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Traffic tickets for speeding, running a stop sign, red light violations, and other seemingly minor rules of the road can sometimes result in penalties beyond what one might expect. Frequently, when a person learns that the traffic violation they are charged with has the potential to land them behind bars, or cause them to lose their license, or maybe just inflict financial pain, they will begin to look for a traffic attorney.
But how much should you expect to pay for a traffic attorney? Is it worth the cost? In most jurisdictions, unless you are facing a misdemeanor charge, or potential jail time, the court is not required to provide a public defender. While there are some legal services that offer seemingly unbelievable rates for traffic ticket representation, there may be a few caveats, or even hidden costs.
The Costs of Representation
In the criminal defense context, which traffic tickets fall under, the rates attorneys charge will vary based on two factors: the type of criminal charges, and the lawyer's experience handling matters like yours. Generally, traffic ticket and other criminal matters are handled for a flat fee, rather than on an hourly basis. The fees can range from under a $100 to a few thousand depending on your matter, and the attorney you choose.
For instance, representation for a speeding ticket for 5 mph over the limit will be much less costly than a reckless driving charge, as the later could potentially result in much larger fines, and potentially a misdemeanor conviction, and even jail time. For a commercial driver, a reckless driving conviction could be career ending. The reason for the difference in cost for defending different types of matters generally relates to the complexity of, and time commitment for, the case work involved.
Scope of Representation
Another factor that drives up, or down costs, is the scope of representation. Some traffic attorneys may only agree to represent a client through an arraignment and plea deal, but then require an additional fee for taking the matter through trial. Some attorneys will include their trial fee in the initial non-refundable retainer, but may still require that additional fees be deposited for court, witness, or expert fees, if going to trial entails these costs.
While there are several large traffic ticket law firms that handle countless tickets on a daily basis, and sometimes advertise services at under $50 or $100-$200 per ticket, or even offer a money back guarantee, there are usually a few caveats. More serious charges will likely not qualify for these lower cost representation services, and there could be additional fees for multiple court appearances, or taking a matter through trial. Also, the money back guarantee may only apply in rather narrow circumstances.