Not all traffic violations are created equal. Dependent on the unique facts regarding the type of traffic violation, the penalty the defendant is facing and the prior driving history associated with the individual, can impact the penalties a defendant may be facing. 

While many minor traffic violations will not require an attorney, there are other violations where an attorney will be beneficial in assisting with a traffic violation. 

When Should I Hire an Attorney for a Traffic Violation?

While the majority of individuals and traffic cases will not require an attorney to handle their traffic violation. Simple speeding tickets that are not reckless, and do not involve controlled substances and/or alcohol,  in nature can generally be handled by the defendant. More serious traffic violations may require an attorney especially if the penalties for pleading guilty or being found guilty involve large fines or potential jail time. It is advisable to hire an attorney for certain traffic violations like DUI and reckless driving.

DUI

One of the largest reasons individuals hire an attorney for a traffic violation are for DUIs. Minor traffic violations like speeding and DUIs have very different penalties associated with them. 

The consequences for a DUI can be very severe. This is especially true if the individual has had prior DUI convictions on their record in the past ten years. In the State of Pennsylvania there are stiff penalties for DUI offenses.

There are a few different offenses and tiers for DUIs in Pennsylvania. These tiers are primarily impacted by a defendant’s blood alcohol level. 

If an individual has no prior DUI offenses and has a BAC between .09 and .099% it will be considered a misdemeanor including a $300 fine potentially six months probation traffic school and alcohol treatment if ordered. 

While the minimum penalty for a DUI offense is outlined above the maximum penalties for prior offenders are quite severe. 

If an individual has two or more prior DUI offenses they can face anywhere from 10 days to potentially five years in prison dependent on the circumstances and facts associated with each case. 

When DUIs are involved in traffic violations, it is best to – and highly advisable to – hire an experienced attorney that understands DUI defense. 

Reckless Driving 

Another serious penalty when hiring a defense attorney is advisable is when a defendant is reckless driving. Reckless driving is defined as:

3736.  Reckless driving.

(a)  General rule.–Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

(b)  Penalty.–Any person who violates this section commits a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $200.

(May 30, 1990, P.L.173, No.42, eff. Apr. 1, 1992)

1990 Amendment.  Act 42 added section 3736.

Cross References.  Section 3736 is referred to in sections 1532, 3326, 3327 of this title.

The penalty for reckless driving includes a minimum fine of at least $200. The penalties can increase for reckless driving when an injury is reported as the fine increases to a $1000 minimum fine and up to ninety days in jail. 

The penalties for reckless driving can be stiff and in some cases, a defendant’s license can be suspended for six months. If you have been charged with reckless driving, it is advisable to hire a criminal defense attorney to help defend your case. This is especially true if the reckless driving was so severe, that a defendant is facing jail time. 

If you are facing DUI, reckless driving or another serious traffic violation with penalties that involve large fines and/or jail time, it is more than likely that the best interests of the defendant is to hire a lawyer.

When Can I Represent Myself for Traffic Violations?

If the traffic violation is minor and does not involve any jail time or high fines – a defendant may find it possible to represent their person within traffic court. These minor traffic violations generally impose fines and do not carry any criminal penalties associated with the case. Traffic violations that are less severe involve speeding tickets, seat belt violations, failure to display license plate and/or registration cards. 

If you feel like the officer involved in the traffic violation was mistaken regarding the violation at hand, a defendant has the option to fight the traffic ticket in traffic court. However, if the driver of a vehicle agrees that the violation is legitimate, they can pay the fine associated with the traffic violation. If the driver chooses to pay the fine, in most cases they are not mandated to appear in traffic court.