I have assisted people just like you with traffic charges in Mecklenburg County for 17 years. I've handled extremely intense litigation matters in both civil and criminal courts. However, traffic citations tend to really upset people for a variety of reasons. I want to address several topics to help you make the right decision how to handle your case.
You may be very upset about the circumstances of your case. Perhaps the officer was disrespectful. Maybe you feel the charge was unfair. You might just dread the insurance increase. Here is the deal: I'm not going to promise you a personal apology from the Police. I can't deliver that; you're smart enough to know it. What I can provide is solid legal advice. I want to hear what happened. I can then use my experience to make the best suggestions as I'm one step removed from the emotion of the situation.
So how do you proceed? I noted a few reasons handling your ticket yourself is a bad idea here. I will detail further information on this topic in a blog post soon. Your other option is to hire a lawyer. My preference is to simply explain to you what I offer so you can decide if you prefer my approach. However, there is unfortunately a lot of confusing information for you to consider when selecting an attorney. I want to be clear that I do not provide any the following information as a means of negative advertising. My goal is not to obtain your business by putting someone else down. The objective is to provide you useful information that many individuals later regret not knowing after hiring a lawyer.
These are some considerations individuals have raised over the years.
- Price: If you're contacting me for a traffic citation, you're going to want to know what this is going to cost you. I completely understand, and we have a clear discussion regarding what to expect. I provide you a free consultation so I can understand your problem based upon actually talking to you. I then quote you a fee to handle your case properly, and I provide you a solid expectation of the court costs / fine (I provide you a total to make it easy). Through many years and hundreds of cases I've determined this is the best approach to give you the most reasonable fee for me to do the job right. A couple additional tips regarding price:
- Do not just hire the cheapest lawyer or based on fee alone. I realize this is a traffic ticket. This is why we minimize your costs properly. However, do you choose other important things in your life based on the lowest cost? Do you really understand how much you're going to pay out of pocket if that cheap lawyer doesn't protect your insurance correctly? Take a look. Do you think you're going to get the same level of effort?
- If you see an advertisement with a quoted fee without the lawyer knowing your specific charge, ignore it. Let me explain: You may receive an advertisement stating "we handle any speeding ticket for $99.00". What's the problem? That lawyer has no idea whether your charge is for speeding 55 in a 35 zone or 125 in a 55 zone. Trust me, there is a difference! Do you think the lawyer who is dumb enough to send you that is going to do a good job? Do you think that lawyer pays attention to details?
- Don't fall for some sort of discount or coupon. Do you really want to hire your lawyer based on a coupon? Would you hire the eye doctor who gave you a deal for "buy one eye get the second one free"? Grab a deal at lunch. A professional service you're obtaining is important.
- Results: There are rules regarding what a lawyer is supposed to promise you about a case. These rules are unfortunately very difficult to enforce and loosely followed.
- My approach - I like the old saying "underpromise and overdeliver". I lose business because I'm not aggressive enough providing a "sales pitch". However, I've worked as a salesman; it just wasn't for me. I'm very good at showing you I'm a great lawyer, but I honestly need to get better at telling you what I have to offer. I'm just not going to tell you something unless I know I can deliver it; that's not honest. I will explain to you what to expect and why.
- The other approach - I get very frustrated with the guarantees many other attorneys give you to get your business. When that lawyer can't deliver, you then naturally think all lawyers act that way. Lawyers don't have a great reputation with some people; some of that is earned. I just hate to see another person fall into the same trap.
- Referrals: I operate a small business like many of you. I tell people the legal business is just like any other: there are good lawyers, bad lawyers, and those in the middle. A lot of my business is referrals from prior clients. I help family members, friends, co-workers, church members, neighbors, etc. If you know someone I've helped, ask them about me. If they didn't like my service, I wouldn't hire me. I'll take my chances they tell you to give me a call. You should also give the recommendations on this website and google a quick read as they will give you a sense of my practice.
- Avvo: This website is very confusing for people, so I want to provide some brief background. If you put in some basic search terms (example "Charlotte traffic ticket attorney") you will likely get a link for Avvo. This is simply a marketing company. They provide no legal services. They just grab all the lawyers internet information for each area, do a bunch of internet marketing, and then sell their internet platform back to those same lawyers. I've seen information on their website that was clearly just pulled from another legit source, and I've seen information I did not think was legit. I suggest you utilize a different referral / rating source.
- Marketing: While I'm discussing this general topic, I want to make one simple point about legal advertising that a few readers may not realize. Legal marketing is BIG business. Larger law firms spend an incredible amount of money to get their name in front of your eyes on TV or the google search results. What does that mean with regard to your specific case - that is what matters to you, right? I'm happy to talk with you about some of the issues this causes in my business with regard to your case, but I also challenge you to think independently about what it might mean. You're smart.
- Experience: Yes it does matter. I hate to sound like the old grumpy guy, but the reality is I'm a better lawyer now than I was 17 years ago. I constantly try to get better though, and I'm competitive. My experience has taught me there is a sweet spot. I see young attorneys all the time who simply do a terrible job. They do not know what they are doing, and many have an arrogance for some stupid reason that prevents them from getting better. I also know some older attorneys who are still working for various reasons (ex. prior downturns in the economy). Some of these individuals just do the bare minimum because they are out of fight. I simply suggest you talk to your lawyer; just get a sense of him / her as a person. You'll get a gut feeling.
- Education: Any lawyer you hire must have attended law school and passed the N.C. bar exam at some point. For the record, I went to South Carolina, and passed the bar exam in N.C. & S.C. Most people know little about law school unless someone they know well is a lawyer. It's hard, and it's not particularly fun. It also served a purpose in the process of me becoming a great lawyer. There are a large number of attorneys handling traffic and criminal cases in Charlotte / Mecklenburg County who attended the Charlotte School of Law. This was a private / for-profit school that lasted a very short time before losing it's accreditation and closing. My observation was the school primarily targeted people who had no chance of being accepted to a reputable institution and never should have attended law school. Many of these students actually sued the school later. The N.C. bar exam passage rates for students of the school was insanely low. Many of these individuals have real difficulty getting jobs because a degree from that law school is often viewed very suspiciously. Here is my basic advice: with very few exceptions, I would not recommend anyone with a degree from that law school to handle the most basic legal issue.
So what really matters when you get a traffic ticket?
- Your license:
- The first thing we work on when addressing your traffic matter is your license. North Carolina will suspend your license for numerous things and a variety of ways. I routinely represent people who tried to handle a traffic ticket themselves (or chose the wrong lawyer). Step one is obvious: we need to keep you driving. This is not usually an issue for my clients.
- Your insurance:
- I spend a lot of time working to protect your insurance. This is a key area you really suffer by handling a case alone or hiring the cheapest lawyer. I spend the extra effort to keep your insurance from increasing for the next 3 years if there is any possible way. If that requires more work, I just do it.
- Your court costs / fine:
- The amount written on your ticket (it may not even be noted) doesn't really matter. Do NOT pay off your ticket, even if that particular charge allows you to do so. When you pay a ticket, you plead guilty as charged. You may think you are saving money on a lawyer and the hassle of dealing with it further. You may later discover your insurance increased dramatically (for 3 years), and/or your license is suspended.
- When I handle your ticket, I will call you after your court date (I go to court for you). I will explain exactly what I did and why. I will tell you the total you owe the court, which is determined by the final disposition of your case. You will then have plenty of time to pay that total to the court. I provide you very simple instructions to make payment easy.
What should you expect with my firm?
- I previously noted I provide a free consultation where we can discuss your case. You can tell me what happened from your perspective. I can gain a sense of your concerns and goals for the case. We can discuss any questions you have, and I can generally provide you a quote.
- Your case:
- I work one-on-one with my clients. You don't spend all your time talking to an hourly employee with no legal training like most firms. We discuss the problem so I can develop the proper legal solution. I appear for my clients in most traffic matters, so we will sign a waiver of appearance. I then execute our game plan. I call you after court and provide you the details.
- After Court:
- I will send you written documentation of any disposition in your case. I document everything I do for clients. It's not uncommon I assist a client years later with some item from their file. As previously noted, I will give you simple instructions how to pay the total due the court to make that process very easy.
I have two basic goals:
- Take a difficult process and make is easy for you.
- Get you the best result.