The Right Way to Handle a Georgia Traffic Ticket

Atlanta Highway Clark & TowneWhile I was waiting for court the other day, I overheard a county employee asking a traffic ticket prosecutor how best to handle her son's traffic ticket. I wasn't surprised to hear the prosecutor tell the mother to just go ahead and pay the ticket: "The judge is going find your son guilty anyway."

Who should you ask if you have a question about a traffic ticket you've received? Not the prosecutor. He's got a huge caseload; his goal is the fastest solution. Just paying the ticket is the fastest solution 9 out of 10 times. And that is certainly one way to handle a traffic ticket. In fact, it is one of the most popular.

But it shouldn't be. Before just paying a ticket, think about what that ticket will mean to you and your family. Your goal -- not the prosecutor's goal -- determines how to handle that ticket. Talking to a lawyer can help you determine your goals.

Read more: The Right Way to Handle a Georgia Traffic Ticket

Ask Jessica: How to say No to a cop

Attorney Jessica TowneBy Jessica Towne

Readers of my newsletter, The Georgia Driver, know that I write a regular column, Ask Jessica. Here is the question from May 2015. You can read archived newsletters here or call my office and I'll put you on the mailling list.

Don't incriminate yourself

Question: How can I protect myself from an over-zealous police officer?

Read more: Ask Jessica: How to say No to a cop

Law enforcement steps it up for Labor Day

roadside checkpointFor the 6 days leading up to Labor Day, Georgia State Patrol and its counterparts in adjoining states step up "safety checks." This means if you are driving out of state for Labor Day or around then, better make sure your car is functioning perfectly (no broken tail lights), trash free (that empty beer bottle from 3 months ago will get you a ticket and maybe worse), your insurance is up to date, and that everyone in the car is wearing his or her seat belt. Expect to be stopped at state lines.

After you make sure you meet all the legal requirements for driving, I recommend you do a "walk around" before every trip you take, whether it's a football game a couple of hours away or a favorite vacation spot in the next state, to make sure your car will get you there safely. Walk around your car and:

• Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained. If maintenance is not up to date, at the very least have your car and tires inspected before you take a long drive.
• Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads during the most popular times of the year. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.
• Keep anything of value in the trunk or a covered storage area.
• Have roadside assistance contact information on hand in case an incident occurs.
• In case of an emergency, keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times. Many smartphone applications enable motorists to request help without making a phone call.

When to go to court over a ticket

ticket being writtenMany tickets do not require you to appear in court, some do. Sometimes you can hire a lawyer to appear for you. So the best answer is, "It depends."

"Serious" traffic tickets require you to appear in court. The most common traffic tickets that require a court appearance are for:

  • Hit & Run / Leaving the Scene of an Accident
  • DUI
  • All drivers under age 18, no matter the ticket, and most drivers under the age of 21, especially if the tickets carries four or more points
  • Passing a Stopped School Bus
  • Speeding in Excess of 24 mph
  • Suspended Driver's License, Expired Vehicle Tag or No Insurance tickets
  • Reckless Driving

If your ticket says "must appear offense," you need to consult a lawyer.

Read more: When to go to court over a ticket

How to contact lawyer Jessica Towne

Jessica Towne

I have an iPhone on me nearly all the time. I keep my appointments and court schedule on it; use it to communicate with my staff; and even to track the routes important documents take on their way from my office to a client or the prosecutor's office. Of course I use it to talk to clients, but I also use it to talk to people who possibly won't ever become my clients. During business hours, you can reach me at 770-338-2338 and your call will be transferred directly to me when I'm not in court.

A large part of being a "serious" traffic ticket/DUI lawyer is taking calls from people who have a recent ticket or arrest. I know the Gwinnett courts, including city courts, and will answer most basic questions leading up to: "Do I even need a lawyer?" I'm happy to tell some callers, "No, you don't need a lawyer. Here's how to handle this yourself." (Bet you didn't think that was possible.)

When you call me, I'll talk with you, time and schedule permitting.

Call me about a ticket that makes you mad because you don't think anything can be done about it. You might be surprised by my answer.

Yes, campus cops can stop you even if you are not on campus

gavel4In Georgia, police officers are professionals when they are certified by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Council (POST). In a decision released today, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that a campus police officer may stop someone who is not on campus, provided the campus police officer witnesses a crime. State vs. Zilke (A15A0279) involved a Kennesaw State University officer who stopped a driver and arrested him for DUI, even though the traffic violation of failure to maintain lane didn't occur on KSU property. Generally, a police officer has the power to arrest "only in the territory of the governmental unit by which the officer was appointed. POST-certified campus police officers may arrest drivers for moving traffic offenses committed in their presence."

Read more: Yes, campus cops can stop you even if you are not on campus

Stop for that school bus!

school buscameras wsbtvGet ready for the big yellow buses-- Gwinnett kids go back to school today.
Keep kids and your license safe by remembering that stopping when you encounter a stopped school bus is the law.

Who needs to stop for a bus?

Read more: Stop for that school bus!

Speeding in a GA Construction Zone

roadstop2Speeding in a construction zone, if written up as that, is far more serious than a regular speeding ticket.

What's the big deal?

For one thing, it's a high and aggravated misdemeanor.

Read more: Speeding in a GA Construction Zone

Seth Gilliam arrested in Peachtree City

Seth GilliamActor Seth Gilliam was arrested early Sunday morning after the police stopped him for speeding. I bet his lawyer wished he had done things a little differently after his stop.

After clocking Gilliam driving 107mph in a 55 zone (super speeder, and then some!), the officer stated he smelled booze and asked Gilliam if he had been drinking. Gilliam allegedly admitted to having had three beers and a shot, and registered a 0.107 BAC.

The Walking Dead star dug his own grave if this is true. Officers nearly always say they smell booze when they stop someone at 2am. And often, it's a good guess. But as any good DUI defense lawyer will tell you, this statement is full of holes. Alcohol has no odor, so what exactly did the officer smell? More importantly, why, why, why, did Gilliam say anything at all? Why did he agree to the breath test?

Then, because the officer was having an excellent stop, he discovered he smelled marijuana! The officer found a joint. Sounds like the searched the car.

In all, Gilliam was charged with DUI, speeding, reckless driving, and possession of less than an ounce. That is a lot, but they released him right away. The next time he faces a judge, it might not go so well. He is looking at a lot of fines, loss of license, and even jail time.