Seattle Traffic Lawyers
Choosing a Seattle traffic lawyer to help you with your traffic ticket or other violation may be your first experience dealing with the Washington court system. While many people believe traffic violations are just a nuisance that can be quickly handled by paying a fine, nothing could be further from the truth.
Traffic tickets in Washington can have costly and serious consequences that can impact your life for years to come, including increased insurance premiums, a mark against your driving record, a possible license suspension, and in some cases, time behind bars. Before simply paying the amount on the back of your ticket, it is important to consider all your options by consulting the experienced Seattle traffic lawyers at Emerald City Law Group. Call 206-973-0407 today to schedule a free initial consultation.
Penalties of Traffic Tickets & Vehicular Crimes
The state of Washington divides traffic–related offenses into two categories: infractions and crimes. Infractions will usually result in a ticket and include common violations like speeding and failure to signal. On the other hand, traffic or vehicular crimes are reserved for more serious situations like driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, and hit & run.
Traffic Ticket Penalties
- Monetary Fines– Washington traffic tickets typically result in the payment of money as a penalty based on the specific offense and the location where it occurred. For instance, the fines for speeding may range between a little over a hundred dollars to several hundred dollars, depending on your exact speed and where you were pulled over. Additionally, if a traffic ticket is issued in a school zone or a construction zone, your fine will likely double. There are also mandatory “assessment fees'” or surcharges that are attached to these offenses, which vary from county to county and can sometimes be higher than the original fine.
- License Suspension– Unlike other states, Washington does not have a point system, where prior violations are accumulated, but the Department of Licensing (DOL) has established a system for drivers who have committed various offenses. Drivers with a high number of violations on their records may see their driver’s licenses suspended. For example, six traffic violations in a 12-month period can result in a 60-day suspension.
- License Revocation– While suspension is the temporary loss of your driving privileges, this is the cancelation of your license for a specific period. This is usually reserved for a serious incident or a series of poor driving behaviors. Once the revocation period passes and you’ve met any other requirements, you must re-apply for a new license.
- Hit and Run– A hit and run occurs when a driver strikes another vehicle or person and leaves the scene. Depending on the exact circumstances, this may be considered either a simple or gross misdemeanor and can result in jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and a possible license revocation.
- Reckless Driving- If you operate a vehicle in a manner that poses a significant danger to others or property, you may face this gross misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine, and a mandatory 30-day suspension.
- Driving with a Suspended License– If you are operating a vehicle even though your driving privileges have already been suspended, you will face harsh consequences such as mandatory jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and an extended loss of your license.
Types of Traffic Tickets We Handle
Traffic violations in Washington are covered under RCW Title 46 and tickets can be issued for any number of infractions. At Emerald City Law Group, our Seattle traffic lawyers have a history of successfully defending and obtaining positive results in virtually any case covered by the RCW; from relatively minor infractions to more serious offenses, including:
- License Suspension
- Reckless Driving
- Negligent Driving
- Hit & Run
- Unpaid Tickets
- Driving without a License
- License Reinstatement
Collateral Consequences of a Traffic Ticket
While the costs and inconvenience associated with a ticket or other traffic offense can be significant, there are other substantial consequences of a traffic ticket that are sometimes overlooked:
- Increased Insurance Premiums – Once you pay a traffic ticket, you have essentially admitted guilt and the violation will appear on your driving record. It is important to remember that every single ticket that you get stays on your record for three years. When your insurance company is determining your insurance premiums, it bases your payment (your rate) on several factors, the most important of which is your driving record. Again, your rate is calculated by several factors, but a single ticket can plausibly raise your premium by approximately 20 percent. Such an increase every month for three years will result in you paying a lot more for auto insurance.
- Losing Your Ability to Drive – If you accrue too many tickets, the DOL may suspend or even revoke your driver’s license, making it nearly impossible to get around. The reality of losing your license is substantial. Getting to and from work will become an everyday hassle, your children will need to rely on another parent or someone else for rides to school or activities, and other everyday tasks will become exponentially more difficult.
- CDL Eligibility – The impact of receiving too many tickets on anyone with a commercial driver’s license cannot be overstated. As professional drivers, your employment can be in serious jeopardy, even if you were not working when you were issued a ticket.
There is no doubt that the insurance industry as well as the state budget relies heavily on traffic violations. In fact, it is big business and if you have questions about either the short or long-term impact of a ticket, it’s important to discuss the matter with an experienced traffic lawyer.
Traffic Court Process
Whether a police officer has cited you for speeding, failing to signal, or making an illegal turn, receiving any ticket can be frustrating. You’ll need to respond to the citation within 15 days. Delays can result in additional fees or losing the right to contest the ticket. On the back of the ticket, you will find three ways to handle the process:
Pay the fine
This involves mailing in the payment along with the ticket. As a result, you will have no further obligations, but it will appear on your driving record, exposing you to collateral consequences.
You can appear in court and request a reduced penalty based on the circumstances. Ultimately, this will be up to a judge and the ticket will still appear on your record.
Contest the Ticket
This involves returning the ticket with a request for a hearing, where the government must prove that you committed the offense. If you successfully argue your case, you will be found not guilty and receive no penalty. If you are found to have committed the infraction, you will be responsible for the original fine.
If you decide to contest the ticket and you’ve returned the citation, the municipal or district court will schedule a conference, called a pre-hearing. This will be your first opportunity to discuss your ticket and where you or you attorney can negotiate a more agreeable outcome, like a dismissal or reduction.
If you are unable to reach an agreement, the next step is a traffic ticket trial, where a judge or jury hears arguments for and against your citation and issues a verdict.
If you are found guilty, the traffic ticket will appear on your record, you’ll need to pay the fine, and face any consequences. If you are found not guilty, the ticket will be withdrawn and you won’t face any repercussions. If you don’t agree with the court’s decision, there is an opportunity to appeal the verdict, but you’ll need to file a written notice to appeal no later than 30 days after the verdict.
Why You Need a Traffic Attorney
People don’t always think about contacting a criminal defense attorney in Seattle after receiving a ticket. After all, the process seems straightforward and if the officer made a mistake, all you’ll need to do is explain the situation. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. There are a lot of legal procedures and local ordinances that most people are unaware of and many drivers learn that without an experienced traffic lawyer it is easy to lose a winnable case.
It won’t matter how fast you thought you were going if the prosecutor has radar evidence to the contrary. But by working with a knowledgeable Seattle criminal defense attorney, you can call into question the evidence being used. For example, could the officer see you at the time of the incident? Was the radar equipment working properly? Or was the citation appropriate based on the circumstances?
The time and cost involved are usually the top reasons people decide against fighting a ticket.
We understand that you don’t have the time to deal with a traffic ticket, but that’s where we come in. By hiring Emerald City Law Group, you can be sure an experienced Seattle traffic lawyer is handling everything for you. We will prepare the documents, appear in court, and keep you informed at every step along the way.
When you consider the fines, the time required, rising insurance premiums, and the inconvenience of losing your license, the short-term fee of an attorney is minimal. In most traffic cases, early intervention is the key to success and an attorney can possibly save a lot of time, trouble, and money.
Every traffic case is unique, but with a knowledgeable Seattle criminal defense attorney, you can be sure that your situation will be properly evaluated and a plan is in place to reduce a ticket’s effect to your license or challenge it completely.
At Emerald City Law Group, our Seattle traffic lawyers know what’s important to you and whether you received a speeding ticket or were charged with a serious traffic offense like reckless driving in King, Pierce, or Snohomish County, we are to here to protect you, your money, and your record. To learn more about how an experienced traffic attorney can help, 206-973-0407 to schedule a free initial consultation.