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FIVE MYTHS ABOUT TRAFFIC TICKETS

As a traffic ticket lawyer St. Peters, I work with clients to resolve their traffic tickets in the best way possible.  Over the years, as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, I have noticed several myths about traffic tickets.

Here are five:

  1. “IF THE COP WRITES THE DATE WRONG ON THE TICKET OR MISSPELLS MY NAME, THE TICKET IS INVALID.”

This is a common myth that the officer giving you the speeding ticket O’Fallon must write all the information perfectly or it’s not valid.  This is untrue.  Here is why:  no one is perfect and if there was ever a trial over the prosecutor can call the officer as a witness and have him clarify the incorrect information.  In other words, you don’t get a traffic ticket thrown out for ticky tack errors by the officer.

  1. “THE OFFICER SAID HE CAUGHT ME SPEEDING USING RADAR BUT HE REFUSED TO SHOW ME THE READ OUT SO THE TICKET IS INVALID.”

A couple of times a year we get people calling claiming they want the ticket thrown out because they were never shown the radar readout when they requested it at the time they were pulled over.  An officer does not have to show your speed on the radar device for the ticket to be valid.

Now, if there was a trial, the prosecutor will have to question the officer on the stand about calibration and training on the device.  However, that doesn’t usually result in a non-conviction for a traffic ticket St. Peters.

  1. ”THE OFFICER FOLLOWED ME INTO ANOTHER TOWN RIGHT BEFORE I PULLED OVER…SINCE THEY DON’T HAVE JURISDICTION WHERE I WAS ACTUALLY PULLED OVER, THE SPEEDING TICKET SHOULD BE THROWN OUT.”

If only this were true.  Missouri, similar to most states, have statutes that allow officers to complete a traffic stop for an event that happened in one town, even if the actual place that the car was pulled over is in another town.

Now, that doesn’t mean a traffic ticket can be given by a St. Peters officer in say O’Fallon if the site of the violation was in O’Fallon.  Officers in one town don’t have original jurisdiction in towns other than the town for which they serve.

  1. “I GOT A SPEEDING TICKET IN ALABAMA ON MY WAY TO FLORIDA. I’M NOT GOING TO PAY IT SINCE I LIVE IN MISSOURI.”

Missouri participates in what is known as the Interstate Compact, which is an agreement between almost all of the states to share DMV information.  So if you get a ticket in Alabama but ignore it, you could up with a Missouri suspended license until you resolve the ticket in Alabama.

Worse, if you ignore it but the following year get pulled over in Alabama on your way to Florida, you’ll probably be arrested and forced to post bond.  Not a good way to start a vacation.

One other quick point on this issue:  I often get calls from people that live near out traffic ticket office in St. Peters who want me to resolve out of state tickets.  I can’t do it because I am not admitted to practice law in those states.  Best thing to do is contact an attorney in the county or city where you were pulled over and see if they can help.

  1. “I WASN’T SPEEDING AND WANT TO TAKE THE MATTER TO TRIAL.”

So it’s not a myth that you can contest a speeding ticket O’Fallon and have a trial.  Practically speaking, however, there are two problems:  First, many lawyers will not take a speeding ticket case to trial.  Second, that’s because it’s generally not financially feasible for clients.  The fine for some tickets is under $150.00.  You can usually have an attorney get your speeding ticket near reduced to a no point violation (i.e. muffler violation, etc.) by a traffic lawyer St. Peters for under $150.

Trials are expensive and even if you win, you’re going to spend probably double or triple the amount of the ticket.

CONCLUSION

Like death and taxes, traffic tickets are a part of life.  The municipal court system in and around St. Louis is unique in that citizens can get their tickets amended to no point violations and doing so is highly competitive for lawyers so it’s extremely affordable.

 

Traffic Ticket Center is located at 4215 S. Old Highway 94 in St. Charles, Missouri.  We are right next to the DMV in Harvester.  We assist clients with traffic tickets of all kinds, including speeding, careless driving, commercial driving violations, suspended licenses, marijuana charges and DWI / DUI.   Call us today for a free consultation.  (636) 486-2669.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCC Speeding Tickets in Missouri…

FCC Speeding Tickets in Missouri…

FCC Speeding Tickets in Missouri

If you receive a speeding ticket in Missouri from a Missouri Highway patrol officer, the ticket will state that it is an FCC ticket.  FCC means “Fine Collection” Center, and it is located in Jefferson City.  On an FCC ticket, instead of a court date to resolve the speeding ticket, the ticket will state “due in 30 days”.

Even though there is no court date listed, you can still resolve the ticket with a St. Charles traffic lawyer in the circuit court of the county where the ticket was received.  The process works much the same as any speeding ticket received in a Missouri municipal court.  You can hire our firm to represent you and seek a no-points amendment to avoid paying higher insurance premiums and getting points on your license.

As with regular speeding tickets, pleading guilty will result in having those points on your license.  If you receive too many points, your license can be suspended.  And when you plead guilty, your insurance premiums are likely to go up because the insurance company will see the guilty plea and decide you are more expensive to insure.

Keep in mind that not all county prosecutors will amend FCC tickets to non-moving violations (no point tickets).  In St. Charles County and surrounding counties, prosecutors will amend these tickets.   However, in some rural counties, they will not.  You can call our office and we can advise you on your particular ticket at no charge.

If you hire Traffic Ticket Center, we can work with the prosecutor to amend your FCC speeding ticket so you can avoid paying more for insurance and risk losing your ability to drive.

Call us today at (636) 486-2669 for assistance.  We can quote you the cost for the ticket and give you more information on how we can help you.

Traffic Tickets 101:  Municipal Court versus Circuit Court…

Traffic Tickets 101: Municipal Court versus Circuit Court…

TRAFFIC TICKETS 101:  MUNICIPAL COURT V. CIRCUIT COURT

                If you are pulled over in Missouri for a traffic ticket, your case could be heard either in a Missouri municipal court or a Missouri circuit court.

What’s the difference?  A municipal court is the court where a town or city enforces their own municipal ordinances.  A circuit court is where the state of Missouri enforces its own statutes.

At the bottom of every ticket where the officer can state select whether the violation is of a local ordinance or state law.

When a person speeds say in O’Fallon, Missouri, that speeding ticket is both a violation of a local O’Fallon ordinance prohibiting speeding and of Missouri state law.  However, revenue from fines and court costs goes to O’Fallon if it is charged as an ordinance violation and to the state of Missouri if charged as a state law violation.

If you are caught speeding on the highway by a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer or in an unincorporated part of a county by a sheriff’s deputy, both of those tickets are codes as state law violations to be heard at the circuit court in the county where the violation occurred.

If you have a prior offense like a DWI, it likely will be heard in circuit court because of the level of seriousness.  That is another factor in determining which court will hear your case.

Generally speaking, it is better to be in municipal court than state circuit court.  Municipal prosecutors are much more likely to amend a ticket in exchange for a fine.  That can happen at the circuit court too, but often prosecutors are much more reluctant to amend charges or to not attach some period of probation if the charge is serious enough.

Traffic Ticket Center is your traffic ticket lawyer for violations in St. Peters, O’Fallon, Wentzville, Cottleville and St. Charles.  We can help you understand how your particular circumstances might differ if you are charged in state circuit court versus a local municipal court.

Remember, you should always hire a traffic ticket lawyer to help you avoid rising insurance premiums and points on your license.  Pleading guilty to moving violations can lead to both and affect your ability to drive and to drive affordably.

Missouri Abuse and Lose

Missouri Abuse and Lose

Missouri Abuse and Lose

                 Missouri has strong laws regarding alcohol and other serious traffic offenses.  If you’re under 21, Missouri’s “Abuse and Lose” laws apply.

The statute is Section 577.500.1 and consists of two sections:

Under the first section, the Abuse and Lose law authorizes suspension or revocation of driving privileges if a person under 21 has committed any alcohol related traffic offense, any offense involving possession or use of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle, any offense involving possession of a controlled substance (drugs) or any offense involving the alteration, modification or misrepresentation of a license to operate a motor vehicle.

The length of suspension or revocation varies depending on whether it was a first offense or not.  For a first offense, the period of suspension is 90 days.  An arrest for a second or subsequent offense results in a one year loss of license privileges.

Under the second suspension, a person under 21 can have their license suspended or revoked for any offense involving the purchase, attempted purchase or possession of an intoxicating liquor by a minor or a minor in a visibly intoxicated condition, if the juvenile was over the age of 15 at the time of the offense.

Suspension is for 30 days for a first offense, 90 days for a second offense and a year for a third or subsequent offense.

As with other alcohol related traffic offenses, for your driver’s license to be reinstated, you have to pay the required fee and completed a substance abuse program such as the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program, commonly known as SATOP.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get a limited driving privilege for getting to and from school, for doctor visits and for work.

Here’s a link to the DMV’s FAQ about Abuse and Lose:  http://dor.mo.gov/faq/drivers/abuse.php

If you’re under 21 and have been charged with an alcohol related traffic offense such as DWI / DUI or Minor in Possession call our office right away.  We understand this can be a confusing and scary experience.  Knowing your rights and having an experienced lawyer on your side is crucial.

Possession of Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia Charges in Missouri…

Possession of Marijuana Charge and Drug Paraphernalia in Missouri

Marijuana possession (of under 35 grams) and/or possession of drug paraphernalia is a common charge arising out of a traffic stop by a police officer in Missouri.  In the usual case, a police officer will pull someone over for a moving violation such as speeding or possibly an equipment violation like a defective tail light and once at the driver’s door, will state that they smell marijuana or the driver has blood shot eyes.

From there, the officer will believe he has probable cause to suspect that the driver has marijuana either on his person or in the vehicle and will ask to search the vehicle, which most drivers allow because they fear they have no choice.

Each charge is a separate misdemeanor, which in Missouri could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or one year on jail.

Drug paraphernalia related to marijuana possession could include a roach clip, rolling papers, a pipe, one-hitter, dugout or bong.

A person found in possession of marijuana in their vehicle who is under age 21 can lose their license under Missouri’s “Abuse & Lose” statute.  The loss of license can be anywhere between 30 days to one year and that depends on whether they are charged in municipal or state court and whether it is their first offense.

Another aspect of marijuana possession charges in Missouri is that a conviction cannot be expunged (removed) from the person’s record.  Drug related offenses can make finding employment even harder, can show up in a background search for loans or an apartment.

For these reasons it is crucial that someone charged with marijuana and/or drug paraphernalia possession in Missouri hire an attorney to represent them.  An attorney can review all the police reports related to the case to determine defenses against the charge which could be used to either have the case dismissed or negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser offense, such as littering.

Every court handles marijuana charges differently and every prosecutor also handles these cases differently.

Attorney Charles Moore has served as a municipal prosecutor and a defense attorney and has tried and defended marijuana possession cases, with excellent results.  This experience is invaluable for his clients.

 

Been charged with marijuana possession or drug paraphernalia possession Missouri?  Traffic Ticket Center can help.  Call us right away at (636) 486-2669.

 

 

Shoplifting Charge in Missouri…

Shoplifting Charge in Missouri…

Shoplifting Charge in Missouri

In Missouri, shoplifting is where you get caught taking items worth less than $500 and punishment can be up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.  Sometimes the charge is deemed to be stealing, theft or “petty theft”.

Since shoplifting is a crime involving dishonesty, it is crucial that anyone charged with shoplifting in Missouri hire a lawyer.  A person who pleads guilty to shoplifting will have that on his record and this could dim his future employment prospects.  Employers are especially wary of hiring anyone who has been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty.

Hiring an attorney will ensure that your case is adequately reviewed to see if it can be dismissed, and, if not, reduced to a lesser charge.

In most shoplifting cases in Missouri, the defendant is charged in municipal court.  Outcomes after hiring an attorney usually include paying a fine and court costs, possibly completing a class regarding theft, often community service and in some cases, completion of one or two years of probation.

Fines and court costs can range from $150 to $700.  The theft offender class can be completed in a day and costs between $50 and $75.

The outcome of your case will depend on a number of factors, including where you were arrested, what items you allegedly took, your interaction with the police officer(s) at the scene, any prior convictions and what I would call “special circumstances”, i.e. any particular facts which make your case different than another case or that would cause a prosecutor to see your case in a different light.

As always, hiring an attorney for your Missouri shoplifting case is not only essential to getting a better resolution of the charge, but it will also remove a lot of the stress of having to go to court not knowing what to expect.  In some cases, you may not have to attend court at all.

 

Been charged with shoplifting or stealing in Missouri?  Traffic Ticket Center can help.  Call us right away at (636) 486-2669.

 

 

Dealing With a Warrant in Missouri…

DEALING WITH A WARRANT IN MISSOURI

Our office commonly gets calls from clients who think they have a warrant in Missouri for their arrest.   The first and best step to take, or if you hire our firm, what we will do first, is call the court where you think you have the warrant and inquire with the clerk.

Another option in Missouri is to check Case.net online (https://www.courts.mo.gov/casenet/base/welcome.do).  The problem with Case.net is the information is not as current as the information you can get from the court.  Also, very few municipal courts participate in Case.net.

Our firm can not only confirm whether you have a warrant but for what purpose and then advise you on the steps we need to take to have the warrant recalled.

Warrants can be issued in Missouri for failure to pay fines and courts costs for a traffic ticket, often for not following through with a payment plan that was established with the court for those fees.

Failure to appear (often referred to as an FTA) in court is probably the most common reason for a warrant to be issued.  Courts will often not issue and FTA until you have missed a second court date.

Again, identifying WHY you have a warrant or hiring an attorney to do that is the first step to resolving the warrant.

Once you know where and why you have a warrant, the next step is to have it recalled (lifted).

If you hire an attorney, you can usually have the warrant lifted instead of having to file a bond and the attorney will get a new court date.  From there the case will proceed as any other normal case would, with your attorney working on your behalf to get an amended or dismissed charge for the original matter which started the warrant process.

Some courts, however, will require the attorney to enter his appearance (notify the court they are representing you) and post bond.  There are a few courts, particularly in St. Louis County, that operate this way.

A few other things about warrants should be discussed:

  •  If you have more than one warrant or even several warrants in Missouri, the process is much trickier.  If you show up to pay bond at one court, then you will likely be placed under arrest and sent to jail in the next municipality.  You’ll have to pay an additional bond there before you are released.  If you have another warrant, you’ll be sent to jail in the next municipality and so on.  The best way to avoid all of this is to hire an attorney to represent you to have each warrant (if possible) lifted without a bond.  The way this is handled would be very specific to your circumstances.
  • Warrants are not specific to a given area.  If you have a warrant in O’Fallon for example, you can’t avoid getting arrested or picked up on that warrant by avoiding O’Fallon.  Anywhere you get pulled over that O’Fallon warrant is going to show up.
  • Remember that when you post a bond, the whole point is to ensure that you show up to your next court date.  It’s really a deposit to ensure your future attendance at court.  So let’s say you post bond of $300 in St. Charles Municipal Court and then hire a lawyer to assist you with your case.  The lawyer gets the case resolved favorably but you have to pay a fine of $150.  You’ll actually be able to use your bond money to pay the fine and you’ll get a refund, in this example of $150.
  • Keep in mind that rules related to warrants, failures to appear and bonds, particularly in St. Louis County municipal courts have changed considerably since Ferguson.  Generally speaking, the rules in general are changing and the courts are changing their own procedures.  Some of that has been required by changes to Missouri law and some of that is self-imposed.  Generally speaking, these changes are benefiting the public at large.

The best advice I can give you if you find yourself with an outstanding warrant in Missouri is to act and to do so quickly.  Warrants don’t expire.  You have to take action to deal with them.   Problems can only multiply and the situation will grow more expensive and complicated if you fail to act.

How Serious is Shoplifting or Stealing in Missouri?

How Serious is Shoplifting or Stealing in Missouri?

How Serious is Shoplifting or Stealing in Missouri?

Under Missouri law, stealing is a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the merchandise is under $500.  Class A misdemeanors in Missouri carry a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one (1) year in jail.

Now, under Missouri law you can also be sued in a civil suit by the store that you allegedly shoplifted from.  This usually begins with what’s called a “civil demand letter”.  It will say you owe the store money for shoplifting goods.

Hiring an attorney is very important if you are charged with shoplifting or stealing.  First, the attorney can often get the charge amended to a lesser offense, especially if you have no prior convictions on your record.  Frankly, each court treats these charges completely different.  In some courts, your best result, other than a dismissal would be probation.  Specifically, an attorney can seek a SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) plea and probation.

As I have discussed before, if you receive an SIS no conviction is entered on your record if you complete the probation period with no further convictions.

Aside from where you received the charge, there are many other factors that are considered by the prosecutor.  For example, are you young?  Were you cooperative with security at the store?  How much was the item you stole and what was it?  Have you ever been convicted of shoplifting, theft or some other crime of dishonesty such as larceny or fraud?

Keep in mind that when officers write a ticket for shoplifting, they often will call it stealing under $500, just stealing or often theft (or even theft under $500).   All of those descriptions would fall under the charge of shoplifting.

Again, it’s not a charge to be taken lightly.   When employers do background checks, they are often forgiving of many mistakes people make like a DWI or other serious traffic offenses.  But shoplifting charges, in their view, relate to your character and trustworthiness.  If you’re a bank for example, how can you justify hiring someone who has plead guilty to a shoplifting charge?

That’s why it makes the most sense to hire a lawyer to represent your interests and protect your future.  I’ve prosecuted these cases and defended them and that experience helps my clients.

5 Rules of How to Act in Court….

5 Rules of How to Act in Court….

When I sit down with a criminal client or someone who has received a traffic ticket that will require a court appearance I always discuss the Five Rules of How to Act in Court.

Here they are:

  1.  DRESS LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO A FUNERAL:  For men, this means wearing a suit.  If you can’t wear a suit or afford one, then wear a nice pair of khakis, a white button up dress shirt and a tie.  Women should wear a pantsuit or a conservative dress.  Why?  Because you want to show the court and the judge that you are taking your case seriously and with respect.  You also want to separate yourself from the majority of people who show up to court dressed like they’re going to the gym, were running late after waking up from a daylong nap or who just really don’t care how their image portrays itself to someone like a judge.  Judges appreciate the effort and it could be make a very helpful impression to the judge when you and I appear in front of him to discuss your case.
  2. PUT AWAY THE CELLPHONE:  When I was a prosecutor in New Jersey, the judge would tell everyone in the court room before starting his docket that if he saw or heard a cellphone in his court while in session, he would confiscate it and embarrass the person.  On more than a few occasions, I saw the judge stop in mid-sentence, have the bailiff confiscate a phone and bring its owner in front of him to ask him questions like “Did you not here my rules about cell phones?”  The point here is simple:  Judges and courts in general want people to show deference to simple rules of courtesy, especially in a court room setting.  I’m not saying you can’t bring your cellphone (although O’Fallon Municipal Court forbids them from being brought into court), I’m just saying turn it off.  When you get out of court you can check your texts and emails.  Or the weather forecast.
  3. REPLY TO EVERYONE AS A MA’AM OR SIR / REFER TO THE JUDGE AS YOUR HONOR:  Most people know that judges are formally referred to as “Your Honor” and less formally as “Judge”.  Clients should use “Your Honor” when asked a question.  Everyone else in the courtroom, from the bailiff to the payment clerk outside the courtroom should be referred to as “sir” or “ma’am”.  Old school?  Sure.  But it’s a sign of respect and I insist that my clients use these terms.
  4. DON’T BE LATE TO COURT:  This is common sense but here’s the real reason you want to be on time.  If you’ve hired me you have what is called an attorney represented case.  That means our cases are usually resolved with the prosecutor and/or in front of the judge first and usually in the order of appearance.  Most courts have an attorney sign up sheet.  Because of this privilege, we can often get your case handled immediately once the docket begins.  Take advantage.  You don’t have to be early, just be on time for the start of the docket.  If the clerk asks you to sign in, do so.
  5. PAY YOUR FINES AS YOU PROMISED:  Often I will be making representations to the court that since you can’t make full payment of a fine that you can probably pay it by a certain date.  Judges and court clerks understand that but the first thing to do is give a reasonable date by which you can pay everything in full.  If you have a $500.00 fine and can only pay $250.00 per month, it will take you two months.  Don’t tell them one month and then have to return to court (on your own) to explain to the judge you don’t have all the money.  Judges understand you get paid a certain amount and need time.  They’ll work with you if you’re upfront about what you need.  This problem actually occurs I believe because clients think they need to pay everything right away or else.  Not the case.  Each court has certain payment minimums per month or full payment by a certain date, but if you tell them how much time they need, they’ll usually work with you.
Traffic ticket courts in St. Charles County…

Traffic ticket courts in St. Charles County…

When we get a call from someone who received a traffic ticket in St. Charles County, one of the first questions we ask is when and where their court date is.

That’s because it makes a difference in what we charge clients and the procedures to  handle the ticket for the clients.

St. Charles County has three layers of courts.  First, each town has a municipal court.  If you get a ticket in O’Fallon, written by a police officer from the O’Fallon Police Department your court date will be at O’Fallon Municipal Court.   Makes sense, right?

What most people don’t know is that St. Charles County has their own court for traffic tickets and that is called the St. Charles County Municipal Court.  If you get pulled over for a traffic ticket by a St. Charles County Sheriff’s Deputy, your court date will be at St. Charles County Municipal Court.  That court is located, by the way, just north of Highway 70 off Highway 79.  Certain unincorporated areas of St. Charles County is where the sheriff’s department has jurisdiction.  A good example would be the Defiance, Missouri area off Highway DD.

The other court in St. Charles County is the St. Charles County Circuit Court, located on Second Street in downtown St. Charles (one block west of Main Street).  This court generally handles violations of state law, but for traffic tickets the cases that are heard here are tickets issued by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.  A common example would be a speeding ticket received while driving in St. Charles County on Highway 70 or Highway 64.   Incidentally, this court also handles more serious charges like felonies and serious misdemeanor cases.

From the standpoint of speeding tickets, however, the cases are treated pretty much the same in terms of how of our office would resolve them.  For relatively minor offenses like speeding, we can usually get very good results and the same outcome for our clients whether we are in St. Charles City Municipal Court, St. Charles County Municipal Court or St. Charles County Circuit Court.

Things get trickier for St. Charles County Circuit court for more serious charges like DWIs, Stealing and Drug Possession.  We can still help clients but the fees are higher because the cases take longer to resolve and involve much more investigation.