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DUI and Traffic Offense Cases from A-Z

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When you are charged with a traffic offense or a DUI, you must be represented by a good DUI , DWI attorney experienced in traffic matters such as DUI and drunk driving cases, DMV matters, felony and misdemeanor traffic defense. Baltimore Attorney Marc Atas is a highly-skilled attorney based in Baltimore, Maryland who represents individuals throughout Maryland who have been involved in a Traffic Offense.

Baltimore DUI attorney Marc Atas handles traffic and Dui cases that occur in the Baltimore-Washington area including Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, Western Maryland, The eastern shore, Frederick county, Carroll County and Prince Georges County. Our firm has won many traffic and Dui trials in Maryland in both the district court as well as the circuit court. In addition in other cases we have been able to work out favorable pleas agreements that help our clients avoid jail time.

Baltimore DUI attorney Marc Atas has represented innocent parties in all kinds of traffic and DUI cases including,Driving under the influence,Driving while impaired,Driving without a license, driving while suspended, driving while revoked, and driving without insurance.

Baltimore DUI attorney Marc Atas has represented innocent parties in district court and circuit court as well as at the office of administrative hearings.

Traffic and DUI cases can result in the loss of your freedom either thru incarceration, long probationary periods with very limiting conditions and stiff fines. In addition at administrative hearings you can have your drivers license suspended or revoked.Traffic and DUI Attorney Marc Atas takes your Traffic and DUI  case seriously as if it was a member of his family. My goal in your case is when your case is over you walk out of the courtroom the same time as I do. When we leave the courtroom it is important to me that you feel that i fought for you and you are satisfied with the resolution of your case and feel that the system treated you fairly.

 

DUI and Traffic A to Z

Do you know what happens if you do not appear for traffic court? How about what will happen if you are caught driving on a suspended license? These questions and more may be running through your mind when the sirens go off, but after you’ve received the ticket, you have to deal with the matter at hand. Browse these simple, direct answers to your questions about traffic court and seek the counsel of an attorney for further assistance.

What are the different types of verdicts?

The best resolution in a criminal or traffic case is a not guilty finding. A not guilty simply reflects the fact that the prosecution has failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There is no such finding as innocent.

What do I do if I receive a traffic ticket in Maryland?

There are two types of traffic violations in Maryland: payable and must appear

Payable traffic violations include speeding tickets or failure to stop at a stop sign. For those types of tickets there are several choices. First, you can plead guilty and pay the fine prior to the court date, thus avoiding an appearance in court. This is generally not a wise decision because payment of any ticket automatically results in a guilty finding and points added to your driving record. As discussed below any guilty finding in the State of Maryland can transfer to your automobile license in other states. Even if you are in fact guilty of what you have been charged, it is still always a good idea to go to court. The State has the burden to prove your guilt. There have been many occasions where the police officer has failed to appear on the court date, resulting in case dismissals despite the Defendant’s clear guilt. In addition, when appearing in court the Judge frequently reduces fines or offers probation before judgment (PBJ). A PBJ leads the Motor Vehicle Administration to pardon fines and ends the possibility for a record to transfer over to other states because it is not a guilty finding.

When you receive a traffic ticket, the ticket typically gives you three options, including paying the ticket, appearing for trial and having a full trial or pleading guilty with an explanation. If you do not choose to pay the fine, the court will automatically set the case in for trial within a period of time. At that time you will be required to appear in person in court. It is not necessary to write a request for a hearing when a traffic ticket is involved, as the court will know you want a trial when you do not pay the fine in the period set by the ticket.

While the court also offers the option of pleading guilty in advance and simply appearing in court to give an explanation, this is not generally a wise decision. The court likes this option because it doesn’t have to prove your guilt, as you have already indicated your own guilt, and the only subsequent discussion in court is whether the Judge will give you a reduced fine, points, or PBJ. By pleading guilty in advance, however, you are giving up your valuable right to require the State prove its case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. When you plead guilty in advance, legitimate legal defenses that could have been used in your favor are waived, including failure of the police officer and State’s witnesses to appear, as there is no need to prove or disprove your guilt.

You have no obligation to admit guilt in a traffic case, as you have the right to make the State prove its case against you and the right against self-incrimination. Therefore, a Judge cannot hold it against you if you do not enter a guilty plea. The only time that a guilty plea in advance with an in-court explanation should ever be considered is if you are guilty, gave the police office a hard time and believe that the police officer might show up to your trial to tell the court about your insolence. In this case, you should consider the guilty plea in advance option so that the officer will not appear in court. The officer’s appearance in court and testimony would likely lead the court to increase the fine above the payable amount listed on your ticket. Any other time you should opt to go to court, even if guilty, to try and minimize possible sanctions. Courts can be very generous in giving substantially reduced fines, lower points or even PBJ where you would receive no points, especially if you have a relatively clean driving record. Even without good driving records, individuals tried in traffic cases are commonly given lower fines and lower points, although the points are not erased all together.

Upon a finding of guilt, the Motor Vehicle Administration– not the court– assesses the points allocated to you. At times the court will tell you that it has no control over what the MVA does; however, it is the court’s finding that determines how many points you will get. Having points on your license is significant for two reasons. The first reason why getting points on your license is important is that it may result in an increase in insurance premiums; the second reason, is that a substantial amount of points on your license may result in a suspension or revocation of your driving privilege. For those reasons, it is extremely important to keep your driving record clean at all times. Courts are more likely to give PBJs and to not give points in cases where people have clean driving records. If you pay your ticket the first time and receive points it will be more difficult in subsequent cases for you to receive a PBJ until the points have dropped off your driving record.

Nolle Prosequi

A nolle prosequi occurs when the State decides to dismiss all charges. Once a case is nolle prosequi it is normally over, but in rare cases the State may want to recharge you in the future. Other than a not guilty finding, the next best thing is a nolle prosequi because it results in dismissal of the charges.

When the defendant is clearly guilty of some offense, and the evidence is legally sufficient for a jury to convict the defendant of  of either the greater or lesser crime, courts will not allow the state to nolle Prosequi the lesser charge in a case, with the state hoping to convict the defendant for the greater offense.

In Maryland the defendant in a circuit court case has a right to be tried within a one hundred and eighty days. If the case is Nolle Prosequi and then the case is refiled, the one hundred and eighty days begins again when the new charges are filed. If the defendant can show that the state only nolle prosequi the case the first time in order to get around the one hundred and eighty day requirement, then the court will count the initial charge period and will likely find that the one hundred and eighty day rule was violated.

the decision to nol prosequi a case is solely within the discretion of the prosecutor. The defendant cannot refuse a stet and obviously since the case is dismissed should be thrilled with a nol pros even though again it is not the equivalent of a not guilty. It only means the state does not want to go forward either because the state does not feel it can prove the case or more likely crucial witnesses have not appeared or finally perhaps the interests of justice suggest the case can better be resolved outside the criminal justice system.

Stet

The next best case resolution is a stet. A stet means a suspension of the prosecution. If the State offers a stet, the case is indefinitely postponed and placed on an inactive docket where it will, with any luck, never to be called to trial. A stet may be reopened by any party for any reason including the State, the witnesses, the victim or the Defendant within the first year. After a period of one to three years and showing good cause to the court. After three years, a stet may not be reopened and, in fact, the criminal charges can be expunged. Stets are not normally reopened unless the Defendant has subsequent charges, a similar arrest, or fails to live up to the conditions set when the stet was originally granted.A stet is not a conviction but it is not an acquittal either. If you apply for a job which requires driving and they ask you if you have ever been convicted of a traffic offense and the only involvement in the traffic court system resulted in a stet, you can respond that you have no prior conviction and you will be telling your prospective employer the truth.While a stet is better than a conviction, the public can still look on Maryland judicial case search and see that you were in fact charged with a crime and therefore may still hold it against you even though there was no conviction.Therefore it is extremely important that when the three year period passes after your probation has ended that you apply for your expungement so that the records are wiped off the computer and no-one will be able to see this information.An expungement is automatic as long as you have no other convictions or pending cases after you received your stet.Stets do not result in points.Getting a stet enables you to keep your driving record clean. If you were found guilty instead of accepting a stet,  you will receive points which can result in higher insurance rates, cancellation of insurance and possibly suspension or revocation of your license.

PBJ – Probation Before Judgment

 

The next best resolution is known as probation before judgment (PBJ). In a probation before judgment case the Defendant is typically found guilty, however, because of a good driving record or a relatively clean criminal record, he/she is offered probation before judgment. Probation before judgment  is considered a break given by the court to provide the Defendant an incentive to keep his/her record clean. The court usually strikes the guilty finding and places the Defendant on probation.

Barring unsuccessful completion of the probation period, the probation before judgment stands and the Defendant’s guilty verdict is never entered. Probation before judgments can eventually be expunged three years after the probation period runs out. If the Defendant receives a  probation before judgment he/she can go on job interviews and honestly answer that he/she has not been convicted of the traffic offense. Further, if the Defendant receives a probation before judgment  in a traffic case, points will not be added against his/her driving record in the State of Maryland, because the traffic violation is not considered a conviction.

However when you receive a probation before judgment, you can be placed on probation. During probation, you may have to report to a probation officer, complete a drug or alcohol program, pay a fine or restituition, pay court costs or monitoring fees,complete school or obtain a general educational development certificate (ged) and you may have to do community service.

As part of your probation you must complete every condition the judge imposes on you including obey all laws, not get arrested, not be convicted of another crime, stay away from the victim , report to a probation officer, complete a drug or alcohol program, pay a fine or restitution, pay court costs or monitoring fees,complete school or obtain a general educational development certificate (ged) and you may have to do community service.

If you violate your probation, the probation before judgment can be stricken, the guilty finding re-instituted and you can receive additional punishment including additional jail time.

 

What happens if I do not appear for traffic court?

When you receive a ticket, you must either ask for a trial date immediately by mailing in your request or you must pay the ticket.No longer does the court automatically schedule trial. Once you request a trial date, simply wait for your trial notice if you would like to appear in court. It may take several months for a trial date to be scheduled, although the court usually tells you it will be within several weeks.

If your address changes after you receive a ticket but before you receive notice of a trial date, you should notify the court of your change of address or you will not receive a trial notice. Keep in mind also that the post office will not forward your court mail and that updating your address with the Motor Vehicle Administration does not automatically update your address with the court. To ensure that you receive a trial notice, you also need to notify the court of your correct mailing address if the address you gave the police officer is not the same as your mailing address.

It is imperative to appear on your trial date, as failure to do so for a traffic charge can result in the court notifying the Motor vehicle administration and your license being suspended. If you continue to drive after your license has been suspended for failure to appear, then you can be arrested for driving on a suspended license if you are stopped for a new traffic offense.Driving on a suspended license then leads to the possibility of additional criminal charges and jail time. Failure to appear in traffic court for a case that involves possible jail time, however, can lead to a bench warrant for your immediate arrest.Then it may be necessary to turn yourself in and spend time in jail just for failing to appear and then hoping the judge will release you from jail pending trial.

Why should I appear in traffic court even if I know I am guilty?

Reason 1 – The police officer may fail to show up. Generally, if the police officer fails to appear the court will dismiss your case (even if you are guilty) as long as you do not admit your guilt to the court. Most of the time the court may not even give you a chance to say anything and will dismiss your case when you appear at the trial table. Don’t underestimate the possibility of this happening as numerous circumstances can lead officers to not appear for your trial. Circumstances include a vacation, scheduling conflict, emergency, transfer, retirement, poor notification of the trial date or personal irresponsibility.

Reason 2 – Some of the State’s necessary witnesses fail to appear in court. Often when you are charged with traffic offenses, the case involves witnesses in addition to the police officer. The other witnesses may decide not to appear for various reasons, because these witnesses do not normally have a personal stake in the outcome and may not want to lose time from work or from their families to appear for your case. While the State’s Attorney has the option of issuing a bench warrant for their arrests for their failure to appear, the State very rarely does that, as it does not want to make victims of witnesses. If the State cannot produce enough witnesses to prove your case, then it cannot prove that you were guilty. Aside from the testimony from witnesses, some traffic case charges require the State to produce documentation proving that the Defendant was suspended, driving on an out of State license, or uninsured. It can be difficult for the State’s Attorney to get a hold of an out of State driving record. Further, it can be difficult to prove a negative, like someone is not insured. If the State fails to produce the documents necessary to prove one of the elements in the State’s case against a traffic or criminal offender, the Defendant may be found not guilty.

Reason 3 – The State may not be able to prove all of the elements of the underlying traffic charge or crime. While you may think you have done what the State has charged you with, each particular offense has its own set of elements. For something as simple as speeding, for example, the State has to prove: a) the speed limit, b) your speed, c) that you were driving, d) that the radar ticket shows that the officer was a certified radar operator and, e) that the radar equipment was properly calibrated and tested. This is the same for each traffic offense, as each one carries its own elements and the State has the burden of proving every element. Should any one element of the case against you be faulty or incomplete, you could be found not guilty. These instances include the officer forgetting to bring his certification on your trial date, the officer having an expired certification, or the officer failing to identify you as the driver on that particular day. As you can see, the State has a burden in each traffic or criminal case to prove all the elements of any traffic offense or criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If it cannot prove any one of the elements required for each crime or traffic charge, the Defendant must be found not guilty.

Reason 4 – There may be other viable legal defenses to protect you that you are not aware of.

Reason 5 – You may be not guilty! The only way you can prove your innocence is through a full-fledged trial where you appear in court, testify and call your witnesses.

How do I appeal my criminal or traffic conviction from a District Court proceeding?

If you are unhappy with the District Court Judge’s decision in either your traffic case or your criminal case, you have the right to appeal to the Circuit Court in the county where your District Court case was heard. Because the District Court is Maryland’s lowest court, you have an automatic right to appeal any traffic or criminal case for an entirely new trial, called a denovo trial. At that trial the State will have the burden once again to prove the case against you, requiring it to recall all of its witnesses and re-convince the Judge beyond a reasonable doubt that you were guilty.

If there were multiple charges in the District Court and you were found not guilty on some of those charges, you can file an appeal and keep the not guilty verdict on those select charges. The only charges that will go forward on appeal, then, are any charges that you were found guilty of. Remember also that if you intend to file an appeal in the District Court, you must not accept any probation before judgment offers from the court. As part of the condition for probation before judgment involves striking a guilty finding and putting you on probation, the Defendant must agree not to file an appeal. That being said, if it is important to you to have an appeal and prove your innocence, then you must not accept any probation before judgment offers.

To appeal a District Court finding, a written appeal must be filed within thirty days of the initial trial with the District Court clerk. That thirty day time period cannot be extended; therefore, once the thirty day period has expired, your right to appeal is extinguished.

As part of your request for appeal, you must pay the Circuit Court court costs. When you are found guilty at the District Court level and intend to file an appeal, you should ask the Judge at that time to delay enforcement of any sentence. In a typical criminal or traffic case it is possible to receive fines, court costs, probation and sometimes jail time. Unless you ask the Judge to stay enforcement of the sentence pending appeal and the Judge agrees to do so, it may be necessary for you to pay the court fines, continue your probation and serve any jail time in the meantime before your appeal is heard. If the Judge agrees to stay any sentence pending appeal, it may not be necessary to pay the fine, serve probation or start serving your sentence in jail; however, the decision rests in the hands of your District Court Judge.

A lawyer can be extremely helpful in getting the Judge to stay some, if not all, of the sentences pending appeal. Sometimes a Judge will stay a sentence but will require the Defendant to post a bond to insure his attendance at the Circuit Court level trial.

When the case is on appeal, you must fulfill the terms and conditions of your probation unless the Judge has stayed your probation. If you are found guilty in the District Court and the Judge doesn’t agree to stay your sentence pending appeal, you must serve your sentence while waiting for your new trial. Appeals can take as long as six months in the Circuit Court.

Consultation: matas@ataslaw.com
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