By Matt Buckworth
Most people do not get arrested for serious crimes. But many people end up in traffic court at some point in their lives. Based on questions we get from clients, here are five things you should know before going to court:
- It is a long process. Bring a book to read and your patience—traffic court takes awhile. The volume is so high in New Castle County that a special traffic court happens every Tuesday. Click here for information about traffic court from the Court of Common Pleas. Basically, it is an arraignment and a trial date all in one day. There are always over 100 cases on the docket. If your case does not resolve by way of a plea deal, then your trial starts at 1:30 on the same day. DUI cases are not part of traffic court.When you arrive on the 5th Floor, check in with a bailiff in a white shirt so they know you are there. Every week there are people who wait around all morning because they never told anyone they were there.
- Bring your documents. If you were charged with driving without a license or failure to have insurance, but you were in fact licensed and insured, you must bring proof to court. If you can produce proof, then those charges will be dismissed. Even if you were not licensed and/or insured on the date of offense, if you are currently licensed and insured, bring that information. It also helps to bring proof of employment in the form of pay stubs, especially if you need to drive to keep your job.
- Understand your potential consequences. The worst-case scenario is you go to trial and lose. So you need to understand the penalties. Consequences for your charges can vary based on the points currently on your license, what will happen to your insurance, and if your driving privileges will be suspended if you are convicted. The DMV points system and the points added for various offenses can be found here.
- Be on time and dress for court. You are definitely going to be in front of a judge at some point and you will possibly be interacting with a prosecutor. It is in your best interest to dress appropriately to show respect for the court and the process. If you have to go to work after court, and are wearing your work clothes or uniform, that is OK too.
- Decide in advance if you need a lawyer. Decide this question in advance, because you will not get a second chance at traffic court. A lawyer can help you decide whether to go to trial or not. A lawyer will negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf to make sure the plea offer is as good as it is going to get. Then again, lawyers cost money. So you really need to do a cost-benefit analysis to decide whether it is worth hiring a lawyer to help you avoid a negative outcome to your case. Some people do not want to negotiate with the prosecutor or appear in front of a judge in open court without counsel by their side. Every case and every person is different, so it is an individual choice you should make well before your court date.
At Collins & Associates, we provide a no-cost consultation to help you determine if legal representation is right for your case. We will be able to advise you on the potential consequences of your case and individualized advice about whether you should retain counsel for your traffic court matter. Contact us for a free consultation.