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Speeding: When to call a lawyer

By Mark Chalon Smith on November 7th, 2011

Getting a speeding ticket can be more than unsettling. If you have other tickets in your recent past, higher car insurance rates may follow.

If it's your first ticket, the consequences probably won't be severe. Most likely, you'll be able to take a traffic class to remove the violation from your record, which usually satisfies an insurance carrier.

But if it's at least your second offense, you could face an increase of hundreds of dollars or more in your car insurance premiums. Add on big fines to the overall price tag and possible suspension or even revocation of your license (which also impacts insurance rates), and you may be thinking of calling a lawyer.

But is that a good idea? Even most attorneys say there are no guarantees that a good legal defense will get a judge to toss the ticket. Most traffic cops are well-trained and experienced, and can be formidable in court.

But lawyers also stress that they bring certain types of expertise to a case that can significantly increase your chances of success. They include:

  • Court experience. Lawyers specializing in traffic violations know which questions to ask and how to ask them. They know what areas to focus on and when they should be brought up before the judge. They probably also know the ins and outs of the particular courthouse to which your case has been assigned. Knowing who the players are and having a relationship with them could be helpful.
  • Knowledge of the tools--Traffic attorneys are familiar with the ways of the radar gun and can question the accuracy of its readings. What about your speedometer? Is it calibrated properly? If not, maybe you mistakenly thought you were driving at a slower speed. You can have a car mechanic certify the calibration and present the findings yourself, but a lawyer may mount a more effective presentation.
  • Evidence gathering--A good attorney will help you find witnesses to support your defense. For instance, did you have to accelerate because unusual highway conditions required you to temporarily speed up for safety? Corroborating testimony could be useful. An attorney may suggest mitigating circumstances that could turn a case in your favor.

How much does hiring a lawyer cost? It varies, but generally expect to pay in the $200 to $500 total range, with higher charges possible for a complicated case. Be sure to get the costs detailed in the initial consultation, which should be free.

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