If you receive a covered traffic ticket for a moving violation while operating a covered vehicle which is licensed to drive in Texas (meaning current license plates, inspections and insurance), we will represent you in defending the ticket in the court of original jurisdiction. If you get a covered ticket it is imperative that you contact us immediately to get the best service possible. However, in any event, we need at least three (3) days before the appearance date on the ticket in order to contact the court. Otherwise, we do not have time to file the appropriate paperwork with the court. Email us a digital copy of the ticket (front and back) via our secure email area – found on the LegalShield landing page. You may also fax legible copies of the ticket (front and back) to 817-255-2080.
Even if your ticket is not a covered ticket under the traffic benefit of your plan, we may be able to assist you with a consultation or a referral to one of our network of attorneys who offers discounted fees. Please be aware that tickets in Texas can not legally be “fixed”. Also, in recent years, many Texas traffic courts have become courts of record, which makes it extremely difficult to appeal a conviction on a ticket. However, in most circumstances, we are able to keep the ticket off your record through defensive driving or deferred adjudication.
A traffic citation is a criminal charge under Texas law. If you fail to make an appearance in court, or resolve the charges, a warrant may be issued for your arrest and additional fines may be imposed. In addition, your driver license may be suspended for failing to handle a traffic citation received in either Texas or in another state. For some charges, a conviction may result in an automatic driver license suspension. The following should be helpful in determining how Ross & Matthews, P.C., and your LegalShield policy can help you keep your driving record clean.
DURING THE STOP
Have you ever wondered what to do, or what not to do, during a traffic stop? Here are some pointers that could save you a lot a trouble during the actual stop.
1. If a police vehicle is following you with emergency lights flashing or siren on, signal and pull over as safely as possible.
2. When stopped, do not get out of your vehicle unless the officer asks. Most officers prefer that you stay in your vehicle.
3. Do not make any unnecessary movements and keep both of your hands on the steering wheel. If it is dark, you should turn on the interior car light.
4. All occupants of the vehicle should leave their seatbelts fastened during the traffic stop. If you need to unfasten your seatbelt in order to reach documents, notify the officer first. This will eliminate any confusion the officer may have as to whether or not you were wearing your seatbelt while the vehicle was moving.
5. When the officer approaches your window, have your identification and proof of liability insurance ready. If you do not have it ready when the officer arrives, ask the officer if you can get the information from your wallet or glove compartment. If the officer refuses, it is because the officer cannot be sure that you are not reaching for a weapon. Always follow the officer’s instructions.
6. If you make sudden movements or reach down below the seat while the officer is approaching the car, the officer may have cause to believe you are hiding something, and could result in escalating the stop.
7. During the stop, the officer may seize any illegal items in “plain view” such as weapons, open alcohol containers, or drugs. Your vehicle may also be searched if anyone in the vehicle is arrested.
8. If the officer has any reason to believe that you are dangerous, he may have the right to conduct a “pat-down” of your person to search for weapons. The best thing to do is cooperate with the officer.
9. DO NOT ARGUE WITH THE OFFICER. Silence is not an admission of guilt and cannot be used against you in Court, however your words can.
10. The officer is not required to show you the radar reading, so he is not violating any Texas law by refusing to let you see the radar.
11. Finally, by signing the ticket, you are promising to appear in court. In Texas, you are not admitting guilt by signing the ticket. By signing the ticket, you avoid being taken to jail and waiting for your court date. If you refuse to sign, the officer will take you into custody for refusing to sign the ticket.
AFTER THE STOP
What do you do after you have received a traffic ticket?
1. Immediately call your Texas LegalShield provider firm, Ross & Matthews, P.C. at 1-800-458-6982. Have your membership number and original ticket ready. You will be given an INTAKE number. Email a digital copy of your ticket from our secure email area – found on the LegalShield landing page, or fax it to 817-255-2080 with the intake number on the ticket. If you do not have a computer or fax machine, you will be asked to mail in your ticket.
2. In order for your LegalShield Benefit II benefits to apply, Ross & Matthews, P.C., must receive a legible copy of the original ticket at least 72 hours before the original appearance date on your ticket AND you must speak to one of our attorneys so they will know how you want to handle your ticket. Otherwise, the attorney will not have time to make the court appearance for you, and in that event, you will need to appear for your court date.
3. In some circumstances, the attorney may advise you to get an extension or new court date and call back.
In Texas, tickets are divided into moving and non-moving violations. While both moving and non-moving violations can result in annual surcharges, only moving violations will accrue points and affect your driver record.
Examples of non-moving violations are: no seat belt, parking tickets, expired motor vehicle inspection, and expired registration.
Most non-moving violations do not affect your driver record. In some cases, the court may dismiss the violation with minimal charge if you remedy the violation and show proof to the court within ten (10) days. This is discretionary with the court. If you want to contest a non-moving violation, you may plead not guilty and request a trial by judge or jury, or you may just simply pay the fine. Representation for defense of non-moving violations is available under Benefit V of your LegalShield contract.
Some non-moving violations, such as parking tickets are civil violations. This type of violation is governed under administrative rather than criminal law. They are similar in most respects to other non-moving violations. However, some of the rights you have if you contest a criminal citation will not be available to you in a civil hearing. For example, you are not entitled to have a jury hear your case, the officer does not have to be present or testify at court, and the state does not have to prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Representation for defense of civil violations is available under Benefit V of your LegalShield contract.
NO INSURANCE TICKETS
If you have been charged with Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (No Insurance or No Proof of Insurance), and had insurance at the time of the stop, but did not have proof available during the stop, you must provide proof to the court that you were insured on the date you received the ticket. If you do, the ticket will be dismissed.
If you did not have insurance at the time you were stopped, you have three options. First, if you obtain insurance to present to the court on your appearance date you may be allowed to enter a plea of no contest and request deferred adjudication (probation). Second, you can plea not guilty and request a trial by judge or jury. Lastly, you can plead no contest or guilty and pay the fine.
If you enter a plea of no contest or guilty and pay the fine, or if you lose at trial and a guilty verdict is entered, the violation will be reported on your driver record. In Texas, if you receive two convictions for no insurance on your driver record in your lifetime, your license will be suspended for at least six months. If you get the citation deferred, though, the offense will not appear on your record for the purpose of driver license suspension. Representation for tickets for no insurance is available under Benefit V of your LegalShield policy.
Examples of moving violations are: speeding, failure to yield, failure to stop at a stop sign, and having unrestrained child under five.
If you hold a commercial driver license and are issued a moving violation there are no options available to keep a citation from your driver record other than a dismissal or finding of not guilty after trial. This is true regardless of the vehicle driven at the time of the offense. For those who hold a standard, non-commercial drivers license, though, there are four options available to handle your citation. If you receive a ticket for a moving violation and no other exclusions apply, your ticket will be covered under Benefit II of your policy. Your options are:
1. DRIVER SAFETY COURSE: Generally, a person charged with a moving violation is entitled to have one citation dismissed every 12 months by taking and successfully completing a driver safety course. In order to be eligible for a driver safety course, you must have a valid non-commercial Texas drivers license, proof of liability insurance and not had a defensive driving class in the last 12 months. In lieu of paying the fine, you are required to pay an administrative court fee of approximately $100.00 and request a copy of your driving record from the Department of Public Safety. The cost of the course is typically $25 to $40. If you are under the age of 25, you are required to complete a driver safety course in order to have any citation removed from your driving record. This is true even if you request deferred adjudication.
Driver safety courses are now available at comedy clubs, on video, and on the internet. In Texas, you must request to take a driver safety course by the appearance date noted on the citation; any request after that date will likely be denied by the court. You will have 90 days to successfully complete the course once the court has granted your request to take a driver safety course. If you fail to complete the course, the court will enter a guilty verdict and require you to pay the remainder of the fine amount. If you successfully complete the course and submit proof to the court by the deadline, the citation will not be reported on your driver record.
2. DEFERRED ADJUDICATION: Most, but not all, courts in Texas offer deferred adjudication for moving violations. Deferred adjudication is a plea agreement with the state or municipality and is only granted at the discretion of the judge. There is no statutory right to deferred adjudication. If the court grants your request for deferred adjudication, you will be required to pay an administrative probation fee which is usually the amount of the fine plus court costs. Once payment is received, the court will defer sentencing and place you on probation for up to 180 days. As a part of any deferred adjudication deal, the judge may require that you also complete a driver safety course. If you are under the age of 25, the court MUST require that you complete a driver safety course as a condition of any deferred adjudication deal. If you do not get any more tickets during the probation period, and successfully complete defensive driving or any other requirements, the court will dismiss the ticket and the citation will not appear on your driving record.
Deferred adjudication is completely discretionary with the judge and is not an option in some courts.
3. BENCH OR JURY TRIAL: In Texas, a defendant has the right to plead not guilty and request a bench trial (trial by judge) or a jury trial. Most defendants are found guilty in traffic court. If you are found guilty, the court can assess the maximum fine amount of $200 plus court costs, and the ticket will appear on your driving record for 3 to 5 years. Most traffic trials involve a swearing contest between the complaining officer and the defendant, provided the defendant testifies. Officers are offered incentives to appear at the trials, such as overtime pay, and they are disciplined for not appearing at trial. So, seeing if the officer will show up is usually not a viable option. Moreover, if the officer fails to appear, the court can give the state a continuance and you will be required to come back at a later date. If you elect to fight the ticket in court, you will be required to attend a pre-trial hearing and as many as 2-3 trial settings. Additionally, there must be some reasonable basis for contesting the ticket.
4. PLEAD NO CONTEST OR GUILTY (and pay the fine): With this option, the citation will appear on your driver record for at least 3 to 5 years, maybe longer for offenses such as no insurance. In addition, insurance companies may increase premiums or cancel coverage based on your driver record. Additionally, in Texas your driver’s license may be suspended if you receive four convictions for moving violations within a two year period.
WARRANTS AND FAILURES TO APPEAR
When you miss your original appearance date on the ticket, the court may issue a Failure to Appear (FTA) ticket, which is another charge. By signing the ticket, you promise to appear. When you do not appear in court or remedy the citation, you violate the promise and a FTA is issued. Violating your promise to appear can also result in the issuance of a warrant. If you miss your court date, you can post a cash bond, or in some circumstances, simply pay the FTA and the court will issue a new court date for you. To determine coverage, Ross and Matthews, P.C., will need you to fax a copy of the original ticket, and a copy of your new court date. Warrants and FTAs are covered under Benefit V of your LegalShield contract.