The Speeding Ticket Process in Macomb County
In Michigan, speeding is a “civil infraction” – this means that it is not a misdemeanor or a felony. You cannot be sentenced to any jail time for a civil infraction. However you can get points, you can lose your license and you can be assessed big fines for a civil driving infraction. Additionally, “points are points” – whether from a traffic misdemeanor or a traffic civil infraction – and points can cost you thousands of dollars in increased insurance rates.
Speeding tickets and other traffic offenses that are civil Infractions follow different rules – and different procedures – than traffic offenses that are crimes (misdemeanors or felonies).
There are three steps to fighting a civil infraction, including speeding tickets.
- The Informal Hearing –
Always read your ticket carefully. It will tell you if you should call, write or come in to the court to request an informal hearing. It will also usually state how many days you have in which to respond. Once you request an informal hearing, the Court will mail you a court date. If you do not hear from them, call them back and check on the status of your court date.
Do not miss your court date or you will lose by “default” (lose automatically). If you lose by default you can expect the maximum fines and points, as well as possible additional court costs. “I didn’t get a notice” or “my hearing notice was lost in the mail” will not be accepted as an excuse for missing your hearing. It is your responsibility to find out when your hearing is and to be there – or you will lose.
The Informal Hearing is presided over by a magistrate. A magistrate is not a judge – and the informal hearing will not be have as many strict rules and procedures as a proceeding before a judge. However, the magistrate should always be addressed with just as much respect as a judge. Remember: they hold your fate in their hands!
- The Formal Hearing –
If you request the formal hearing, you will be notified by mail of your court date. The formal hearing will be held before a judge. (Note: jury trials are NOT held for a civil infraction.)
Once again, if you miss your court date you will lose by “default”. Which means you will likely forfeit (lose) your bond and be assessed the maximum fines and points, as well as possible additional court costs. Call the court if you do not get a Notice of Hearing in a week or so. Excuses for missing your hearing are rarely accepted – even if it is “not your fault.” It is your responsibility to find out when your hearing is and to be there – or you will lose.
At the Formal Hearing it is extremely important to have an experienced lawyer represent you – because there are serious bad results that can occur if you are not properly represented by someone who is experienced. For example: If the officer gave you a break when writing the ticket and wrote it for a lesser speed, the judge could increase your speeding ticket at the hearing, to the speed the officer actually observed you at. Additionally, the court has the authority to impose additional court costs at the Formal Hearing.
Always let your lawyer know when your court date is – as soon as you receive notice from the court – so he or she can put it on their calendar, and have time to prepare the best “defense” for you. If you have a Formal Hearing date coming up and you do not have a lawyer, call us immediately.
You and your lawyer should arrive early for your formal hearing – so that your lawyer has an opportunity to make a deal with the prosecutor before the case goes before the judge. This is usually your best opportunity to get your charge (and fines and points) substantially reduced. This is because the courts are very busy, and they would rather have the prosecutor dispose of as many cases as possible without wasting the judge’s time on a trial.
The prosecutor will have access to your driving record and will take it into consideration. A perfectly clean record – or even a pretty clean record – goes a long way toward getting charges dropped or reduced. An experienced traffic ticket lawyer who has been in that court many times will know the prosecutor and have a good relationship with him or her. The lawyer will know what to say – and what the prosecutor is likely to accept – in terms of reducing or dismissing a charge.
Even if the prosecutor will not agree to reduce the fine, he or she may agree to reduce the charge from a “moving violation” to a “non-moving violation”. This is still HUGE because it can protect you from a future suspension if you have (or get) other points. Equally important, reducing the points will help keep your insurance rates from skyrocketing – which can save you thousands of dollars a year.
If you do not accept the prosecutors deal (or “plea”) then you will have to go in front the judge – and he or she will decide your charge, points, fines and court costs (if any). If you have an experienced traffic lawyer by your side, you should trust his or her judgment. They will know if accepting the plea is likely to give you a better result than appearing before the judge. Some prosecutors are tougher than others, and some judges are tougher than others. A lawyer who has been in that Court many times will know who is likely to accept or reject a plea.
Additionally, under new Michigan Speed Laws, municipalities are supposed to implement a system where posted speed limits will be set based on engineering principles instead of being assigned randomly or subjectively. These principles can be used by an experienced speeding ticket lawyer to try and fight your case if you and the lawyer decide to take the case before the judge.
- Second Formal Hearing (“Appeal”) –
If you should go before the judge (rather than accept a deal or plea) and you lose the in the Informal Hearing and also in the First Formal Fearing, you can appeal your case to a Second Formal Hearing which will be held in a different courtroom with a different judge and prosecutor.
However, no new evidence can be presented at an appeal. At your appeal (second formal hearing) you can only “appeal” on the basis that the first hearing was biased, or that the judge or prosecutor did not follow the law properly.
An experienced speeding ticket lawyer can help you determine if it is worth the time and expense of “appealing” after the first Formal Hearing. In some cases, there may be nothing you can do. However, in many cases an experienced lawyer can find evidence that the judge or prosecutor did not follow the law or procedure correctly – which may result in a successful appeal. Keep in mind, though, that without an experienced traffic lawyer you will almost certainly lose at the second informal hearing if you already lost at the first informal hearing.