Can one lawyer or law firm take care of multiple traffic tickets in multiple states?
May 11, 2010 12:29 PM   Subscribe

What’s the best way to take care of multiple traffic tickets in multiple states?

I have about $2,000 worth of tickets in CA, NC and DC that I’ve neglected to pay over the years and it has caught up with me now that I need to get a car and a driver’s license.

Needless to say, I don’t want to pay the full 2 grand so I’m looking to hire a lawyer and figure out the best way to go about getting these taken care of for the least amount of time & money.

1) Do lawyers operate in multiple states?
2) Can one lawyer take care of all of this for me?
2a) If not, are there mega-firms that could handle this?

These tickets are for a myriad of piddly little charges ranging from parking tickets to expired registration and failure to appear. The North Carolina DMV told me that they were aware of all the fines and that I had to pay all of them in each state before I could proceed with getting a valid NC DL thanks to the Drivers License Compact. Not sure if that's true or not but I'm going to work under that assumption. Serves me right, I suppose.

So, any advice?
posted by willie11 to Law & Government (11 answers total)
I advise you to take the money you'd spend on a lawyer and pay for at least some of those tickets.
posted by Madamina at 12:36 PM on May 11, 2010

Any money an attorney might save you on tickets will be eaten up by attorney fees. Just pay the tickets.
posted by kimdog at 12:39 PM on May 11, 2010

1) yes, but more often than not it's in neighboring states.
2) theoretically, yes; practically, not really
3) not that I'm aware of. Mega firms are usually big because they work on complicated, high-stakes cases. Obviously, $2k in parking tickets isn't high-stakes or terribly complicated.

Most likely, if you want to handle these with an attorney, you're going to need a traffic court attorney in each state. They're out there, though I don't know any in particular. Talk to them about their fees right away, since they could easily exceed the $2k that you owe. You may also want to see what sort of options you have regarding appearing by phone to contest the tickets, or negotiate some sort of plea bargain. Obviously, this all takes time and effort, so you might also consider just paying the $2k and being done with it.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:40 PM on May 11, 2010

I should rephrase something. I'm sure that hiring a lawyer(s) to take care of this for me and get some of the fines knocked down would still end up costing me a pretty penny close to the original $2,000 sum. But I'm happy to go that route to not have so many points on my record and not deal with the hassle. Although that may be wishful thinking on my part...

As an aside, does anyone know of any internet wonderfulness that could help me find good traffic lawyers in various states?
posted by willie11 at 12:51 PM on May 11, 2010

Each state will have a Bar Association Referral Service.
posted by micawber at 12:53 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Any firm large enough to have lawyers licensed in three far-flung states probably a) works on big civil cases, not low-dollar-high-headache stuff like this, and b) doesn't even get out of bed for $2,000, much less what you're willing to pay. And it might not net you anything except more cash out of your pocket.

The only one-stop law shop that might help you is one employing someone who owes you a big favor or is a very good friend willing to do enormous legwork to hire traffic court lawyers in three states. Otherwise, I think you're out of luck. Traffic court lawyers are intensely local.

If you are set on the lawyer route, you might check the county/city bar association websites for traffic/DUI referrals in each jurisdiction, make some calls, ask individual attorneys if it's possible to settle for less than the tickets.
posted by *s at 12:59 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some parking tickets, and maybe moving violations, may expire after some period of time. You can call each issuer to ask, and also ask if they can give you any leniency if you pay immediately by credit card or put a check immediately into the mail. In the end, you'll end up having to pay most of it.
posted by theora55 at 1:30 PM on May 11, 2010

Nthing just pay the fines. The time to contest the citations (avoid the points) was at the appearance date. You missed it and a default judgment was rendered. That judgment would have to be overturned before you could even start a trial. It isn't impossible for that to happen, but it is unusual and requires unusual circumstances. "I forgot" or "It's more important now," just is not going to cut it. Plus you have said you have a legitimate reason for contesting the tickets anyway.

If you are lucky and patent (can stay on hold for a long, long time) you might get a sympathetic clerk who will work at reducing the costs and fines, or arrange a payment schedule, but you are very, very unlikely to get those points to disappear.

And you should do it now. Before you get served with a warrant and learn the difference between an annoyance and total hell. I don't know how many points we're talking about, even with late fees, et c., I'd guess quite a few; your probably lucky you can get a license at all, and should wait until those points fall from your record before you think of getting a car (Insurance companies being what they are.)
posted by Some1 at 1:35 PM on May 11, 2010

You are going to spend way, way more than you would on the fines and the increase in insurance. Insurance companies ask about violations, not just points, for just this reason. And they're probably going to check what you tell them. And you want an attorney to go to a judge and say, essentially, "My client just didn't feel like paying these off. But now he wants lower insurance rates, so why don't you expunge all that stuff from his record for no reason other than I am an awesome lawyer." It is going to take a ridiculous amount of money to find three of those people.
posted by Etrigan at 1:47 PM on May 11, 2010

As a data point, the traffic attorney I know here in VA works very local, as in primarily within an hour or so of the office. A traffic case isn't worth enough to justify him driving 4 hours for a hearing, nor for somebody to pay him to do that.
posted by COD at 2:04 PM on May 11, 2010

I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Remember that hiring a lawyer is by no means a guarantee that you'll get the tickets dismissed. If there's something to argue, he/she can perhaps effectively advocate on your behalf-- but if the evidence against you is convincing, there's very little they can do for you. In that case, you'll be out the lawyer's fees AND the fines. If you really want a lawyer's help, buy an hour of their time to review your citations and tell you whether they're something worth contesting or not.

I would expect that any lawyer you contact would be frank if your case were not worth defending, but in the off chance you might encounter a scoundrel who is only too happy to take your money, ask around about who's got a good reputation.

Back in law school, I got out of a parking ticket by reviewing the statute under which I was cited and explained to the judge how the terms of that statute did not apply to my case. You may want to consider making personal appearances to defend yourself.

Also remember that if you do make a personal appearance, do not rely on a defense of
"I was late for a doctor's appointment" or "I really can't afford to pay the ticket" or other pleas for sympathy. Focus on the fact (assuming that the facts are indeed in your favor) that the citations were legally inappropriate. Be prepared with a good explanation as to why.
posted by holterbarbour at 6:17 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

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