By Jeff McConnell &
Attorneys at law
Times are tough and money is tight – right? So what do you do when you get a ticket these days? Do you forget about it and hope for the best? Do you bury it under your seat and pray that the particular court will just “let it go”? Of course not.
Like always, you’ve got to be proactive about your ticket, and there are many ways to be proactive without costing you any money (at least for a long while). There are ways you can protect your driving record without breaking the bank when it comes to traffic tickets.
Q: I got a ticket for speeding and when I called to pay the ticket, the clerk told me the fine and court cost amount is $300. I just don’t have the money right now to pay any ticket. What can I do?
A: Don’t panic. There’s a lot you can do that won’t require any immediate, out-of-pocket money. First, find the response or “arraignment” date on your ticket. This date is usually located at the bottom of most tickets and represents the date by which you need to plead guilty or not guilty.
Obviously, in order to buy more time and delay payment for fines and costs, you’ll usually want to plead not guilty. Once you plead not guilty, the court will set the matter for a pretrial or contested hearing. Warning: Your new court date will, in most cases, be the actual date that your matter is decided, so you must keep track of the date.
Now that you have a hearing date set, check your schedule as to whether you’ll be able to physically appear on that date or whether it’s less expensive, considering your opportunity costs – i.e., fuel, time off, etc. – to hire a lawyer to make the appearance for you.
However, if your hearing date is getting closer and you can’t appear or hire a lawyer, you can usually call the court, explain your situation and ask for a 30- to 60-day continuance. Your first request for a continuance is usually approved, but you should think of it as requesting your “last time-out in the fourth quarter” as it’s doubtful the court will approve another continuance request unless you have a lawyer.
Now that you’ve continued your case for an additional 30 to 60 days, you’ve got more time to decide how you want to handle the matter. Additionally, as your continued date gets closer, you may decide that being convicted of the original charge really wouldn’t hurt your driving record very much and that you simply want to pay the ticket.
If this is your decision, you can usually explain that to the court and work out a payment plan. Don’t be afraid to ask the court for as much time to pay as possible as most court payment plans don’t charge any interest.
Q: I got a ticket recently and don’t know what to do. The economy is bad, I’m not making much money right now and don’t even know if I want to stay in the business. The last thing I want to think about right now is paying a ticket. What’s the big deal about just sitting on the ticket and not doing anything about it?
A: There really isn’t a big deal unless you consider going to jail a big deal. That’s right – doing nothing with a traffic ticket could result in your being arrested and jailed. Also, although times are tough now, they won’t always be this difficult and you shouldn’t do anything in the short term that harms your driving record for the rest of your career.
If you fail to do all you can to protect your driving record now, you’ll severely limit your future opportunities and might even find yourself unable to drive a commercial vehicle when times are better. LL
Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134, call 405-242-2030,
fax 405-242-2040, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.