No matter if you’ve been driving for six months or 60 years, getting tickets is a fact of life. Now you’ve found yourself with one. Whether this is your first citation or you’ve had a few, what you do next is what matters.
After receiving an Iowa traffic ticket, you are faced with some choices. Do you just pay it and put it behind you? Do you fight it? Do you hire an attorney? Do you “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” and hope they can help? Or, do you just ignore it and hope it goes away? Once you know your options step by step, you can pick the one that works best for you.
Let’s take a look at how you might attack the problem of getting a ticket. Of course, you should start by weighing your options but, after that, what’s next?
- Hire an attorney?
- Talk to the court?
- Take a driver safety course?
(I’m going to save you a little suspense here. That last step, the “safety course” one? That one is almost always your best choice, but who knows? One of the others might work just as well.)
You Got a Ticket. Now What?
Drivers react differently to getting tickets. Some get angry or indignant. Some are gracious, accepting the citation as an invitation to learn better for next time. Others view the infraction karmic-ly, figuring that even if they didn’t deserve the ticket this time, they probably got away with it (or worse) a dozen times in the past.
It’s not important if you experienced one of these reactions or something completely different. What is important is what you choose to do next. All you know is that you want to deal with this inconvenience with as little effort and expense as possible.
You could choose the zero effort and expense route and do nothing. I tried that once. It did not go well.
You could just pay the darn thing and chalk the fine up to hard-earned experience. This option is fairly low on the effort scale but fairly high on the expense side. And it won’t just be expensive now; it’ll be expensive later when your insurance renews.
You may feel that your ticket represented an attack on your driving superiority, and now you’re out for justice. What will it take to beat your ticket with an attorney?
Hire a Lawyer and Fight, Fight, Fight
Maybe you’ve seen billboards with pictures of smiling (or sometimes scowling) attorneys promising to join in your traffic-related crusade. Is this your best answer in terms of time and expense?
The internet is crawling with attorneys ready to go to war for you over your traffic ticket. Don’t believe me? Google “fight ticket with Iowa attorney” and see how many results you get.
Most of these sites will boast of a 90%+ success rate, and many will make promises like
“Full refund if we are unable to keep the ticket off your record!”
Some of these will claim they’ll pay for your ticket as well.
These sites will also offer statistics encouraging you to employ them by implying you’d be stupid not to.
“One in four tickets is issued in error, yet only 5% of drivers contest their traffic tickets.”
Do you want to be in the 95% of suckers who don’t?
If you’re the type who likes to drive fast all the time, this may be an option. Many law firms have monthly memberships that will allow you to have…
“Unlimited back-and-forth with traffic lawyers. Chat with certified lawyers until you’re satisfied. About any legal issue—from big to small, and everything in between.”
The fight-it-with-a-lawyer option works like this:
- Spend time researching traffic lawyers and hire one. Once you’ve paid the required fees, the attorney will:
- Request a contested hearing
- Request discovery for your case
- Represent you in court
- Negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges dropped or reduced
Factoring in the time spent shopping for a lawyer, this option is fairly moderate on the effort scale. But, depending on what the firm charges, it may remain pretty high on the expense chart. At least your insurance won’t go up if the attorney manages to keep the ticket off your record.
But Your Honor, You Have to Understand…
You could skip hiring an attorney and head to the courthouse yourself and request a mitigation hearing or a contested hearing.
A mitigation hearing is one where you request leniency because the fine represents an excessive financial burden. If you are successful, the court may reduce your fine, put you on a monthly payment plan, or allow you to work off your debt with community service.
A contested hearing is one you attend to try getting the conviction overturned.
Good luck. Hope you win.
(On the other hand, if you have a minute, you could fall down this rabbit hole to find the origins of what might be a remarkably apt quote in this situation).
As for an Iowa Driver Safety Course…
Unlike most states, Iowa does not allow drivers to dismiss traffic citations by completing a driver safety course.
An Iowa traffic court or the Iowa DMV may require a driver to complete a defensive driving course if:
- Are convicted of 3 moving violations within 12 months.
- Are convicted of driving 25 to 29 MPH over the speed limit.
If you get court-ordered defensive driving as part of your sentencing, the DMV or the court handling your case will give you instructions concerning when the course must be completed and whether you can take it online or have to attend a classroom version, usually at your local community college. You will also be notified of any additional fees and documents you need to submit upon completion.
Failing to complete a required driver safety course can result in a license suspension, so be sure to follow the orders you are given.
After completion of a driving safety course, you will be placed on driving probation for one year. If you are convicted of another violation during this period, you could find your license back in jeopardy of suspension.
So, No Dismissal? Should I Still Take Defensive Driving?
Even though Iowa does not offer ticket dismissal for taking a driver safety course, doing so anyway can take the sting out of the cost of the ticket.
Most major insurance companies offer some type of “safe driver discount” for policyholders who voluntarily complete a driver safety course. Insurance companies understand that better-educated drivers make safer drivers and that safer drivers have fewer accidents. With fewer claims to pay, the companies save money and will pass those savings back to you.
Check with your insurance company to see if this is an option for you. They will instruct you as to which courses they’ll accept and how to submit your completion certificate so you can start enjoying the discount.
If you’re curious how much the savings might be worth, this article dives a little into the actual math.
Even if you aren’t eligible for an insurance discount, you may still want to consider taking a defensive driving course. Defensive driving will provide you with information that will make you a safer and more responsible driver, making the roads safer for all of us and make you less likely to see any more tickets in the future.