Q. What is a ticket?
A. If a police officer witnesses a traffic offense, the officer will issue a written form called a ticket. The ticket notifies you of the type of offense, such as speeding. The ticket will be filed with the court and your case will proceed in the court.
Q. How should I treat the police officer when I receive a ticket?
A. Be respectful. You don’t want the police officer against you, if you will be trying to negotiate a reduction in your ticket when you go to court.
Q. What are points?
A. Most tickets carry points. For example, a five over speeding ticket is two points.
Q. Do you get points on your record when the officer gives you the ticket?
A. No – only when one is determined to be responsible for the ticket.
Q. Let’s say I admit responsibility and just pay a ticket. What will happen?
A. The court will notify the Secretary of State and the points will go on your driving record. For example, if you just paid a ticket for five over speeding, you would get two points on your driving record.
Q. What happens if I get too many points?
A. The Secretary of State can restrict or suspend your driver’s license.
Q. Does the Secretary of State impose fees for too many points?
A. Yes – the fees are called driver responsibility fees.
Q. How does the Secretary of State treat beginning drivers (those on graduated driving or probation) if they get points or in accidents?
A. The Secretary of State can restrict or suspend beginning drivers. The Secretary of State is stricter with new drivers.
Q. What about insurance rates?
A. Your insurance company has access to your driving record. Points on your driving record and traffic ticket convictions can result in substantial insurance-rate hikes.
Q. In Michigan, are tickets criminal offenses?
A. Most tickets are not criminal offenses. Your typical traffic offenses such as speeding are called civil infractions and do not result in a criminal record. However, serious offenses such as drunk driving and reckless driving are criminal matters.
Q. What is a formal hearing?
A. A formal hearing is a hearing in front of a judge. You and the police officer will testify. An attorney can ask you questions to put forth your case and cross-examine the police officer. Your attorney can also give a closing argument. The judge will then determine whether you are responsible for the ticket.
Q. Overall, what are the most important things to focus on?
A. Points and insurance-rate hikes. That’s why it’s important, whenever possible, to try to get the ticket reduced so your insurance company won’t find out.
Q. Should I fight every ticket?
A. Yes – once you start to get tickets and points on your record, it is much more difficult to negotiate a reduction.
Q. Why is it more difficult to get a ticket reduced if I have prior tickets or points on my driving record?
A. When you go to court, the prosecutor will have a copy of your driving record. The prosecutor is much less likely to offer a reduced ticket (to zero points for example) if you already have tickets and points on your driving record.
Q. How can an attorney help me?
A. A traffic attorney can help you negotiate a favorable plea with the goal of avoiding points and insurance-rate hikes. If that is not possible, an attorney can help you present your case to the judge at the formal hearing.