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Traffic ticket: go to court, or no?

I recently got a ticket in Orleans Parish for going through a stop sign. It's my first traffic ticket in Orleans Parish. Every other city/state I've lived in, when I got tickets I either went to court and won my case easily, or there was an option (California) to sit through "traffic school" for an evening and get the ticket wiped from my record.

From what I understand (from friends and from calling the city today and asking), my options here are:
1) Go to traffic court and represent myself. But if I don't win, I pay not only the amount of the ticket ($180) but also "court costs" plus, of course, the violation stays on my driving record. Other possible outcomes are that I win and it all goes away, or I can get the fine reduced. My girlfriend told me she cried in front of the traffic judge once and they took pity on her.

2) Hire a lawyer (can do this for $200 through a friend of a friend) to represent me in traffic court. But possibly the lawyer won't win either or they will only get the fine reduced and then I still pay everything plus the lawyer, too.

3) Just pay and suck it up.

Of course, the cost of everything is a concern. I am most concerned about my car insurance premiums going up because of a ticket on my record. My job is super busy right now, and actually this week is particularly busy and doesn't leave me a lot of time to sit around waiting to talk to the traffic judge in the court house. However, I think I could call or go to court and reschedule the court date?

What are people's experiences? What do you advise? Have you been successful in going to traffic court yourself and winning (best case scenario)? What about this hiring a layer thing, which I've never even heard of anyone I know doing for a traffic ticket before I moved to New Orleans.

I imagine I will get many different perspectives, but I am interested in hearing people's input because, well, how do I put this... the municipal and legal system in Louisiana works very differently than any other state I've ever lived in, and I'm a little concerned about proceeding without as much information as I can get.




( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2009 10:56 pm (UTC)
I went to court about 2wks ago for a careless operation ticket, I went and talked to the D.A. about it and he told me to get some stuff from my insurance company and they'd make in a non-moving violation

I mean, maybe you can talk to the d.a. and he can help you out and make it a non-moving violation somehow
worst case is they can't do anything, and you can just pay the ticket.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 9th, 2009 11:59 pm (UTC)
The way it works out in the sticks ≠ the way it works in Orleans Parish. Traffic court varies from parish to parish.
Nov. 9th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC)
The court fees are whats going to be the pain in the ass. Trust me, pay the fine.
Nov. 9th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
...I'd say that was the case in Jefferson Parish, but the last ticket I got (braketag) I didn't ha ve to pay anything other than the $25 "seatbelt violation" the Asst. City Attorney offered me.

In Jefferson Parish, however, I got a reduced deal on a three-ticket extravaganza (long story) but the court fees were close to three times the cost of the one non-moving-violation ticket I had to pay.
Nov. 9th, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
Depends on whether you're more worried about the fees or the violation staying on your record. But here's what's going to happen if you choose not to pay.

You'll be sent into a courtroom. At some point, your name will be called and you will likely see the Assistant City Attorney, who will then offer you a reduction plea-deal thingy. If you accept it, you pay the fine and court costs (which are WAY less than you'd pay in Jefferson Parish). If not, then they set a trial date. Your only hope then is if the cop doesn't show up, unless you have evidence that you didn't do what you are accused of. (In most traffic courts, the cop's word is considered enough to make the state's case against you.)
Nov. 10th, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)
well, how do I put this... the municipal and legal system in Louisiana works very differently than any other state I've ever lived in, and I'm a little concerned about proceeding without as much information as I can get.

Did you not realize that you were moving to the only state with civil law, with laws still around based on the (then-developing) Napoleonic Code? I should think that LA's particular legal status is quite well-known.
Nov. 11th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
Apparently not, since they actually teach that the Napoleonic Code has anything to do with the law in this state.

It's quite simple. This state was bought by the U.S. in 1803. The Napoleonic Code was promulgated in 1804, the same year as the first Louisiana Civil Code. They are not the same thing. The Napoleonic Code was never in force in Louisiana, ever.

Furthermore, the Civil Code has absolutely nothing to do with criminal law, including traffic violations, and never has.
Nov. 12th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
1. That's why I wrote "then-developing", as it was indeed based on what could become the Napoleonic Code.

2. The OP referred to LA's legal system generally being different, and it is - civil law is the most obvious form of this. The number of people who do not understand such before moving here is embarassing. I made no mention of her actual legal issue and you point is unrelated to my response.
Nov. 12th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC)
Um, sure, but your comment has nothing to do with the original poster's question. To the extent that our system is different with respect to traffic laws from what one might find elsewhere, those differences are not part of the civil law/common law dichotomy. Otherwise what we're saying about the Napoleonic Code is not too far different, except your phrasing makes my brain twitch. The La. Civil Code and the Napoleonic Code have the same sources, but that's the extent of their relationship.
Nov. 10th, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
i once got a stopping sign ticket at chartres and saint peter. i stopped where i was supposed to, behind the sign. full stop. trouble is the trap was set up so far around the corner, they couldnt see that. i contested it on traffic court and it was dropped. this was way back in 2000 though.
Nov. 10th, 2009 04:35 am (UTC)
I got a ticket for improper lane usage. went to court talked to the city attorney and walked out with a brake tag ticket. 131 in fines later (which was $30 cheaper) and now it doesn't go on my MVR. Which saves me money on insurance premiums.
Nov. 10th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
I got a speeding ticket in June 2006 (40 in a 30: THE SHAME). I went to court because at that time, everything was so chaotic that they weren't putting things on line, and so I couldn't get a total and pay it.

So I went to court, sat there for ... 30 min? They automatically pushed me down to a non-moving violation (i.e. I fessed up completely, and they offered me the lighter violation unasked) and I wrote a check right there for the total. It was less than the speeding ticket would have been (only by a small margin), but non-moving doesn't cause concerns with insurance.

I would suggest going in and taking your shot at traffic court. You could always play the new-to-NOLA thing and just say you were lost and confused.
Nov. 10th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
There's a thing called Article 894 you can plea...pretty much, when they call your name and ask how you plea, you say "guilty, article 894". You pay the cost of the ticket, but it does not go on your driving record. This only works if this is your first offense in the parish in 3 years and you can not get another violation in 3 years going forward or it goes back on your record.
Nov. 12th, 2009 10:36 am (UTC)
I just had to deal with Orleans Traffic Court about a month ago for some license plate issues, so hopefully my experience can help you out a touch.

If all you were issued was a ticket with a given on/pay by date, you can go online to the website on the ticket and send an email requesting an actual court date. This is helpful since it usually delays the time you actually have to pay/deal with it for up to 3 weeks.

When you get to court, make sure you're in the right room. The signs confused the heck out of me, and while I'm no MENSA candidate, I like to think I'm usually pretty on top of things.

You'll spend most of your time sitting around waiting for you name to be called. Once you get called into the little back room with the Assistant DA, see what kind of deal they may be willing to offer you. Also, plead poverty. This will help reduce whatever fine you may get stuck with. (The poverty advice was given to me by my lawyer when I had to go to court.)

Hope this helps some, and good luck!
Nov. 13th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
Despite a perfect driving record from 1994-2006, in the past three years I've had to deal with traffic court twice, once in Orleans and once in JP.

The Orleans Parish case was a failure to yield citation after a traffic accident. At the courthouse, the ADA cut me off about halfway through my reiteration of the incident and reduced the charge to a non-moving brake tag violation. It was an expensive ticket - which sucks because I DID have a valid brake tag! - but it stayed off my record and spared me increased insurance payments.

JP was a much less casual affair. I went for a speeding ticket on the Earhart. We were lined up like cattle in front of the judge and asked if we wished to plead guilty or not guilty. No explanations, no stories, just a plea. I just wanted to get it over with, plead guilty, and left shortly afterward with $200 less in my bank account. The ticket itself was a $90 fine. Hello, court fees.

It's worth it to make the court date in OP. JP seemed to be a different story, but unfortunately that one was mandatory. :-(

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


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