“How do lawyers help people in traffic cases?”
In a nutshell: by doing everything necessary to help you resolve the case reasonably. Here’s an overview of what lawyers do to help you on a traffic case:
1. Hear your side and find out what you are trying to achieve in the case—First and foremost, a lawyer should genuinely listen to you as you describe what happened when you were stopped. This will allow them to fully understand your perspective of the case. They will also ask you what you are trying to see as a result in the case. Ethically, lawyers cannot guarantee results. But good lawyers understand how you’d like to resolve the case, and they will work as hard as they can to try and achieve that result for you.
2. See what you’re up against by reviewing the discovery—Discovery is the evidence—all the information the State has in its back-pocket to try and prove the case against you. A lawyer will request and review the discovery available in the case from the State to determine if the case is good, bad, or so-so.
3. Use the evidence to your advantage to negotiate with the State to obtain the best possible result for you—After reviewing the evidence in the case, a lawyer will have a good idea of where the weaknesses and strengths are in the State’s case.
Imagine you were on a steep hill, and got stopped for speeding by a cop in Georgia who was really rude to you while you were on the way to the hospital with someone having an asthma attack. A lawyer will want to know the grade of that hill, because it could be a reason to get the case dismissed. If the hill grade was one that won’t result in a dismissal, a lawyer can use the information that you were on the way to the hospital to convince the prosecutor you should be treated sympathetically, with an offer to a plea of a non-reportable offense and/or one with no fine. Even if the hill grade doesn’t help you and the prosecutor won’t budge on sympathy, how the officer acted can kill a case. A lawyer can show the prosecutor that the jerk officer will look bad on the stand if the case goes to trial, and that could result in a different offer. All in all, a lawyer will use all of these facts, in light of the law that will apply in your case, to get the best result for you.
4. Get ready for trial if the case can’t be resolved—If the case can’t be resolved with a reasonable plea offer, a lawyer will get prepared for trial and try the case. This is a worst case scenario, but it is important to keep in mind the skill a lawyer brings to a trial. When I was a traffic judge, I presided over hundreds of bench trials, about 90% of which were cases where people represented themselves. Even in the simplest trials, people became flustered with the rules of procedure, evidence, and law.
While I do not believe that people have a fool for an lawyer if they represent themselves (I’ve seen some self-represented people be successful), I do believe that people overestimate their ability to be successful at trial when they represent themselves. Here’s why: our society has come to believe that the way Judges Judy, Wapner, and Joe Brown run court is the way courts run. NOT SO.
A court has rules of evidence and procedure that must be followed; these court shows do not show normal or real processes. Imagine playing basketball on a court where you don’t know any of the rules of the game. You can’t just walk in and put the ball in the basket to make a goal. So, while you think you can just go in and talk to the judge, you can’t. You’ve got to follow the rules that apply in court. A lawyer knows the rules, and can defend you properly.
All in all, what a lawyer is going to do for you on a traffic case is what they would do on any other type of case—they are going to assess it, negotiate it, and prepare for trial if it can’t be resolved. They are going to do all of that work with skill and knowledge. Having an lawyer on a traffic case is worth the investment to get better results.
The Traffic Tip is only for informational and educational purposes. It is not intended to be legal advice. If you need help with a legal matter, you should contact a licensed lawyer in your state who understands the facts and circumstances of your particular case and the law that applies.
Check out my next Traffic Tip on Thursday, October 12, 2017: “What can I expect when I go to traffic court?”