Should You Hire a Lawyer to Fight Your Traffic Ticket?

The pros and cons of hiring an attorney to represent you in traffic court.

By , Attorney ● University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated 8/03/2020

Most people who decide to contest their traffic tickets represent themselves in traffic court. But is it worth it to hire a traffic attorney? It generally depends on the circumstances. For many people, hiring an attorney for a traffic ticket is definitely worth the cost. However, in some situations, a driver is better off not spending the extra money to retain a lawyer. Here are some factors you might want to consider before making the call.

Costs of Hiring a Traffic Attorney

Perhaps the only "con" of hiring a traffic attorney is the cost. Of course, attorneys charge a range of fees. But in many cases, the cost of hiring an attorney can be about the same amount as or more than the amount of the traffic ticket fine. So, what's the point?

If you look below the surface, hiring an attorney has a number of benefits that, in many cases, can more than justify the expense. Also, some people have legal plans through their employers or union memberships that pay all or a portion of legal fees. If you can get an attorney you're happy with this way, it can be a good option.

How a Traffic Lawyer Can Help

Every case is different. So, what an attorney can do for you in a specific case will depend on the circumstances. But here are some of the basics.

An Attorney Can Go to Traffic Court For You

If you decide to fight a traffic ticket, you'll generally have to go to court at least twice. But if you hire an attorney, you typically won't have to go to court at all. In other words, your attorney can represent you in court without you being present.

Informed Legal Advice

One of the problems with representing yourself is the lack of experience and legal knowledge. The average person just doesn't know what the best courses of action are in a given case. Experienced traffic attorneys have the best idea of what tactics and options are available for obtaining good results. And, it's not all legal knowledge. Attorneys who spend lots of time in traffic court are familiar with the tendencies of the different judges and sometimes of the law enforcement officers who write the tickets. This local knowledge can prove valuable in deciding how to defend against a ticket.


Though more common in serious criminal cases, negotiations and plea bargaining can come into play in traffic cases. For instance, sometimes traffic violation points can be avoided by negotiating a moving violation ticket down to a non-moving violation.

Traffic Court Trials

Traffic lawyers with lots of trial experience are far more likely to win at trial than the average Joe or Jane. Simply put, attorneys who have spent countless hours in a courtroom and have knowledge of the law know what to focus on at trial.

For non-lawyers, it's easy to get off track. For example, people representing themselves often present explanations for why they committed a traffic violation (like "I didn't see the stop sign" or "I didn't realize how fast I was going") that aren't considered legal defenses. The end result is typically a bad defense and a conviction.

Situations Where you Might Not Need an Attorney

In some circumstances, hiring a traffic attorney clearly isn't worth the expense. For example, if you're eligible for traffic school and don't have a reasonable chance of beating your ticket, it's probably best to forgo hiring an attorney. Generally, you can sign up for traffic school without even going to court, so there isn't much benefit of having legal representation—you can just do it yourself.

Circumstances Where Hiring an Attorney Could be Critical

The circumstances of some drivers make consequences of a traffic ticket conviction quite severe. Drivers who find themselves in this situation will want to seriously consider hiring an attorney.

Commercial Drivers

Commercial driver's license (CDL) holders drive for a living and are subject to stricter rules than other drivers. Under these rules, certain traffic violations can lead to CDL revocation. So, the stakes in traffic court for commercial drivers can be very high. With so much on the line, it would make sense to get an attorney involved.

Drivers With Lots of Tickets

Getting multiple tickets within a short period of time can lead to license suspension. For drivers who are in this situation, beating a ticket could make all the difference. And to increase the chances of winning in traffic court, hiring an attorney might be the way to go.

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