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It's Covered

My day in court: It pays to fight tickets Add to ...

I'm asked constantly, "Should I go to court to fight a ticket?"

Yes, absolutely.

One ticket can be the tipping point between your insurance policy being renewed or cancelled, and often people don't discover the terms of their policy until it's too late.

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Penalties vary, but the conditions for cancellation may be "two partially at-fault accidents and a ticket." For example, this could be two fender benders over six years, plus a ticket for driving without proof of insurance. Other companies may discontinue your policy after just one at-fault accident and two tickets in six years. Most accidents where you are at-fault come with a ticket.

Even if you've had a clean driving record for 20 years, a $40 speeding ticket can become a big deal with your insurance company. Half of insurance companies charge up to $500 for one ticket and all charge extra for two tickets.

When it came to my $40 speeding ticket, I went to court last week to fight it.

First of all, I brought a legal representative with me to court as they are familiar with court proceedings, and I'm not.

What I saw happening at court was shocking and you need to be aware of the scare tactics which convince many people to accept the conviction they had planned to fight.

Before you enter the courtroom you will be greeted with a court representative suggesting that you can "Plead to a lesser charge, whereby no demerit points will affect your record?"

To me this seems to be presenting an inducement for a guilty plea. Understand, a ticket is still a ticket in the eyes of your insurance company, regardless of the demerit points.

The court representative should be adding "This acceptance of guilt could possibly initiate your insurance policy to be cancelled or cause your rate to skyrocket."

It's important to know that even if you're convicted, the only way an insurance company will be aware of a ticket is if they run your Motor Vehicle Report. This costs them money, so instead many companies send out a form asking you to advise them if you've had any tickets in the last 3 years.

If you're replying to this type of inquiry, be aware that a ticket, written up by a police officer, is not considered a conviction until you pay for it. When it becomes a conviction and counts against your insurance rate, it is effective the date of conviction. That's why you'll have drivers with poor driving records attempt to delay their court date so that their record has time to clear up.

When I entered the courtroom, all the drivers who had paid for a Traffic Ticket Representative to have them "get them off the ticket" all pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. The driver could have done that!

I was the only one that was there with my representative with a plea of not guilty. Remember, guilty with an explanation is still guilty.

My representative asked the court for a disclaimer of evidence, which is the officer's notes. This is essential to see what evidence the officer has against you. I could have ordered this prior to the court date, but wasn't aware that was an option.

The officer withdrew his charge citing a lack of evidence to proceed. When a driver has legal representation, it typically indicates there will be a not guilty plea and possibly a pretty aggressive cross examination. If their notes aren't ship-shape, a conviction might be unlikely.

In my case, I was speeding to merge with the traffic and avoid hitting a car parked on the side of the road. My intention was to provide evidence that my actions were of safety not of negligence.

My record remains free of tickets and moving violations.

I highly recommend you fight your tickets and if you are going to go through the expense of hiring a representative, aim to be there too . . . and plead not guilty.

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