There are several things to consider when trying to determine whether it is “worth it” to hire a lawyer and have legal representation on your charges.
- First of all, do I know what I am doing? Traffic law is a highly specialized area of the law and many people not only don't understand the "rules" about how this type of ticket or plea might affect your driving record, but also how it might affect your insurance rates, your job, your ability to drive, to get student loans, your ability to stay in this country, your ability to work in a bar, restaurant, or in certain professions like nursing, or a myriad of other things. We have clients come to our office everyday trying to "fix" mistakes they made when they simply paid a ticket or worked out some kind of "deal" on their own with a court or prosecutor. A prosecutor is not your friend; he is not looking out for your best interest. There are some things we can actually "fix" after the fact, while others, we have to tell our clients they are out of luck.
- Secondly, can I afford not to hire an attorney? We have some people that hire us just because they can't miss anytime from work. Since most of the time, we can work it so our clients don't have to appear at all in court, our clients are very happy. But the most important reason many people hire us is to stay out of jail. Many offenses have become jailable offenses in recent years that never used to be (i.e., DUI, Driving while suspended, and certain speeding offenses, among other things) While we certainly can't guarantee that we can keep you out of jail, we are pretty good at convincing judges and prosecutors to look at alternative sentencing possibilities.
- Third, will my insurance rates go up? The short answer is that it totally depends on the policy and insurance company you have. We can tell you that the general answer is “yes” and that if you feel comfortable asking your agent, you might try running it by him/her to find out the exact numbers, remembering that a ticket will stay on your record for three years in KS and five years in MO. That is a long time to have your rates affected by a single ticket and it is typically very worthwhile to look into having an attorney try to keep it off your record.
- Fourth, if you have too many tickets in KS or too many points in MO or IA, you will lose your license for some amount of time (typically 30 days) and you will not be able to drive. Your KS license may be suspended after only three minor tickets in a 12 month period, whereas, MO will also suspend you for 30 days on a first offense after only 8 points in an 18 month period (speeding tickets in City court are 2 points, and tickets in the Count are typically 3 points) Suspensions not only cause you inconvenience but they also cause your insurance rates to go up significantly for a long time. We will do everything in our power to stop suspensions from occurring and keep your insurance as low as possible.
- Fifth, should I try to represent myself instead of hiring a lawyer? Most courts won't even deal with you as someone not represented by a lawyer. There is a reason that a lawyer is generally able to work something out with a prosecutor in many situations (plea bargain) and that is the threat of litigation. You are probably not a threat to a prosecutor on your own, but if you hire a lawyer who potentially will not only make that prosecutor work to win his case but also make it a real possibility that he could actually lose his case, then a prosecutor is far more likely to either dismiss your case (if he thinks he is not likely to win anyway) or work out a plea bargain.