Kentucky Traffic Ticket Defense

General Information

In Kentucky, traffic charges are treated similarly to criminal charges. The driver must enter a plea at an arraignment hearing. Should the case go to trial, the officer who wrote the ticket serves as the prosecution’s witness against the driver. Traffic offenses are punishable with fines, loss of legal privileges (suspension of license), and potentially jail time (for failure to pay fines and/or court costs or for more serious offenses such as DUI). It is possible for those experienced with the criminal justice system, laws pertaining to traffic offenses, and dealing with the County Attorney’s office (prosecutors) to use legal methods to reduce or eliminate such penalties.

The prosecutor’s office is responsible for all criminal matters and the hundreds of traffic tickets that go through each county’s court system each day. You can check the District Court docket online for cases designated with a “T” to see how many traffic cases there are on any given day. According to KRS 29A.270(1), defendants have the right to a jury trial in all criminal prosecutions, including prosecutions for violations of traffic laws. If every driver requested a jury trial, the court system would be overloaded. The prosecutor’s office spends most of its time on serious criminal matters but when traffic offenses are contested, prosecutors must then spend some time on those matters as well. Consequently, prosecutors are inclined to work out plea agreements with attorneys to reduce the number of full-blown jury trials.

For better or worse, that is how our legal system currently functions. Fortunately for the prosecutors and the court system, most people choose to simply pay the fine and court costs, thereby pleading guilty to all charges, and likely resulting in license points and increased insurance rates. But fortunately for those who choose to contest their charges, there is the opportunity to have some or all charges dismissed, license points reduced or eliminated, and keep insurance rates where they are.

Purpose/Necessity

Of course, a driver is neither obligated to fight a traffic ticket nor have an attorney do so on his or her behalf. Determining the best course of action requires considering a number of factors, which we summarize on our Kentucky Traffic Ticket Cost-Benefit Analysis page.

Depending on the case, a traffic ticket attorney may be able to accomplish any or all of the following:

  1. Reduction of time and trouble required to deal with ticket:
    • Most cases may be handled without the need for a court appearance. An appearance would be required if the driver takes the case to trial or has committed a more serious offense for which the law requires the defendant’s attendance (speeding 26mph or more over the limit, hit and run, etc.).
    • Most cases may be handled without the need to attend state traffic school (for which the driver must register, pay $15, and attend a 4-hour course).
    • No waiting in line to speak to the prosecutor; no confusion over determining the best possible option.
    • Especially useful for out-of-town drivers stopped on I-75, I-64, or elsewhere.
  2. Amendment of some or all charges: results in lowered or eliminated fine, no increased likelihood of license suspension, and no insurance increase
  3. Dismissal of some or all charges: results in lowered or eliminated fine and potentially elimination of court costs
  4. Reduction or elimination of driver’s license points: results in no increased likelihood of license suspension and no insurance increase
  5. Acquittal at trial: results in eliminated fine and court costs

As would be suspected, better results may be obtained for drivers with less serious charges, fewer charges, better driving records, advantageous facts, and useful evidence. However, drivers facing multiple or serious charges have even more to benefit from hiring an attorney and the attorney has more avenues to pursue.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I’m guilty. Shouldn’t I just pay the ticket and get it over with?
    • Because paying the ticket constitutes a guilty plea for all purposes (KRS 189.394(3)), in most cases this will lead to points on the driver’s license, an increased risk of license suspension, and increased insurance rates. There are other options, including traffic school and hiring an attorney to seek a plea agreement. Such arrangements may be made even when the driver recognizes he or she was guilty of the offense(s) charged.Please see our Traffic Ticket Cost-Benefit Analysis page for objective information to help you determine how best to proceed.
  • This is only my first ticket (or my first ticket in a while). Why should I hire an attorney to contest it?
    • When the initial charges are reduced or dismissed, the driver will be in a better position if/when another ticket is issued. A traffic conviction remains on a driver’s 5-year driving record used by law enforcement, courts, and government agencies. With each conviction, it makes it harder to work out a plea arrangement with the prosecutor, and the prosecutor may insist on a higher fine for a repeat offender. On the other hand, a dismissal does not appear on the driver’s record so if the driver gets a later charge, the prosecutor will not be able to consider the earlier charge that was dismissed and will be more likely to accept a plea. By keeping more serious traffic offenses off the driver’s record, an attorney leaves room to work with the prosecutor in the future.
  • I can’t afford to have my auto insurance go up. Is there anything an attorney can do?
    • If your insurance rate will increase following a ticket, you have the most to gain from hiring an attorney. Insurance companies generally only increase rates following a conviction for a speeding or moving offense. Prosecutors are often willing to accept a guilty plea for a non-speeding or non-moving offense that does not result in points being added to the driver’s license. This in turn prevents an increased likelihood of license suspension and increased insurance rates.To make an informed decision for yourself, consider the information on our Kentucky Traffic Ticket Cost-Benefit Analysis page, the services we offer, and our rates.
  • I have heard if I plead not guilty and request trial that my ticket will be dismissed if the officer does not show up. Is that true? Should I try it?
    • There is no written rule to that effect but in practice it usually works that way. The officer is the primary witness to the charges and if he or she does not testify there is little evidence remaining to convict.The downside of pursuing this option is the time commitment involved. The driver will have to go to District Court on his or her court date, wait in the line to speak to the prosecutor, and plead not guilty. A trial date will be set several weeks later. The driver must then go back to District Court on the trial date, wait for the case to be called, and hope that the officer is not present at the time. If the officer appears, the driver will likely lose at trial. The driver will then be responsible for paying the fine and court costs despite having made two lengthy court appearances.

      If you are considering this option we would recommend that you first review our Traffic Ticket Cost-Benefit Analysis page for objective information to help you determine how best to proceed. If your time is valuable, you might consider hiring an attorney to pursue this or other better strategies on your behalf.

  • Can I win a traffic court trial if the officer shows up and testifies?
    • It is not easy to do but it can be done. The officer’s statements carry a lot of weight with the court because the officer is sworn to uphold the law, familiar with the judges and prosecutors, and without reason to testify falsely. When the officer appears, the odds are stacked against the driver.There are a variety of defenses available and an experienced traffic attorney knows which ones to use and how to present them. There are many traffic violations and some are vaguely written (example: Reckless Driving, KRS 189.290). For there to be a finding of guilt, all elements of the offense must be proved. Sometimes an officer will cite a driver for the wrong offense or a general violation because no other offense known to the officer obviously fits. In such a scenario, an attorney will be able to expose the flaws in the case, and an acquittal will be possible.
  • An officer gave me a ticket based on a traffic sign that was not visible because of foliage, not readable because of vandalism, simply does not exist, etc. Will a ticket be upheld if a traffic sign did not provide drivers with adequate notice of the relevant law?
    • A general principle of law is that ignorance of the law is no excuse, meaning that individuals are expected to know and conform their conduct to what the law requires. This of course applies to traffic laws.Kentucky uses default speed limits for certain types of roads, meaning that drivers must conform to the default speed if signs do not otherwise inform them of the applicable speed limit. See KRS 189.390(3). Kentucky also requires that drivers generally drive at a speed which is reasonable and prudent given the circumstances. KRS 189.390(2). Kentucky law also mandates that drivers operate their vehicles carefully and safely at all times. KRS 189.290.

      These generally applicable rules make it difficult to challenge a traffic ticket solely on the basis of signage flaws. However, such challenges may be made, though it is probably best to consult an experienced traffic attorney to determine all options and how best to proceed.

  • I missed my court date and a bench warrant was issued. What can happen to me?
    • When a driver misses a traffic court date or fails to pay a fine by its due date, the Judge handling the case will issue a Bench Warrant. This means that the driver may be arrested and placed in jail pending a hearing before the Judge. Typically, the police do not actively look for people who have received a Bench Warrant for a traffic matter. Instead, if the warrant is active, the driver may be arrested at the next traffic stop. If arrested, the driver will have to post bail to be released pending the next hearing, if bail is allowed at all.If a bench warrant has been issued, the driver must deal with this possibility of arrest along with the traffic violations previously charged. Because the matter has become more complicated, it is a good idea to contact a traffic attorney who can consider all possibilities and can more easily and quickly interface with the prosecutor. Usually, the attorney will file a Motion to Recall Bench Warrant along with an Order allowing a Judge to lift the warrant. After this, the driver should not have to worry about the possibility of arrest, and the attorney can then plead or otherwise reduce the penalties imposed for the traffic violations and the failure to appear to resolve the matter once and for all.

Legal Services Offered and Cost

Traffic Ticket Plea Agreement
Legal fees: $100 – $400 flat fee ($50 increments)
Filing fees and other costs: varies

A flat fee plea agreement is not available for all charges including but not limited to hit and run, accident cases, evading police, racing, and license suspension matters. After you submit your information, we will review your charges and inform you if we can only offer representation at our hourly rate. The flat fee that will be offered is based on several factors including the amount and severity of the charges, the county where the ticket was issued, and the amount of time before the court date.

This includes:

  1. Review of client’s information and charge information
  2. Determination of which charges, if any, should be contested and how
  3. Communication with client to arrive at acceptable plea deal
  4. Negotiations with prosecutor
  5. Communication with client as to final resolution of ticket

If you are ready to get started, please CLICK HERE to enter basic information using our secure online form.

 

Traffic Ticket Trial
Legal fees: hourly rate
Filing fees and other costs: varies

An hourly representation and traffic ticket trial is appropriate for clients who cannot achieve sufficiently reduced charges through a plea agreement and face harsh penalties if convicted. If a flat fee arrangement would be more appropriate we make this recommendation.

This includes:

  1. Review of client’s information and charge information
  2. Determination of which charges, if any, should be contested and how
  3. Meeting with client to prepare defense
  4. Representation at traffic court trial
  5. Appeal, if necessary and agreed to by firm

If you are ready to get started, please CLICK HERE to enter basic information using our secure online form.