Traffic Violation - Auto Ticket Defense
The thought must go through your mind: if I have to pay the fine anyway, isn’t hiring a lawyer simply going to make the financial inconvenience of a traffic ticket, only that much more expensive?
More often than not, experienced traffic defense counsel can help eliminate not just misdemeanors and higher-point offenses, but can often negotiate down offenses, so that nothing is reported either to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, which means it should not come to the attention of your insurance company.
This alone, will usually pay for legal representation many times over.
If you’re unsure of the math, consider the fact that most insurance rates will remain higher than normal for many years after the violation. It is a common misconception that traffic violations fall of your driving record. Points eventually drop over time, but insurance companies will always have record of the offense.
You may have already obtained your Michigan driving history; if you have, you may have found it nearly indecipherable. The Michigan Secretary of State anticipated this, and they have actually put out a guide to explain just how their reports should be interpreted. I am attaching a copy of their guide here.
Can a criminal history, going back far enough in time, be wiped out? Many times, folks lived life differently in the past, than they do now; the need to work, support a family, pursue educational opportunities, etc, require that a criminal history be “buried” as much as the law will allow. Can this be done?
Traditional Michigan Expungements
Yes and no. Under Michigan law, “expungement” merely makes a formerly public adult criminal conviction record, nonpublic. As far as the criminal justice system is concerned, you were still convicted of the crime; the only difference, is that after the conviction is “expunged”, it will not be visible to persons/entities outside the criminal justice system. Who does that include? Potential employers, educational institutions, and lawyers like me, who are not employed by Prosecutors’ offices. I am informed that Federal Immigration/Customs authorities will continue to have access to this information.
Expungements are governed by statute, specifically MCLA §780.621, which requires eligible persons to apply to the court where the conviction was entered. If the conviction was out-of-state, you must go there (if you are eligible for expungement at all, in that other state); if your conviction was in a Michigan court far away, you must go there.
Who is eligible?
- A person who has at least five years since the latest of the following
- Imposition of sentence;
- Completion of probation;
- Discharge from parole;
- Completion of any term of imprisonment
- A person convicted of no more than one felony, AND no more than 2 misdemeanors, can petition the convicting court to set aside the felony;
- A person with no more than two misdemeanor offenses, and no other felony offenses, may ask the convicting court to set aside one or both of the misdemeanor convictions;
- A person convicted of 4th degree criminal sexual conduct under MCLA §750.520e, provided that:
- The person who committed the offense is not older than 21 years of age;
- The conviction predated January 12, 2015;
- The person who committed the offense has not been convicted of another offense, other than two “minor offenses”, defined as
- Offenses with maximum imprisonment time not exceeding 90 days;
- The maximum fine is no more than $1,000.00
New “Clean Slate” Legislation
New legislation passed into law in Michigan, should start making the process of expungements easier, and in some cases, starting in April 2023, automatic. Specifically:
- Beginning in 2023, creating an automatic process for expunging eligible misdemeanors after seven years, and eligible non-assault felonies after 10 years;
- Expanding the number and revising the types of felonies and misdemeanors eligible to be set aside by application (effective April 2021);
- Revising the waiting periods before being eligible for expungement;
- Treating multiple felonies or misdemeanor offenses arising from the same transaction as a single felony or misdemeanor conviction, provided that the offenses happened within 24 hours of one another, and do not involve assault, possession/use of a dangerous weapon, or any other crime carry a penalty of 10 years or more in prison;
- Expanding the eligibility for expungement of various traffic offenses; paragraph on the person to petition to set aside one or more marijuana offenses if the offense would not have been a crime, if committed after the use of recreational marijuana by adults became legal in Michigan
Do you have questions regarding your eligibility for expungement of a past criminal offense? Give Jon Frank a call at (586) 727-1900, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many states have remedial, or refresher courses that you can attend, with the goal of wiping out points on your record, and maybe even preventing the reporting of your moving violation to your auto insurance company. In Michigan, “traffic school” is referred to as a Basic Driver Improvement Course, or BDIC
First, you need to figure out if the ticket/violation you received is eligible for this type of BDIC/Traffic School relief. Here is a link to a list of moving violations that are eligible for BDIC (CTRL + Enter).
If you are eligible for BDIC enrollment, the Secretary of State’s Office will send you a notice that you are eligible for BDIC, and that you have 60 days to complete a BDIC course, and to report your successful completion to the State of Michigan.
Rather than wait for the Secretary of State’s Office to send you a letter, saying that you are eligible for BDIC relief, my suggestion is that if your ticket is eligible for BDIC relief, that YOU CONTACT THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S OFFICE, preferably in person at a branch office, and talk to a clerk there.
This does not mean that you are off the hook for court fees or fines; it also does not mean that you can get out of having to go to court. However, it does mean that, if you are eligible, you can wipe the points off your record, and hopefully, prevent the violation from being reported to your insurance company.
When you go to/communicate with the Secretary of State’s Office, ask them HOW TO ENROLL. Do not ask them if you are eligible, because the clerk will say “no” to you, just to get you out the door.
Remember, ask them HOW TO ENROLL…..AND make sure that before you go and spend time waiting in a line at the Secretary of State’s Office, that you know that you are eligible. Again, the link is here, for a list of eligible offenses, AND I would suggest you take this list with you, when you go to the Branch Office.
Aside from having an BDIC-eligible ticket, you:
- Must not have had more than two points on your driving record, when the ticket was issued;
- Must not have been charged with a moving violation, that is a criminal offense; only civil infractions on the list (once again, here is a link) are eligible for BDIC-relief);
- Must not have received a ticket while operating a commercial vehicle;
- Must not have a commercial drivers license (even if the ticket was issued while you were operating a non-commercial vehicle);
- Must have received the ticket in the State of Michigan; out-of-state citations are not eligible for this relief; and
- Must currently have a valid Michigan driver’s license.
The letter from the State of Michigan will confirm your eligibility, and will also confirm the 60-day deadline for completion of the Basic Driver Improvement Course. You will need the State-issued “Notice of Eligibility”, in order to enroll in a BDIC. If you lose the “Notice of Eligibility”, go to a branch office of the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, with your driver’s license, or some other document that has your Michigan Drivers License Number on it.
The list of approved Course Sponsors is here. You can also go to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office website at this link, and scroll down, until you find a button that says, “BDIC Sponsors”. This State of Michigan web page also has a link to nearby BDIC in-person classrooms. Pick one, contact them, make the arrangements, attend the class (either in-person, or online), and pass.
If you pass the BDIC, your course sponsor will notify the State of Michigan; however, you would also be wise to ask your course sponsor for written/emailed confirmation of your successful completion. While the State may not accept a copy of any certificate of completion you may want to offer, you would do well to have one ready to give them, so that you can remain in control of what happens to your driving records. Again, you still have to pay all fines and court costs.
If you do not pass the BDIC within 60 days of the State-issued notice of eligibility, then the points and the violation will be on your record, and will be available to insurance companies. While you can retake the BDIC, as many times as you want/need to, please note that you must do so within the 60 day period of time referred to in the Notice of Eligibility
Frequently Asked Questions. Honest Answers.
Most commonly, traffic tickets are negotiated out with a City Attorney or County Prosecutor. You will need some idea what can and cannot be negotiated in or out of your traffic matter. Experienced representation gives you the legal edge you may need to defend your traffic violation. That doesn’t mean you can’t represent yourself, but honestly, how much trust would you put in yourself when it comes to as task where you have zero experience.
The City Attorneys/Prosecutors handling traffic ticket prosecutions are, for the most part, dedicated professionals who are not given nearly the resources they need to do their jobs. In short, these mostly overworked professionals do not take well to the personal involvement that comes with someone representing themselves on a traffic ticket.
Attorneys themselves know that they will likely do better, if they have an attorney representing them. Many have told me of their own frustrations, trying to negotiate away their own traffic violations, in front of the same individual City Attorneys/Prosecutors, with whom they are able to negotiate routinely, on behalf of their clients.
Plenty. Here are just a few items:
1. Skyrocketing auto insurance costs.
2. Skyrocketing auto insurance costs.
4. Your Future Driving Record – Even if You Move Out-of-State/Canada.
5. Employment Requiring Clean Driving Record.
6. Secretary of State’s “Driver Responsibility Fees”; and
7. (did I mention) Skyrocketing auto insurance costs.
Just like individuals, local city, county and state governments have experienced tight budgets, with the recent downturn in the economy. And, just as individuals need to bring in additional revenues to make ends meet, so too, do local governments need to bring in cash to meet their needs.
Police officers involved in traffic enforcement functions perform important duties in keeping the public safe. Sadly, they are often seen and treated by their employers as mobile “profit centers”, who are expected not just to keep the public safe, and to prevent crime, but also to generate money for the city, county and state government agencies they work for.
Unfortunately, the traffic citation that seems like a minor inconvenience today, may result in your auto insurance costs skyrocketing, that is, if your existing insurer will continue to provide you coverage. Indeed, your insurance may become so expensive that you have to drop your auto insurance coverage, to make it affordable, creating a host of potentially bigger problems.
Unlike sporting events, where the team with the most points wins, “points” are not good, when it comes to your driving record.
Michigan’s penalty driving “points” scheme is set up in a Michigan statute, MCLA 257.320a. Just click on the statute number, or here, and you will be taken right to the original statute, imposing points, for various violations, effective January 5, 2018.
To make it simpler, I have put the statute in what I think is a more readable chart form. Click here for the “point chart” effective January 5, 2018.