Remember that speeding ticket I got driving north from Seattle earlier this summer? I was annoyed about it because I’m proud of my spotless record (not one scratch, not one ticket) and frankly I thought it was unfair that he singled me out when I was driving the same speed as everyone else.
Well, I'm proud to say that this week the Snohomish County court ruled that I am not a crook. My perfect record remains intact now that the judge dismissed the case. Here are the lessons I learned:
- Never, ever admit guilt to the officer on the scene. I hear stories from friends who claim you stand a better chance if you appear "nice and honest", but really all you do is incriminate yourself. Don't offer yourself as the State's best witness.
- Within a few days, you'll receive a ticket in the mail. Always contest the charges. After seeing how easy it was to dispute the charges, I don't know why anybody would just admit guilt and pay up. You have nothing to lose.
- Don't request a "mitigation hearing". It's a waste of time. You might think that by being upfront and honest you'll find a judge who respects your sincerity. Forget it. As far as I can tell, these hearings are only for people who have lots of violations, are guilty as sin, and don't know the rules. Check the box that says "contest the charges". (oh, and pay the extra couple bucks to send it certified mail to prevent screw-ups)
Soon you'll receive another notice in the mail, one giving you a court date, which in my case was about 6 weeks later. At this point you have a choice: contest it yourself, or hire an attorney to represent you. I considered representing myself, but decided against it because I care about my perfect record more than the fine or even the potential increase in insurance rates. I just didn't want to take a chance on screwing up.
I contacted several attorneys (see my original post and comments for details) but ultimately decided on Jeannie Mucklestone. I asked around and found another friend who had worked with her in the past and spoke highly of her. (My friend's wife was accused of speeding in a school zone, but Jeannie got the case dismissed). Jeannie also convinced me that she knows her stuff and is very responsive. She charges an all-inclusive flat fee of $350, which is a little more than the others but again, I didn't want to take chances on a rookie.
Another attorney I considered (and would recommend you consider) is Jon Zimmerman, of http://www.speedingticketblog.com. He was incredibly responsive -- he replied within minutes when I sent emails over the weekend -- and if you prefer to do everything on line, he's very tech-savvy.
You might think it makes sense to ask potential lawyers about their success rate, but that's a waste of time. None of them will give you a percentage because every case is different, but I suspect in fact the odds are highly in your favor. Rather than ask about overall percentages, ask them about their familiarity with your court. Jeannie was able to rattle off facts about my court that convinced me she really does have experience there.
Retaining the attorney is very easy. Jeannie let me pay online by Paypal, and then I mailed her my court document. After that, I was done! She handled absolutely everything: I didn't have to write a statement, didn't have to sign anything, and I didn't even need to appear in person. (That was nice, considering the court was a 45-minute drive from my home). All I had to do was wait for the court date and the letter afterwards announcing that all charges were dropped.
If you're an unsafe driver, or you yak on your phone while swerving through traffic and ignoring lights, then I have no sympathy for you and none of the above tips apply. But if you're like me, just trying to get from one place to another as efficiently and safely as possible, you owe it to yourself to fight back.