You don’t always NEED a lawyer for your traffic woes, although it is highly recommended, especially if the traffic court rules are confusing to you. Further, if you have had previous issues with your license, a lawyer can certainly help mitigate the damage. If you have a special class of license (lookin at you CDLs) you definitely want a lawyer’s help. If you’ve had an accident a lawyer can sometimes help mitigate the damages there as well and if you were SUPER SPEEDER-ing, hire a lawyer! But let’s say you have a clean driving history and a minor traffic infraction.
What division pulled you over and where? Was it the City of __________ and their local city cops, or were you outside city limits and the County Sheriff Deputy pulled you over? Was it the State Patrol? Department of Public Safety? This can all be need to know information because cities and counties can have separate and distinct traffic divisions with different judges and court dates. It should say somewhere on your ticket which division issued the citation.
Make sure you know what day your court is. Tickets or Uniform Traffic Citations (UTC) are written as follows:
The 45th day of Monthtober, 20(year).
I can’t tell you the number of people who have decided their court date is on the year on the ticket. If you think your court date is on the 22, 23rd, etc- double check.
That said, it can take several weeks for a ticket to end up in front of a clerk or prosecutor. Sometimes the ticket only hits a week or so before your court date which is frequently at least a month out. In COVID times it can be twice that long or longer. Suffice it to say, it’s going to be a minute.
Once enough time has passed, reach out to whomever is prosecuting your case- the District Attorney, the Solicitor, etc. Usually you can Google “(City/County) Traffic Court” and find at a bare minimum the clerk’s phone number. The clerk can tell you your case number, what office is prosecuting you, etc. BE NICE!! I can’t stress this enough. When I was a prosecutor, my colleagues and I were hundreds of times more likely to call back a nice person and help out a friendly voice than someone who screamed at me/us about how the terrible cop was clearly wrong and how dare he… blah blah blah. When you find out the department that is prosecuting you, find out WHO is prosecuting you. Try to get the actual person assigned to your case/file.
Once you reach your assigned prosecutor, ask what their offer is. Defensive driving in exchange for a dismissal? What kind of fee? Can the fee be commuted into community service? Can you go on probation if you can’t afford everything at once? If you’ve had an accident, see if they need a letter from your insurance company accepting all liability. Ask if they know if you are what is called “Nolo eligible.” This means you can plead nolo contendre. Nolo is a great thing if its available to you. If the prosecutor doesn’t know, you can find out from DDS. You can plead Nolo once every 5 years on a moving violation (not a paper violation like license, tags, insurance, etc.). Nolo essentially means “I neither admit nor deny” and it keeps points off your license. In Georgia 15 points in 2 years means a suspension. You may want to ask DDS about how many points are on your license already.
Because Nolo is only available once every 5 years on moving violations, please be sure you won’t need it any time in the future. If you have another ticket you know is more serious than the one you are handling now, maybe save the Nolo for that ticket instead depending on the charges. You may want to consult an attorney for those kinds of decisions.
Lastly, if you need more time, ask the prosecutor for it before court. It will save you a trip down to the courthouse.