew your tag or forgetting to use your turn signal. In some places some judges have “pet peeve” cases and you don’t want to underestimate the seriousness of what may appear to be a minor matter.
- Secondly, Alabama has a system of demerits assigned for certain traffic offenses. If you accumulate a certain number of points in a certain amount of time your license can be suspended or revoked, and the court, police and prosecutors are not going to warn you about this.
- Thirdly, some traffic offenses carry mandatory driver’s license suspensions upon conviction and figuring out which ones do and don’t can be a nightmare. Don’t believe me? Here is the Alabama traffic code.
Generally, this means that somehow you managed to hack off the police officer. Also, it probably means that you are accused of doing something dangerous. DUI aside, more first offenders go to jail for Reckless Driving than any other offense. Also, a conviction for Reckless Driving puts six points on your license and may significantly increase your insurance costs. You do not want to try and deal with this on your own.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
This is another serious traffic offense. Depending on how serious the accident, it may even be a felony. Even the misdemeanor version requires that your license be suspended upon conviction. Also, unlike most traffic offenses, there tend to be angry witnesses on the other side who want you to go to jail. This is not the time to go it alone.
Failing to Obtain Insurance, Registration, and Licenses
It is a criminal offense in Alabama to drive without insurance, proper registration and a valid driver’s license. You could go to jail for any one of these offenses. However, it is my experience that most police, judges and prosecutors would rather see you go get your licenses, registration or insurance than see you get convicted. Don’t just pay these tickets; get the problem taken care of and generally the court will dismiss it.
Driving on a Suspended License
In Alabama you must have a valid driver’s license in order to operate a vehicle on the roads of the State. Your license can be suspended for a number of reasons, sometimes without your knowledge. If you are convicted of driving on a suspended license you could go to jail, but even if you don’t go to jail your license will be suspended again for at least 90 days.
I am a lawyer, which means that my soapbox goes with me wherever I go. But if you don’t mind, I’m going to get it out for a minute.
I live in the South, in a largely rural county. There is no meaningful public transportation. If people don’t drive they can’t work. So when someone’s license is suspended they have to drive just to keep body and soul together, which often means they get charged with driving while suspended (which adds an additional suspension). Then they get charged again and again and again until pretty soon there is no chance they will ever get another driver’s license.
I am not saying that there should be no consequences to breaking the law, but this kind of never-ending cycle keeps otherwise law-abiding people poor. That is to say — if you are charged with DWSL (Driving With a Suspended License) it is important that you get some help. Otherwise, the consequences could last for a long time.
Give us a call at 251.626.5052 or send us a note. Let’s get you back on track legally.