A Brown Recluse
Ignoring a Traffic Ticket is like getting bitten by a Brown Recluse spider, then ignoring the painful, swelling blister that results. This would prove to be very foolish, extremely painful, and possibly fatal. While this is a bit of an extreme example, even ignoring a Traffic Ticket for a few weeks, can have extremely painful consequences.
The Snowball Effect
The impact that a Traffic Ticket has on your finances is like a snowball rolling down a mountain. The sooner you take care of a ticket (either yourself, or hiring an attorney to do so), the smaller the snowball, therefore the less it will cost you. However, the longer you ignore a Traffic Ticket, the bigger the snowball gets, and the greater it’s impact on your finances.
A Black Hole
The last analogy that comes to mind is that of a black hole. To the person that takes care of Traffic Tickets, or other Driver’s License issues, as they arise, a Traffic Ticket is a relatively small problem. However, to the person that ignores a Traffic Ticket, or other Driver’s License issue, they can become a near inescapable black hole, from which it is extremely difficult to escape. Also, much like a black hole, you can be sucked in to a world of hurt very quickly and unexpectedly.
The Black Hole of Traffic Ticket Troubles
Have you ever gotten a traffic ticket? Have you ever gotten a ticket and then just ignored it or even forgot about it? Have you ever tried to renew your license, but could not? While tickets (and other license issues) can be a pain to deal with, they become much more painful when they are ignored. 3 analogies come to mind.
I have GOOD NEWS! You don’t have to try to escape that black hole alone. You can hire an attorney that is experienced in navigating out of the Black Hole of Traffic Ticket Troubles. Hiring an attorney may be less costly than you think and much more beneficial than you realize. Below is an explanation of how an attorney can help you get out of the Black Hole you may feel you are stuck in, and help you begin to legally drive again.
How does a traffic ticket turn into a Black Hole?
A traffic ticket starts sucking you into the Driver’s License Black Hole in 3 ways:
OMNI Fees; and
Each one of these are a consequence of ignoring a traffic ticket. Each one has its own unique pain which it inflicts. You do not want to have to deal with any of these consequences, so take care of your tickets quickly, either by going to the courthouse on or before your court date, or hiring an attorney to do that for you. If you find yourself already dealing with 1 or more of these consequences, call an attorney. You will likely be very glad that you did.
What is a Surcharge?
A surcharge is a fee incurred when a defendant either pleads No Contest to one of the citations listed above, or a Guilty verdict is entered for one of those citations.
This fee goes to the Municipal Services Bureau (MSB), and can be quite expensive. The worst part of surcharges is that not only do you have to pay this additional fine, but you have to pay it for 3 years. Additionally, if you are late making a payment on a surcharge, your license will be suspended.
What can I do to avoid Surcharges?
The best thing you can do when receiving a citation for No License or No Insurance is to hire an attorney immediately. You will have a much better chance of keeping these tickets off of your record, having your fines reduced, and avoiding Surcharges. In essence, an attorney can help you stay out of that “black hole” and help guide you back to the Land of Legitimate Licensure.
Land of Legitimate Licensure?? Sounds like a pipe dream.
Consider the scenario above. This scenario can have two vastly different outcomes depending on what decision you make regarding the citations. If you choose to take care of the tickets yourself, you can likely reduce the damage done to your wallet significantly, if you’re willing to do a little leg work. You will need to get your car registered immediately, you will need to get a copy of your current insurance card, and take both your registration information and insurance card to the proper court house. You will also need to talk to a Court clerk, prosecutor, or judge, about that speeding ticket. Most likely, the FMFR and the Expired Registration tickets will be dismissed, either at no cost, or at a greatly reduced cost, and you will only be left to pay the speeding ticket. Another option, is to ignore the ticket, and get sucked into the black hole of Warrants, OMNI fees, and Surcharges, discussed above. Lastly, you can hire an attorney, who can go down to the court house for you, or with you. He or She may even be able to get the cost of that Speeding ticket reduced in addition to keeping it off your record. The result of which is, you never get sucked into the black hole. Instead you can stay, or even return to the Land of Legitimate Licensure.
What is an OMNI fee?
In Texas, an OMNI fee is a fee charged by the court when you miss a court date, typically the first court date which is provided to you on your traffic ticket (Or in some cases, it is provided by the court.) When you miss that date, the court issues a Failure to Appear (FTA) charge. This results in both an additional citation (sometimes resulting in an additional fine due to the court), and a $30 OMNI fee. (Some courts charge $32 for OMNI fees)
What’s the big deal? It’s only another $30.
While that $30 OMNI fee may not sound too bad, it also creates a “hold” on your driver’s license. In other words, you will not be able to renew your license, until that OMNI fee has been paid. Additionally, when an OMNI fee is assessed, it is typically assessed to each citation you received when you were pulled over. For example, if you are pulled over for Speeding, and the officer also notices your driver’s license is expired, or worse, suspended, he may give you two citations. If you then miss your initial court date, you will likely wind up with two OMNI fees that must be paid before you can renew your driver’s license.
How do I take care of an OMNI fee?
Your first option for taking care of an OMNI fee, is to pay it along with your citation. I would rarely recommend this option. In this scenario, the OMNI holds will remain on your driver’s license, until the end of your case. If you wait for your court date, you may have these holds on your license for months.
Additionally, if you received a ticket for an invalid license, the court may be more inclined to give you a better offer, if your license is valid, on your court date. If OMNI fees are still preventing you from renewing your license, it will be impossible for you to have a valid license on your court date.
How can an attorney help me?
Your second option to take care of OMNI fees is hiring an attorney to handle your citation(s). An attorney is allowed to pay your OMNI fees when he or she first files with the court on your case(s). Tex. Transp. Code 706.005. This way, your OMNI holds will be lifted at the beginning of your case, rather than at the end. This will allow you (and your attorney) to appear on your court date with a valid license in hand, which (in many courts) will be a determining factor in granting you a deferred disposition, keeping the citation off of your record. (Which in a License Invalid case, is essential, to prevent your problems from getting worse.)
My problems could get worse? How?
In the case of a citation for No License, or Invalid License (this could mean suspended, revoked, or expired) or a citation for Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (Driving without Insurance), ignoring the citation can cause you to be sucked in to the black hole of Surcharges.
How does a traffic ticket turn into a warrant?
Typically, when you receive a traffic ticket, the ticket will have a court date listed on the ticket. That court date is usually about 3 weeks from the date you receive the ticket. If you fail to appear on or before that court date, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. With today’s technology, Police Officers are able to know if you have any outstanding warrants even without pulling you over. If you have a warrant or have had one in the past, you may have already experienced this, or you may be driving in fear of being arrested right now. However, the possibility of being arrested is not the only consequence of a traffic ticket turning into a warrant.
WAIT… There’s MORE?!
Unfortunately, yes, there’s more. Not only might you be arrested, but the court usually adds an additional fee to your fine, typically between $50 and $100, PER CITATION . Not only do you have a warrant issued, and an additional fine tacked on to each of your tickets (4, in the scenario above), but the court may issue an additional citation for Failure to Appear (FTA). To top it all off, that FTA also triggers the addition of (Drum-roll please) OMNI fees.