What should you do if a Police Officer or State Trooper stops you for a traffic offense in New Mexico?
If you are stopped for a traffic offense in New Mexico, you will face an immediate decision: plead guilty and pay the fine, or set a court date to “challenge” the citation. You will have to make this decision on the side of the road, without a chance to consider the consequences, and without the opportunity to seek legal advice and counsel. There is a lot at stake.
Here is what you need to know:
1. If you choose to plead guilty at the roadside and pay the fine, you will be convicted. You will drive away from the traffic stop with a fine to pay, instructions on paying, and a traffic conviction about to go on your driving record. The citation will likely be transmitted directly to the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division, where it will be reported to your homestate, (the state that issued your driver’s license) and posted to the Interstate Data Base. In many cases, it will cost you points on your driving record. Federal law also requires every state to report all convictions for CDL holders to the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS).
On other hand, if you choose the “court appearance,” you will have the opportunity to hire a lawyer and work for a different outcome. (You likely will not need to return to the state to fight your ticket.)
2. A conviction is usually much more costly than just the fine itself. Consider the other possible outcomes: points on your driver’s record, increased insurance rates, harm to your credit score, and even loss of employment are possible.
On the other hand, if you choose the court appearance, you may be able to obtain counsel and fight for the best solution. Depending on the circumstances, an attorney can usually help you get better results, results that can keep you from being convicted.
3. If you admit guilt on the roadside, you cannot take it back. That decision is usually final. Many drivers realize shortly after they sign the citation and penalty assessment that they made a mistake, that a traffic conviction is going to have serious consequences. By then, it is usually too late.
If you choose the court appearance, you can always change your mind later and plead guilty, but you cannot change your mind once you agree to pay.
4. If you select “court appearance” you are not usually required to return to appear in court. It is sometimes possible to resolve your ticket with a phone call to the court, or you can hire a New Mexico traffic attorney to appear for you. Your signature acts as your promise to appear, but court rules give traffic court judges great latitude in handling court appearances. Judges may waive a driver’s in-person appearance, as long as they have an attorney to appear for them. Some judges will allow telephonic appearances for some offenses. While this sounds complicated, an experienced New Mexico traffic ticket attorney can, in nearly every case, resolve your ticket without you having to return to New Mexico.
If you choose the court appearance, you will have the opportunity to think about your decision, consult a lawyer, and do what is best for you, your license and your livelihood.
5. If you have a commercial driver’s license, you should be especially careful. Violations by commercial drivers are taken very seriously. In addition to penalties and point assessments in state laws, traffic violations have serious federal consequences. For example, if you are convicted of two serious traffic violations from separate incidents within a three year period, federal law will disqualify you from driving for 60 days. Traffic convictions on your record may prevent you from getting raises or promotions. Some employers will terminate drivers for traffic violations. And a potential new employer who reviews a driver’s history and sees a record of traffic violations may think twice before hiring you. Traffic convictions can raise your insurance rates, or the rates of the company that employs you. This is why traffic convictions have such a serious effect on employment.
If you choose court appearance, you will have time to assess the risks you face before making a decision, and at least a chance to protect your record.
Remember to choose “court appearance” on New Mexico traffic citations. Then, call a traffic attorney to help you understand your options and work for a good outcome. For more information, call Glenn Smith Valdez at (505) 877-8787.