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How to Defend Your Record

You've just been pulled over for speeding on I-95. As the officer approaches your vehicle, you think you're done for. You may have prior traffic citations, but you're not sure how many points you have on your license. You think: am I going to lose my license? What do I do now?

First, relax. There are a number of strategies you can use to protect your driving record. Your control over the outcome starts with the traffic stop itself. Be cooperative and polite with the officer. The officer has the power to lower your citation to a reduced speed in court (which means fewer points and a lower fine), and the officer will be much more inclined to do so if you were polite and cooperative.

Two, retain an attorney. If you've been given a serious traffic citation, you could be facing fines of up to $500 and loss of your driver's license. An attorney can protect your rights at trial by holding the officer to the requirements of the law. For example, an officer must prove four things in order to use a radar speed reading against you in court. The officer must show (1) that the equipment was properly tested and checked, (2) that it was manned by a competent operator, (3) that proper operative procedures were followed, and (3) that proper records were kept. See Fitzwater v. State, 57 Md. App. 274 (1984). At trial, an attorney can cross-examine the officer on these topics and attempt to have radar evidence of your speed excluded from the trial.

An attorney can also negotiate with the officer on your behalf. The officer is much more likely to agree to reduce your citation if you have an attorney representing you. If you choose to plead guilty, an attorney can also argue to the judge to reduce your speed, resulting in fewer points and a lower fine, or to grant you probation before judgment, which results in zero points added to your license. An attorney can also help you get a probation before judgment expunged from your record, leaving you with no record of the citation.

If you wish to have a trial on your ticket, be sure to request one within 30 days by checking the "Request a Trial" box on the return to court copy of your citation. You may also "Request a Waiver Hearing" to plead guilty with an explanation in court. If you request a trial, the officer is required to appear, however, you can still choose to plead guilty at the hearing. If you elect to request a waiver hearing, the officer will not be required to appear, however, you will be able to argue to the judge for a reduced sentence.

Knowing how many points you are facing before you get to court may reduce your anxiety over the citation. Whether you are in danger of losing your license will depend on the number of points you have accumulated in the last two years. At 5-7 points, you can complete a Driver Improvement Program to keep your license. At 8-11 points, your license will be suspended, however, you may request a hearing with the MVA to contest this. At 12 points, revocation proceedings will be instituted.