Traffic Violation in Seattle
Getting stopped by the police and receiving a ticket can be a frustrating and irritating experience, whether it was deserved or not. You can be potentially cited for violating countless statutes every time you drive. Some of these violations can impact your record and insurance rates, while others won’t. If you are not sure, it is important to double-check before simply paying the ticket. For some individuals, it can even have severe repercussions on their life and career. If you have a commercial driver’s license or an intermediate driver’s license, it is absolutely imperative that you contact an attorney immediately. No matter what your ticket’s circumstances are, you have the right to contest it, and the only way you are going to be able to keep your record clear is by fighting. We are here to help you.
For many individuals, the thought of hiring an attorney for a traffic infraction has never occurred to them. Instead, they think they can represent themselves. While you certainly have the right to represent yourself, an attorney will be more familiar with the different judges and arguments needed to present your case properly. Simple excuses like “going with the flow of traffic,” “I know I wasn’t speeding because my car can’t go that fast,” or simply “I don’t think I was going that fast” don’t work. Many courts have also changed dramatically over the past few years, as jurisdictions have turned to tickets as a source for funds. What was once easy is now more difficult. Many courts are now having prosecutors handle traffic infraction cases to make sure there are fewer dismissals and more money going towards their budgets.
When you receive a ticket, you are given three different options on how you can handle it. The first option is to simply pay it. If you do, the ticket will go on your record, and you will have to pay the full fine amount which is listed on the ticket. This is the quickest way to handle the ticket but not usually the best way in the long run. The second option is mitigation. This is when you admit to the violation but explain there were circumstances that warrant a reduction in the monetary penalty. The reduction is entirely up to the judge. The problem is the ticket will still go on your record and mitigation is more time-consuming that paying the ticket. Your last option is to contest the ticket. This does not necessarily mean that you believe you are “innocent” of the infraction; rather, you are telling the government you want them to prove it! If you lose your contested hearing, the ticket will go on your record and you will have to pay the fine. However, this will be just like as if you paid the ticket in the first place. Instead, if you win, the case will not go on your record and you do not have to pay a fine. If you choose a contested hearing, you can either handle it yourself, or you can have an attorney handle it for you. If you have an attorney, most of the time, you will not have to even attend the hearing, saving you time for more important things. Additionally, an attorney will give you the greatest chance at keeping the ticket off of your record, which should be your number one goal. Paying a little more today in order to hire an attorney can potentially save you a lot of money later down the road in avoided insurance rate increases.
At the Law Offices of Jason Newcombe, we are here to protect your driving record, license, and wallet. If you have questions about your case, do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation with an experienced Seattle, WA traffic violation attorney. It is especially important to reach out to us if you have a commercial driver’s license or an intermediate driver’s license.
Too Fast For Conditions
When you are accused of driving too fast for conditions, you are not being accused of traveling above the speed limit. Instead, you are being accused of failing to reduce your speed to a safe level which matches the conditions currently present. Most commonly, this is in reference to weather related conditions. For example, if there is a lot of water on the roadway or ice, it is a good idea to travel at a speed below what is posted.
This type of ticket is most often issued after a weather related accident occurred. For example, if you lose control of your vehicle on ice and crash, then you were obviously not traveling slow enough. Sometimes, if the roads are so bad, there is no safe speed which to travel at.
Following Too Closely
Officers typically issue this ticket in two different situations. One situation is if you are tailgating another vehicle. What is considered “too” close is somewhat subjective so officers normally only issue the ticket in clear-cut situations in terms of distance. Some individuals will try to blame the car in front of them, such as they cut in front of them or they are going too slow. This is not a proper excuse because your vehicle should be equipped with a working brake pedal. If someone merges in front of you or someone is traveling slowly, you need to brake and create a larger gap.
The other common occurrence for this ticket is when you rear-end another car. If you rear-end another car, then obviously there was not sufficient space between the cars to permit you to stop in time. It does not matter if the other person braked suddenly. The whole purpose for leaving a gap is to permit you to stop when something suddenly occurs.
Driving with Wheels off Roadway
This ticket is typically issued when someone drives on a highway outside of the white lane markings. For example, if you drive over the gore point, you are not traveling on the roadway. Similarly, if you drive onto the shoulder of a highway for reasons not permitted (such as passing stopped vehicles), you can also get a ticket for that. You could potentially be issued the ticket if you briefly swerved out of your lane onto the shoulder.
The fact that you never left asphalt does not mean you did not leave the roadway. The roadway is not always one edge of the asphalt to the other edge because you often cannot legally drive the entire portion. You are supposed to stay within the white lines. The bottom line is that you can be considered driving off the roadway whether you remained on the asphalt or you drove onto gravel, grass, etc.
Many people are not familiar with the specific rules governing what to do when approaching a stop sign. You do not stop at the actual sign but rather at the applicable line of demarcation. If there is a stop line (a big white line), then you must stop behind it. If there is not a stop line but a crosswalk, then you must stop before entering the crosswalk. If there is not a crosswalk or a stop line, then you must stop at the nearest point where you have a clear view of oncoming traffic without actually impeding traffic. Typically, the most common reason that an individual gets a ticket for a stop sign violation is not because the person simply blew right through it but rather they simply did a "California roll," meaning that they slowed their car to about 5 mph, checked for traffic, and then continued on their way.
Stopping is just the first step though. You must then also yield to traffic that has the right of way. Officers will regularly issue tickets to individuals who have gotten into an accident at intersections with stop signs. People will complain that they stopped at the sign, but the problem is they then failed to allow the traffic with the right of way to proceed.
The requirements when approaching a red light are similar to that of a stop sign. If there is a stop line (a big white line), then you must stop behind it. If there is not a stop line but a crosswalk, then you must stop before entering the crosswalk. If there is not a crosswalk or a stop line, then you must stop at the nearest point where you have a clear view of oncoming traffic without actually impeding traffic. If no signs are present restricting it, you can then perform right turns when traffic permits.
Camera Red Light
All of the requirements of a standard red light ticket apply for a camera red light ticket. The big difference is this type of ticket does not go on your record. Just like with a camera ticket for speeding in a school zone, the government does not know who was actually driving the car, so they do not report it on someone’s record. It is essentially treated like a parking ticket.
Red light tickets are most commonly issued when individuals take a right turn on a red without coming to a complete stop. If you think you came to a complete stop, you can watch the video of the entire incident online. The letter you receive in the mail should provide you with instructions on how to log in to the database and watch it.
Unsafe Lane Change/ Failure to Signal
When making a lane change, the two key requirements is that it must be safe and you must use a turn signal. If you do not abide by both, then it was illegal. So, for example, even if you had your signal on, if you change lanes and hit someone, it would be illegal because it was unsafe. Similarly, if you make a safe lane change but do not signal, then that would also be illegal.
When making a turn or a lane change, you also must signal your intent at least 100 feet in advance. This means turning on the signal while you have already started the lane change also does not comply with the statute. The reality is that no officer will try to measure the distance when you began signaling, but they will look at obvious examples of failure to comply.
Failure to Yield on Left Turn
When you make a left turn, you must yield to oncoming traffic. It is your responsibility to wait until it is safe before making the left turn. The other driver does not have to slow down for you.
This is a common accident ticket. If there was an accident while you were performing a left turn, odds are you failed to yield. One common excuse is the fact that the other driver was speeding. The problem with this argument is the fact that you still need to yield to the other driver even if they were speeding. The speeding simply means the other driver should have also received a ticket. Unlike with the issues of liability regarding the damages, tickets are not issued based on who was most wrong. If both parties were wrong, both parties can get tickets. However, the reality is most officers will only cite the left turn because they cannot prove the speeding unless they do a full investigation. This it is unlikely to occur unless there were serious injuries.
HOV (Carpool Lane Violation)
This is a pretty straightforward ticket. If you drive in a carpool lane without any passengers, then you are violating the statute. There is no exception for passing. There is no exception for bad traffic.
It is important to read the signage carefully because certain areas have different criteria. Some zones are only applicable during certain hours of the day. Other zones require three people, as opposed to two, and some allow a single driver to use the lane provided that they pay for the privilege.
Failure to Obey Control Devices
This is another straightforward ticket. If a sign says you cannot do something but you do it anyway, then you violated the statute. Likewise, if the sign says you must do something but you do not, then you violated it.
Common examples are signs saying you cannot change lanes on a certain portion of a roadway, but you do it anyways. Or the sign says you must turn, but you decide to go straight. As you can see, this is not a technically complicated ticket for an officer to prove. That said, it is still a good idea to try to fight all of these tickets, as they are moving violations. We can often find flaws with the report or work out resolutions with the prosecutor to achieve better results.
A cell phone ticket can either be no big deal or can be a big deal depending on the person. If you have a CDL or an intermediate license, then it is extremely important to fight the ticket. A cell phone ticket can impact your license. If you just have a regular license, then this ticket will not currently appear on your record and will not be reported to insurance companies.
If you are talking on your cell phone while the car is moving and the phone is up next to your ear, then it is illegal. The two key details you must take note of is that the car must be moving and it must be up next to your ear. You can speak on your speakerphone or with a wireless head set. Likewise, if you are stuck in traffic and are not moving, then you can raise the phone next to your ear. There are also exceptions to the rule, such as calling to report a crime or a medical emergency or if you have a hearing aid.
Texting While Driving
Just like with a cell phone ticket, the severity of this infraction will depend on the person. If you have a CDL or an intermediate license, then you must fight this ticket because it can impact your ability to license status. On the other hand, if you only have a regular driver's license, then it will not be reported to insurance companies or employers.
Texting is only a crime when done while the car is moving. You can also text if it is a medical emergency or you are reporting a crime. Dialing a phone number does not count as texting.
Everyone is required to wear a seatbelt in the manner that it was intended to be used unless you have a doctor’s note. This means, if you only have the lap strap on but are not using the shoulder belt for whatever reason, then you are violating the statute. If there is a medical reason why you cannot properly wear the seatbelt, then you need a doctor’s note.
Fortunately, a seatbelt ticket is considered a non-moving violation, so it should not impact your driving record – unless you have an intermediate driver’s license. If you have one, then it is important to fight this ticket; otherwise, it can impact your license statutes and result in a suspension.
Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Holders
If you have an CDL, it is extremely important to fight every ticket you receive. Two or more “serious” driving offenses within a three-year period will result in a 60-day license suspension. If you get a third ticket, that will result in a 120-day license suspension.
What is especially troublesome is the fact that a “serious” traffic offense includes infractions that many would not consider especially serious. In addition to truly serious offenses like a DUI, reckless driving, and hit & run, it also includes tickets such as speeding 15mph+, following too closely, too fast for conditions, failure to yield right of way, improper lane change, and more! In fact, the a cell phone ticket and a texting ticket is now considered a serious offense for CDL holders despite the fact that it doesn’t even go on a person’s record if they don’t have a CDL.
Intermediate License Holders
Many parents are not familiar with all of the repercussions for driving violations teens now face. The laws have changed a lot since we were growing up and learning how to drive.
For the first six months on an intermediate license, the driver cannot have any passengers except immediate family, cannot drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless with a licensed family member over 25 years old, and cannot use a cell phone in any way.
For the following six months after that, all of the conditions remain in place, but they can now have up to three passengers in the car (not including family.)
After that, the only restriction that remains is the cell phone prohibition until they turn 18 years old.
Where things can get tricky is when the teen gets a ticket. With the first ticket, the passenger and nighttime restrictions will remain until the intermediate license holder turns 18. This will also occur if they are involved in an accident and no one received a ticket, the cause of the accident cannot be determined, or their car was the only one involved. After the first ticket, a warning letter is mailed to the parents.
If the intermediate license holder gets a second ticket, they will get a six-month license suspension or until they turn 18 years old (whichever comes first.)
If there is a third ticket, then they will be suspended until they turn 18.
What often also gets teens in trouble is the fact that they will burn their deferral on the first ticket so the parents are never warned about the ticket and the repercussions on the second ticket. When they get the second ticket, it violates the deferral, and suddenly the teen is facing a six-month suspension without realizing it.
If you or your teen has received a ticket and want to fight it, contact us today. During your free consultation, we'll answer your questions, let you know your options. Our experienced Seattle, WA attorneys will help you reach the best possible result for your case.
To learn more about other violations, please visit the pages below: