Fighting Traffic Tickets in Michigan
This summary will help Michigan Drivers understand how their driving record works in Michigan and why keeping anything negative off of it is imperative. You must treat your driving record like a credit report because it's often hard to get out of the hole of high insurance premiums once its harmed.
Is no points really NO POINTS?In the State of Michigan, moving violations and accidents appear on your driving record when you pay for a ticket, default on a ticket (failure to pay or respond) or are found responsible/guilty of a moving violation. The report is generated by a court and it's known as an abstract. Each abstract can also carry points that stay on your license for up to two (2) years. While the points fall off your record after two (2) years, the violations stay on your record for seven (7) years. That's why the key to keeping your driving record clean is to avoid abstracts all together. This is why I always advise my clients to request a court date either on their own or through a formal hearing process through an attorney. This gives you or your attorney the opportunity to have a contact with someone in the court where you received your ticket to have this matter reduced to a non-abstractable violation (one that does not appear on your driving record).
Many Michigan drivers believe that because an officer tells them that the ticket they received is no points, that it won't show up on their driving record. This, however, is not always true. One instance is when a cop cites you for what's known as a limited access speed 1-5 MPH violation. This is a zero (0) point violation, but it will appear on your driving record as an abstract and stay on your record for seven (7) years.
Once your insurance company sees this they will assess their own internal points in their driver grading system. The only way that insurance companies don't see the violation is by having these violations get dismissed or having them reduced to non-abstractable violations like defective equipment or impeding traffic. If you or your attorney can manage to get a citation pled down to these violations, you can keep your record clean.
Basic Driver Improvement Course. Is it worth it?I get calls all the time from clients asking me whether or not they should partake in the Michigan Basic Driver Improvement Class to remove points from the record. For many reasons, I tell them not to use it. The first reason is that you can only use that class one time. I say that you should save that class for a rainy day. Often drivers will get popped in a weird area of Michigan heading up north and they will have a hard time finding an attorney in a rural area or cannot go to court themselves to fight the ticket. This is what that 6 hour, $100 class was made for. Use it then. For all other instances, call an attorney.
The second reason I tell people not to use that class is that it appears on your non-public record. Your non-public record will be visible to prosecutors and while you think you have a clean record, it will always be used against you in plea negotiations. Essentially, you will be judged on this blemish in future deals and once again, you're in a hole of high premiums.
In sum, you should avoid using the class unless it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.
Why hiring an attorney is important for Traffic Tickets.While people like to usually take the "cheap" way out, it often burns them later. I always advise using an attorney on traffic tickets not only for the convenience, but for their relationships and knowledge of the law. Most traffic attorneys are experienced and have a good rapport with the local prosecutors and can often get you a great result just by their knowledge of the players in the court. Plus, you don't have to go to court in most instances. Just in saving time, you're saving money.
One example of having an experienced attorney helps in knowing where to push cases and knowing when to settle them. For instance, in 52-4 district court (Clarkston), officers often fail to appear for formal hearings. Unlike most courts, the ticket will get dismissed and you will probably never hear of it again. In 52-4 District Court, however, they WILL rewrite the ticket and often it will be for a higher offense. In this instance, a good lawyer will use the officer's failure to appear to get a good plea bargain or call the client and explain either option. I have found great success in this court just by knowing how it operates.
Each court has its own idiosyncrasies and a good traffic lawyer will know just how to handle each ticket. Why try to play that game yourself over a couple hundred bucks and waste your time? Do it right the first time and get a lawyer. But if you don't hire a lawyer...
Appeal your informal hearingsI get a lot of calls from people who tried to go to court on their own and then lost the informal hearing in front of the magistrate. These informal hearings usually involve you and the officer in front a magistrate judge. The magistrate rarely ever sides with you because they don't want to throw a cop in their jurisdiction under the bus. I always tell those clients not to fret. All they have to do pay a bond (the fine they would have to pay anyways) and fill out some paperwork to get an appeal for an informal hearing. At a formal hearing, you will get to use a lawyer and speak to the prosecutor directly. The prosecutor is usually easier to deal with than a magistrate and an attorney is actually allowed to partake in a formal hearing scenario. I would say that in 95% of appeals I have handled, I have gotten a better result for my client than they have received at an informal hearing. That's why it's important to never concede on a ticket until you absolutely have exhausted all remedies.