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 a Maryland 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 Maryland 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 one of three things:
- A mitigation hearing
- A contested hearing
- Permission to take a driver safety course
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 with the purpose of getting the conviction overturned.
Requesting permission to take a driver safety course is exactly what it sounds like.
For most minor violations, traffic courts in Maryland may allow you to dismiss your ticket by completing a driver improvement course.
These decisions are made on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of your violation and your previous driving history. The court’s considerations include things like:
- If you have dismissed a ticket with a driver safety course before and, if so, when?
- Was your ticket written for excessive speed over the posted limit? (Generally 25+ MPH over)
- Was your ticket written in a school or work zone?
- Do you hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)?
If the answer to these questions is no, you’re generally good to go.
If the court does grant permission, you will be given information as to how the process works, including:
- The type of course you will need to take
- The date by which that course must be completed
- If you will need to provide any other documentation
- If there are additional fees you may owe
IMPORTANT NOTE: Just like playing “Mother May I” when you were a kid, DO NOT start a driver improvement course before receiving permission. You’ll wind up paying for a second one and starting all over. Also, while most courts will accept an online course, you’ll want to make very sure your court will.
Taking Your Maryland Driver Improvement Course
All driver safety courses follow the same basic curriculum. Your course will touch on topics such as:
- Maryland traffic law
- Safe driving techniques
- How to avoid an accident
- How to handle an emergency
- How to share the road safely with others
At the end of the course, you will be required to pass a test over the presented material to be awarded a completion certificate. This certificate of completion can then be submitted to your court, keeping the conviction and associated points off of your driving record.
Maryland drivers who complete driver improvement may be eligible for one of the following benefits:
- Traffic ticket dismissal
- Fulfillment of a court order
- The possibility of lower insurance premiums
You can find driver improvement courses taught both live in classrooms and online. Online is often the more convenient option because it can be worked on wherever and whenever the student has the time.
Most courts in Maryland will dismiss tickets with driver improvement if you meet their qualifications. Each court is individual in its requirements, but generally, you will need to meet the following criteria:
- You must hold a valid Maryland driver’s license
- You must not have more than one current violation
- Your citation must not have been received while driving a commercial vehicle
If you meet these requirements, you may be eligible for ticket dismissal. In some cases, depending on the severity of your violation and previous driving history, you may be required to take driver improvement as a part of your sentencing.
In either case, you will receive procedural instructions from your court about which course you must take, the date the course must be completed, and any additional fines, fees, or documents you may need to submit.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on individual circumstances, some drivers may not be approved for ticket dismissal with a driver safety class, but it never hurts to ask!
If Your Court Says Yes
Maryland Approved Driver Improvement
Maryland driver improvement can be completed online or in a classroom. The most important point here is that the course must be approved by the Maryland Department of Transportation-Motor Vehicle Administration (MD DOT-MVA).
For most busy folks, an online driver improvement course makes the most sense. Taking your course this way allows you to complete it all at once or a piece at a time, whenever you have the time. Online driver improvement is fast becoming the first choice for many Maryland drivers. Start your search with some of Maryland’s top online providers.
Best Maryland DOT-MVA Approved Driver Improvement Schools
I Drive Safely
A List Driving Academy
A+ Driving School
Elite Driving School
MRB Counseling Services
Greg’s Driving School
Linnel Driver Training
Premier Driving School
Drive on Time
Advance Driving Academy
Allsafe Driving School
Street Smarts of Maryland
Applechoice Driving School
A Final Word
Ticket dismissal is not the only reason to take driver improvement. Find out how taking a course can keep you safer and put money in your pocket.
More Questions? We Have More Answers!
If this is your first time taking a Maryland driver improvement course, or it’s been a minute since your last one, here is some more useful information just in case.
Why should I take a Driver Improvement Program (DIP) course?
Most people take a driver improvement course in one of the following circumstances:
- They may have been assigned to by the MVA, a Maryland Court, or an Administrative Law Judge.
- They may have received their first moving violation while holding a provisional license.
- Their license may be suspended or revoked, and completing a DIP course is one of the steps required to get a license reinstated.
- They may have received a referral letter from the court to take a driver improvement course to dismiss a moving violation.
By the way, if you have received a referral letter, be sure to complete your course by the date stated in the letter. Your license will be suspended until you provide proof of completion to the court if you do not.
How long is the Maryland driver improvement course?
According to the state website, “The Driver Improvement Program (DIP) is a 4-8 hour instructional program…” The time is set by the individual MVA approved school. This time frame applies to classes taught in-person.
On the other hand, there are no time requirements for an online DIP. You can take your time or blaze through the 11 lessons—the choice is yours. Just be sure to remember enough of the info to pass a 20 to 25-question final exam with a score of 80% or above!
How much does the Maryland DIP course cost?
Classroom courses usually range from $50 to $75 dollars in price. The individual court provider sets the cost of an in-person driver improvement course, so feel free to shop around.
On the other hand, the cost to take an online course is 0$. You only pay to take the final exam. The provider also sets this fee, so a little digging could save you some cash in the virtual world, too.
By the way, the amount you pay for the final exam isn’t reflective of the quality of the online course itself. There is only one MVA approved online DIP course, so that’s the one everybody takes, no matter who you pay to register for the course.
How does the final exam work with an online Maryland driver improvement course?
Despite the convenience of completing your coursework at your own pace, an online course requires that you take your final in person at an approved testing center. These testing centers are specific to each course provider. Further, some schools offer tests on a walk-in basis while others only test by appointment. Bear these things in mind as you select which company you are registering with. Be careful not to register with a provider that only offers appointments at times that don’t match your schedule or with testing centers hundreds of miles from your home.
*UPDATE* Due to Covid-19, some course providers are offering virtual testing. It is unclear if this kindness will be part of the “new normal,” but it is something you can take advantage of for the moment.
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