Can a lawyer beat your traffic ticket?

They don't tell you that, of course. That's why 9 in 10 traffic offenders simply pay the ticket rather than fight it in court.

Paying that ticket has one serious drawback, however: It counts as a conviction on your record. And in recent years, the ripple costs of a conviction have eclipsed the immediate financial ding to your wallet. Today, the wrong ticket at the wrong time can send your insurance through the roof, result in a suspended license and steep state surcharges, and even cost you your job.

If you wonder if you need a traffic lawyer, you probably do.

Traffic tickets: A growth market

Traffic ticket revenue has become more important than ever to financially strapped cities and counties, which have found it noncontroversial to bump up their fines considerably in recent years. Many jurisdictions now "catch" speeders and red-light runners using cameras that automatically generate fines.

States are cashing in as well by enacting surcharges for repeat offenders, some of which far exceed the cost of the ticket itself.

Although traffic ticket statistics are not compiled nationally, Eric Skrum, a former spokesman for the National Motorists Association, says these increased revenue demands have led to stricter enforcement.

"We are seeing more and more traffic tickets, specifically speeding tickets, being issued every year because it is big money for a lot of different agencies," he says.

Police officer aiming radar gun © John Roman Images/

Higher stakes for violations

The federal government also has played a role in revving up traffic tickets.

First came a mandate that states lower blood-alcohol content levels for DWI (driving while intoxicated) arrests to 0.08 percent (eight one-hundredths of 1 percent) from 0.10. More recently, the National Transportation Safety Board has asked states to drop their "legal limit" further, to 0.05.

Then there's the dreaded insurance-point system. Exceed it and you're looking at sky-high insurance premiums, also called surcharges, for a minimum of two to three years.

As a result, even a speeding ticket today can be a high-stakes game for many motorists, especially those with recent priors. As more tickets are issued, more motorists more quickly approach either the financial pain threshold of fines, points and surcharges, plus the loss of their license -- or worse.

"I have an insurance agent, and it's written into his contract that if he receives a DUI ticket -- not convicted, just receives the ticket -- he loses his job," says Skrum. "There are a lot of professionals who cannot afford to receive that ticket."

Meet a 'Mr. Fixit'

Robert Eutsler, a seasoned Houston lawyer, switched the focus of his practice several years ago to vehicular violations, primarily speeding and driving under the influence.


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