How to Best Handle a Vermont Speeding Ticket or Traffic Ticket:
Should A Defendant Pay or Fight a Vermont Traffic Ticket or Speeding Ticket?
After receiving a speeding or traffic ticket in Vermont, most people just pay the ticket and put the uncomfortable event behind them. In more serious cases, it is advisable to engage a Rutland traffic attorney as the risk of being found guilty could result in a heavy fine and/or license suspension. It is ultimately the driver’s decision to either pay or fight the Vermont traffic or speeding ticket. It is very important that all defendants carefully consider these four things:
- What is the fine or penalty of the traffic or speeding ticket?
- What is the ease of traveling to the court to defend the ticket? (and taking a day off work)
- What is the risk that an increase in points on the driver’s license could lead to a license suspension?
- What is the long-term impact that additional driver’s license points are going to have on the driver’s automobile insurance rates? These are often increased following a traffic ticket.
The Legal Process Choices for a Traffic Ticket Defendant in Vermont are:
- PAY THE TICKET
Effectively plead guilty to the charge and pay the fine and take the points
– OR –
- PLEAD NOT GUILTY – And Negotiate
Go to court and negotiate a lower penalty with the police officer and then plead guilty to the lower charge
– OR –
- PLEAD NOT GUILTY – Have A Court Case
Go to court and have a court case in front of the judge with the police officer testifying against you
Paying The Speeding Ticket
Just paying the speeding ticket is the easiest route that most drivers take. But It is amazing how quickly points can amass on a driver’s license. There is no going back for do-over when the driver realizes that their insurance are now sky-high. If the driver has over 10 points in a 3 year window, they will lose their license to drive.
Negotiate A Lower Penalty With The Issuing Police Officer
Vermont police are often open to negotiate a lower penalty on any tickets. If they have seen the defendant before, then they are less likely to do a deal. This means a court case in front of a traffic judge may be necessary. Drivers should be aware that they will be seeing the same police officer who gave them a ticket in court. As they will have to negotiate with the same police officer, they should be very careful with any backtalk they give the police officer at the time of the citation. The defendant will be seeing the police officer again in court if there is a case.
Having the Speeding Ticket Case Heard in Front of a Judge
Vermont court judges do not want to have a traffic ticket or speeding ticket case heard in front of them. They have better things to do in their chambers like surf the web for tropical vacation spots. Defendants should be aware that Vermont judges are going to be annoyed if they have to hear evidence in a case for such a minor traffic infraction. Defendants are advised to have a concise and clear case well prepared in order to streamline the process. If the judge has to ask any questions, then the defendant has failed in their presentation. Judges love to watch video evidence because they usually have to rely on written testimony. Dash cam video is very compelling evidence. All Vermont drivers should dashcams as it keeps everyone honest.
Using a Traffic Attorney or Representing Yourself (‘Pro-se’)
Traffic tickets and their subsequent legal cases in Vermont (and particularly ones in Rutland County) are often not defended by an attorney, but by the drivers themselves. This process is known as ‘Pro-se’. Any penalty from a guilty verdict (through a pleading or a case) is usually just a relatively small financial one. Paying for the services of a Vermont traffic attorney may make the legal case more expensive when compared to just paying the fine or trying to defend the ticket themselves. There are some circumstances when traffic tickets should always be handled by an attorney. Any defendant should balance the fine points and insurance cost increases in that decision-making process.
Negotiating with Police Officers at Traffic Court for a Different Fine and Penalty
In Rutland County (and also in Windsor County VT) there is no separate prosecutor on any Vermont traffic case. The police officer acts as both the witness and prosecutor in traffic court. The defendant (or their attorney) will often have to meet with the issuing police officer just before the case is to be heard in front of the judge.
In more serious traffic charges, where there is not a DUI attached, there is a stronger case for using a Rutland attorney. But simpler cases like a speeding ticket in Vermont traffic court can be negotiated with the police officer at court. In certain circumstances the police officer will not offer a plea bargain. Traffic judges really dislike having a traffic case tried in front of them, which uses up valuable Vermont judicial time. Judges expect most cases to be plea-bargained long before the case ever gets in front of them. Sometimes the issuing police officer may appear to not want to do a plea bargain. In most cases the officer will do it after some encouragement.
Vermont Traffic Tickets and Speeding Tickets In Depth Analysis:
The True Cost of Traffic Tickets in Vermont is an Increase in Automobile Insurance
The fixed penalties of a traffic ticket may appear to be just a single cost event. The true overall costs, to any driver being found guilty of a traffic offense, is an increase in the cost of car insurance.
The increases in automobile insurance premium can last up to five years. These costs can often add up to be far larger than the fine of the original traffic ticket. There is also a big impact on the driver if points are mounting up on their license. They may be banned from driving if they reach a certain threshold in points. If a driver already has eight points from previous infractions, then a guilty charge in a speeding ticket case could have the driver banned for a full 6 months. In some cases, the driver may not be able to get any automobile insurance after being found guilty of a dangerous driving charge.
What Speeding Ticket Cases are Heard in Rutland, Vermont Traffic Court
Many cases are heard in Vermont traffic court. These all come from Rutland County for traffic tickets for all kinds of moving violations and citations. They can include speeding tickets, negligent operation (which also encompasses reckless driving) and eluding a police officer. The last of which is often added with one of the other charges in tow. Defendants can choose to just pay the fine or can defend the ticket in person at Vermont traffic court.
Defendants in more serious traffic court cases can also use an attorney to defend themselves in court. In many cases, the police fail to show for a traffic court ticket and the ticket will be summarily dismissed by the judge. Defendants should not always anticipate this and they will still need to show up to court themselves or send an attorney from Rutland. Traffic tickets from the following towns are heard in front of the Rutland Traffic Court in Rutland City. These Vermont towns include Rutland City, Clarendon, Wallingford, Castleton, Fair Haven, Chittendon, Killington, Mendon, Pittsford, Shrewsbury, Plymouth, Pittsfield and Mount Holly.
Where Are The Worst Speed Traps In Vermont
The most common traffic tickets in Rutland County are for speeding and the most common speeding ticket blackspots that are regularly patrolled by state and local police are at:
- Route 4 in Fair Haven (close to the Vermont/New York border),
- Highway Route 7 South of Rutland (near Wallingford and Mount Holly)
- Route 4 ski traffic heading to Killington (Route 4, between Rutland and Killington)
These are the Rutland County speeding ticket hotspots for traffic tickets. They represent over 90% of all traffic tickets issued in the Rutland County area. A Vermont traffic court attorney can often provide a better experience and result from the traffic court system. This would be for defendants from both Rutland County and for drivers from out of town. Most traffic tickets issued are actually issued to out-of-town and out-of-state drivers.
The Most common refrain in Vermont from ticketed drivers is that they were stopped while driving over 70 mph on Route 7 in Wallingford in the middle of the night. This location has become the most notorious and prolific speed trap in Vermont. Despite its desolate location and low speed limit many drivers are ticketed there. Some say that the location is just a moneymaker for the surrounding towns. The claim is that there is no reason for the speed limit to be set at a paltry 55 mph. The road is long and straight and has no other impediments.
Why Out-Of-State Plates Garner Most Traffic Tickets
Out-of-state plates are a notorious magnet for police officers in the Rutland County area. One of the reasons for this may be that the out-of-state drivers probably do not know about the ever-changing local speed limits and laws. They may also not know where the speed traps are located. Police officers will often give a traffic ticket to an out-of-state driver because they know the driver will be less inclined to defend a traffic ticket that is in a Vermont traffic court, which is likely hundreds of miles away from where they live and work.
Some Rutland attorneys can actually represent their clients at traffic court, without the clients having to appear in court at all. But traffic judges will often need to hear why their client is not attending the court hearing, as it is often seen to be disrespectful to the court and can go against the client’s case.
Suspended Driver’s License in Vermont
When drivers are found guilty of any kind of moving violation in the State of Vermont, they will receive points on their driving record. These points will also transfer to other US states. If drivers accumulate 10 points or more within 2 years they will be suspended from driving. That suspension can be as long as 2 years, but as short as 3 months, depending on the charges. The the police officer and the judge also have a say in the level of charges and penalty. When that term expires, driving privileges will not be reinstated until drivers have satisfied all state mandatory requirements, which can even include going back into the classroom.
Drivers must also receive written notification of reinstatement from the Department of Motor Vehicles before they can reapply for a license. The Vermont traffic court does not provide ‘hardship” or “work license” dispensations for defendants. If the license points are mounting up, drivers should consider using a traffic attorney as being banned from driving in Vermont can have a considerable impact on the life and livelihood of the defendant and their family.
Driving With a Suspended License
Driving with a suspended driver’s license is a class 3 felony in Vermont. The offending driver will be subject to arrest. Any legal case for this infraction will not be held in Vermont traffic court. This is a serious crime that can lead to jail time. The case would be transferred to Vermont State Supreme Court.
Help For Drivers With Suspended Drivers License
Vermont has a program called the Civil DLS Diversion Program, which is designed to help people regain their driver’s license after they have been suspended and while they pay off some of their court fines and fees. The idea is that the court develops a contract with the driver that includes a payment plan and the possibility of reducing the debt if the judge sees that they are following through with the program. A driver must have settled the underlying suspension requirements, like being suspended for too many points, but at least they will not stay suspended if they cannot afford the fines under this program. If the license suspension is a result of a DUI, this program will not be available to the driver as that is seen as a serious offense.
For more help with defending a Vermont speeding ticket or traffic ticket please visit the Vermont Bar Association website.