As criminal defense lawyers in Augusta, we often assist clients who are concerned about the consequences of a traffic ticket.
Do I need a lawyer for a traffic ticket in Georgia?
You may think traffic tickets are more a nuisance than a danger to your liberty, but that is not always the case. Georgia is the last remaining state to classify low level traffic tickets, such as speeding tickets, as misdemeanor offenses. That means that technically, when that officer hands you a ticket for traveling over the speed limit, you could be facing up to 12 months in jail and a $1000 fine.
Is a judge really going to put me in jail for your speeding ticket?
Probably not, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be unforeseen consequences. Traffic tickets can impact you in numerous ways. They can impact your insurance rates. They can have high fines. They can put points on your license. Some tickets can suspend your license. Other types of traffic violations do carry mandatory time in jail. Violations can have increasingly severe consequences each time you are convicted.
Should I plead guilty to a traffic ticket?
When you get a ticket, you may plan to just grumble to your friends, pay the ticket, and move on. However, even if you can just pay the ticket instead of appearing before a judge, paying a ticket means that you are entering a guilty plea to the charge. Depending on the type of infraction, that may have little impact on anything but your wallet, or it may suspend your license. Before you plead guilty, you should know that the Department of Driver Services will automatically suspend your license for a conviction of:
- hit and run,
- leaving the scene of an accident,
- driving with a revoked, canceled, or suspended license,
- driving without valid insurance,
- driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
These are just some of the infractions that can lead to a suspension of your driver’s license.
You can also lose your license if you get 15 points on your license within a 24-month period. Points can come from tickets received outside the State of Georgia as well.
If your teenager is the one who comes home with a ticket, you need to be aware that violations that may not suspend an adult’s license may have more severe consequences for someone under the age of 21.
Calculating License Points in Georgia
|Aggressive Driving||6 points|
|Reckless Driving||4 points|
|Unlawful Passing of a School Bus||6 points|
|Improper passing on Hill or Curve||4 points|
|Speeding less than 15 miles over the speed limit||0 points|
|Speeding 15 to 18 miles over the speed limit||2 points|
|Speeding 19 to 23 miles over the speed limit||4 points|
|Speeding 24 to 33 miles over the speed limit||6 points|
|Failure to Obey Police Officer||3 points|
|Possessing an Open Container of an Alcoholic Beverage while Driving||2 points|
|Violation of Child Safety Restraint (1st Offense)||1 points|
|Violation of Child Safety Restraint (2nd+ Offense)||2 points|
You can see a list of offenses and their associated points on the Georgia Department of Driver Services website.
Remember that as of July 1, 2018, Georgia has a new hands free law, making it a violation to use your cell phone while driving unless it is operating through a hands free device.
How Long Do Points Stay on Your License in Georgia?
The Department of Driver Services has a 24 month “look back” period for point calculations. That means that your old points will roll off your license after two years.
If you are near the maximum number of points, the good news is that the Department of Driver Services allows license holders to request a reduction in the number of points on their license once every five (5) years. To request the points reduction, you have to complete a certified Driver Improvement course, commonly called defensive driving, and present the certificate you receive to the department. The Department of Driver Services keeps a list of approved programs that you can access here.
Can I just plead nolo contendere (no contest)?
Typically you can enter a no contest plea once every five (5) years, assuming that the judge accepts your plea. To do so, you will have to go to court on your court date. If your ticket is payable and you choose to pay the fine rather than go to court, remember that the court will enter a guilty plea on your behalf even if you were eligible for a no contest plea. A no contest plea can save you points on your license or even keep your license from being suspended under the right circumstances. A key example would be a no insurance ticket. If you were to plead guilty, your license would be suspended for 60 days, and you would have to pay a reinstatement fee to the Department of Driver Services to get your license back. However, if you entered a no contest plea for your first no insurance ticket within a five year period, your license would not be suspended.
Can I get a permit to drive to work if my license is suspended?
If you are at least 21 years old, there are some situations in which you may be eligible for a limited permit during your suspension period. You may have to pay a fee or abide by additional restrictions in order to be given such a permit. A limited permit gives you permission to operate a vehicle as long as you are going to an approved location or completing an approved task. Examples of places you may be allowed to drive are:
- Driving to work.
- Going to necessary doctor’s appointments.
- Attending classes at a college or school.
- Attending regularly scheduled AA or NA meetings or other treatment program.
- Attending a driver education program.
- Attending court, report to community supervision or probation, or to perform community service.
- Transporting unlicensed immediate family members to the doctor, to work, or to school.
Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney in Augusta, Georgia?
If you want to speak to a lawyer about the consequences of your speeding ticket, DUI, driving with a suspended license, habitual violator charge, or other related charge in Augusta, Evans, Martinez, Grovetown, Waynesboro, and the surrounding areas, you should contact the attorneys at Davis, Chapman, and Wilder, LLC immediately for a complimentary case evaluation. Our attorneys can advise you of all the consequences you may face if convicted and can work to fight the ticket, lessen the fine, or reduce the other penalties associated with your charge.