Each municipality has a standard schedule of fines for traffic violations. Your ticket may list this schedule. If it does not you can check the website or call the courthouse listed on your ticket to find out how much you might owe. If you choose to plead guilty or no contest to your ticket you are agreeing to pay the associated fines. However, you may be able to get the fines reduced or work out an alternative.
If you are low income and paying the ticket would be a significant financial burden you can ask the judge for other options. Before the judge decides the amount you will owe the court, tell her you are ‘indigent’, and cannot pay a normal fine. You will need to provide proof of your income and financial responsibilities. You will need to fill out a financial affidavit. This is a document listing your income, rent, utilities, any public benefits, etc to show what amount you might be able to pay. If you are unsure of how to do this, an experienced attorney can help you fill out the appropriate paperwork and gather supporting documents. You will need to bring your affidavit with you to court. This will enable the judge to reduce your fine to an amount you can pay.
After deciding how much you will owe, you can ask for a payment plan or to pay your fines in community service. But, you will need to be careful about which option you choose. Community service may seem like a great choice because you aren’t paying out of pocket. Unfortunately, community service locations aren’t always conveniently located. If you currently have a job, the court cannot order you to complete more than 16 hours of community service a week. But, you may not be able to get time off of work to complete the hours. Additionally, the court can order you to serve more than 16 hours a week if they can prove that doing so would not cause financial hardship for you or your dependents. Then you have to factor in how much time you will spend traveling to and from the community service site. In the end, it can often end up costing a lot more than setting up a payment plan.
If the judge agrees to reduce your fines due to financial reasons, you should ask the judge to sign a waiver stating this. The Department of Public Safety is not allowed to make you pay surcharges if the judge says you cannot afford it. Once you have a signed waiver from the judge you can send it to DPS to stop them from applying these charges. Be sure to keep a copy of the waiver for your records.
You can choose to fight the ticket and you may stand a better chance of winning your case than you realize. If you are considering this option it is important to speak with an attorney. While police officers uphold the law, they don’t always get it right when they issue a ticket. Your attorney will review your case and the laws you allegedly violated. They will be able to determine if what you did constituted a violation of the law. Your lawyer will also help you gather the necessary evidence to support your claim.
It is, however, important to weigh the decision to hire a lawyer against the possibility of losing your case. Lawyer fees can be expensive. If you fight the ticket and lose, you will have to pay for the ticket and your lawyer fees too. But, even if you do lose, your attorney can negotiate a reduced fine or alternative method of payment. Your attorney may also try to work out a deal to have the ticket dismissed or points on your record dropped. If allowed, this will require you to meet certain conditions agreed upon by the court.
If you pled guilty or no contest but now can’t pay a ticket, you must contact the court immediately. You will need to explain why you are now unable to pay. Filling out a financial affidavit complete with supporting documents will help you make your case. An experienced attorney can help you prepare. Keep a record of your communication with the court, whether it is in person, over the phone, or by email. This record will be helpful if you run into any difficulty getting your request processed.
Even if you cannot pay the full amount, it is important to pay as much as you can while you try to work out a new agreement. Even if it is just $5, this shows the court that you are willing to pay. If you fail to pay the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. This may result in your arrest if you go to the courthouse in person. The court can also have your license suspended and prevent you from registering your car if you do not pay.
Sometimes you can have your fines reduced or points on your record dropped by making a deal with the prosecutor. The agreement might include taking a defensive driving course, giving proof of insurance, volunteer work, or something else related to your traffic violation. If after you accept the deal, your circumstances change and can no longer afford to pay, contact the prosecutor right away. You will also need to inform the court. Explain why it is you are no longer able to pay and keep records of your communications with the lawyer and court. You may be able to work out a new deal to reflect your current finances, arrange a payment plan, or do community service instead.
Depending on the facts of your case it may be worth it to hire a lawyer. An attorney will help you navigate the complicated laws relating to your traffic ticket. They will help you fight the ticket to have it dismissed or reduce your penalties and fines. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Bell & White have many years of experience representing cases like yours. Whether you received a ticket for a traffic violation, car accident, or are facing criminal charges, Bell & White are here to help.