November 9th, 2009

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.