Maine traffic ticket lawyer explains traffic & speeding tickets

A Maine traffic ticket lawyer can help when your Ferrari gets stoppedMaine speeding tickets, moving violations, traffic infractions and other similar driving offenses are not crimes but they carry some of the same consequences as criminal charges. As a Maine traffic ticket lawyer, I can tell you that even a simple speeding ticket will almost certainly add points to a driver’s license, expense to insurance premiums and can even trigger a license suspension.

A Maine traffic ticket lawyer can help save your license and can take care of the whole thing without you ever needing to go to court. This article explains some common issues for speeding tickets and other traffic infractions. You can use the links below to jump to that section:

This article is all about civil traffic and speeding tickets. If you were cited for exceeding the speed limit by 30 miles per hour or more, you should read about Maine criminal speeding charges.

Your options on a Maine traffic or speeding ticket

A driver served with at Maine traffic ticket, speeding ticket or other non-criminal traffic infraction must do what is called “answer” the ticket within 20 days. You answer the ticket by filling out the back and sending it in. You can generally do one of two things:

  • Answer the ticket as “admitted” and pay the fine. This is like pleading guilty.
  • Answer the ticket as “contested” requiring the state to prove the violation in court.

You should always contest a Maine traffic ticket

If you don’t contest your ticket, the fine will automatically be imposed and points will be assessed against you. Contesting the ticket at least preserves your options and gives you the chance to avoid the serious consequences of an adjudication against you.

Many Drivers who accumulate violations could be facing lengthy license suspension terms or even a habitual offender revocation. Fines for any ticket can quickly run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars and failing to pay those will result in additional fees and license suspensions.

Contesting a Maine traffic ticket or speeding infraction

If you or your attorney contest the ticket, the Maine Violations Bureau must set the case for a hearing. The traffic ticket hearing will be held in the district court and that’s where the state, as represented by the officer who wrote the ticket, must prove the violation occurred.

There are no prosecuting attorneys in traffic court. The police officers are responsible for prosecuting their own tickets. They must prove that it’s more likely than not that you committed the alleged violation. a judge, not a jury hears the case and decides whether the violation occurred.

Time limit for contesting a Maine speeding ticket or other citation

You have 20 days to answer a speeding ticket or other Maine traffic ticket and that means the violations bureau must receive your answer within 20 days. Drivers can answer the ticket by filling out the form on the back and sending it in. If you hire an attorney within 20 days of the citation, they can use their own forms to answer the ticket.

Missing the deadline to contest the ticket

Many people miss the 20 day deadline for contesting their traffic ticket. If you do nothing, failing to answer the ticket is considered a waiver of your right to contest the infraction. The violations bureau will automatically impose the fine listed on the ticket and points will be applied to your license. If you fail to pay the fine, your license will be suspended until the fine is paid in full.

If you miss the deadline and realize that you should have contested the traffic ticket, it is possible to reopen the ticket and contest it. It is best to contact an attorney to help you with this process.

What can a Maine traffic ticket lawyer do?

Some tickets are  based on flimsy evidence or shaky witnesses and might be tough for the state to prove. But in truth, many traffic tickets don’t have great defenses, these cases are less of a whodunit and more about trying to get a break.

In either case, a good lawyer will know the cops, judges, clerks and the system so that they can use the process to your advantage. When you hire an attorney for your speeding ticket or traffic infraction case, several things happen.

  • Your lawyer can answer the ticket for you and request a hearing.
  • You will not need to attend the court hearing date, your attorney can be there for you.
  • Your lawyer can collect records about the officer’s training, radar calibration, certification, testing, maintenance and other information to help build a defense.
  • Your attorney can negotiate with the police officer to reach an agreed upon resolution.
  • Your lawyer can conduct a hearing to challenge the violation.
It may seem strange but, having a lawyer on these traffic violation tickets is a huge advantage. Though a driver can be represented by a lawyer in traffic court, there is no attorney to represent the state of Maine. That’s because traffic tickets are prosecuted by the police officer who stopped you, not a prosecuting attorney. Cops aren’t lawyers and they often don’t fully understand the rules of procedure and evidence even though these rules apply in traffic court.
Though a driver can be represented by a lawyer in traffic court, there is no attorney to represent the State of Maine. That’s because traffic tickets are prosecuted by the police officer who stopped you, not a prosecuting attorney.

These hearings put a police officer with limited legal training in the awkward position of being the the plaintiff, the prosecutor and the key witness. Many cops walk into these hearings expecting to use hearsay, ask leading questions or offer inadmissible evidence to prove their case. The rules should prevent this.

Remember that the judge hearing the case is an attorney too; in effect, your lawyer and the judge speak the same language while the police officer is just using a phrase book. If your lawyer makes the proper objections, the judge will follow the law and that can severely limit the case against you.

Possible outcomes at traffic ticket or speeding ticket court

The judge begins traffic court by calling the list of cases. The court will always encourage the police and the driver or their lawyer to discuss the ticket in hopes of reaching some negotiated settlement. Several outcomes are possible:
  • Dismiss the ticket: If the evidence is thin, the officer might simply drop the case. If the officer who needs to testify is not available, the police may have no choice but to dismiss.
  • File the ticket: Police sometimes agree to put the do a “filing” putting ticket aside for 6 months and allowing it to be dismissed if the driver has no infractions during the 6 month period.
  • Reduce the ticket: The ticket might be reduced to a lesser infraction carrying a reduced fine and fewer, or even no license points.
  • Reduce the fine: Even if the citation remains the same, the officer might agree to reduce the fine below that originally offered
  • Go to trial: If there is no way to compromise, you might as well make the police fight for it.

Maine’s driver’s license demerit point suspensions

Maine’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles has a driver’s license demerit point system that assesses either 2, 4 or 6 points against your license for various traffic infractions. Here are some important facts about Maine’s license point system:

  • Accumulating 12 points in a 1 year period triggers a 15 day suspension.
  • Points are assessed if the violation is admitted or proved. Just being ticketed is not enough.
  • Points are erased once the violation is 1 year old.
  • Notice of points accumulation is not provided until you get at least 6 points.
  • Criminal driving violations, like OUI or OAS can trigger license suspensions but do not cary points.

Number of points for various traffic tickets

The following list details some of the offenses which carry points. Criminal driving violations such as Operating After Suspension and Operating Under the Influence, can trigger license suspensions but do not carry points. A more comprehensive list of points per infraction is found here.

8 Point Traffic Tickets:

  • Operating after suspension, traffic infraction.

This is the only 8 point violation. Though Operating After Suspension is normally a criminal charge, Maine law makes operating after suspension a civil traffic infraction if the driver has no prior civil or criminal OAS violations and the suspension is only for one of the following:

  1. Failing to pay a fine
  2. Dishonored check suspension
  3. Failing to pay a license reinstatement fee

6 Point Traffic Tickets:

  • Driving Wrong Side or Wrong Way
  • Exceeding Posted Speed by at Least 15 Miles Per Hour but Less Than 30 Miles Per Hour
  • Illegal Transportation of Liquor by a Minor
  • Illegal Transportation of Drug by a Minor
  • Improper or Erratic Lane Change
  • Improper Passing
  • Leaving Scene of an Accident (Property Damage)
  • Misrepresentation of Identity or Other Facts to Obtain Alcohol
  • Operating Beyond License Restriction
  • Operating With Improper License
  • Operating Without Corrective Lenses
  • Operating Left on Curve
  • Pass on Right
  • Violation of Instruction Permit

4 Point Traffic Tickets:

  • Exceeding Posted Speed by Less Than 15 Miles Per Hour
  • Excessive Acceleration
  • Failure to Keep Right
  • Fail to Yield
  • Fail to Stop or Yield Right of Way
  • Fail to Obey Stop Sign
  • Fail to Yield to Emergency Vehicle
  • Imprudent Driving
  • Imprudent Speed
  • Operating a Motor Vehicle With Obstructed View
  • Operating Without a License (traffic infraction)
  • Red Light Violation

2 Point Traffic Tickets:

  • Crossover Violation
  • Displaying a Blue or Red Light
  • Failure to Dim Headlights
  • Fail to Signal
  • Failure to Obey Railroad Grade Crossing
  • Fail to Obey Traffic Island
  • Failure to Maintain Control of Vehicle
  • Failure to Obey Railroad Grade Crossing
  • Follow Too Close
  • Illegal Turn
  • Illegal U-Turn
  • Impeding or Obstructing the Flow of Traffic
  • Littering
  • Operating Without Lights
  • Speed Under Posted Minimum
  • Other Moving Violation

Keeping points off of your license

The best way to keep points off of your license is to avoid getting a ticket. If that’s no longer an option, you need to avoid a finding that you committed the infraction. Having an attorney defend your case effectively is the best way to do that.

If you can’t avoid getting the points, there are only a couple of options for reducing the impact:

Violation free credits

For every year a driver is “violation free” they will get negative one point on their license. A driver can accumulate a maximum of negative 4 points on their license. So if a driver with negative 4 gets a 6 point ticket, their license will only show 2 points. Since two 6 point tickets in one year trigger a suspension, those violation free credits can make a big difference.

Maine defensive driving classes

Maine law provides that a qualified driving dynamics or defensive driving class will take 3 points off your driving record. These classes can only be taken once in a 1 year period. There are really only two options for the class in Maine:

Maine Bureau of Highway Safety Driving Dynamics Class

This is a 5 hour, in person class offered frequently throughout the state. The class is taught in two 2.5 hour sessions from 6pm to 8:30pm on weeknights or, in one 5 hour session, usually from 8:30 to 2pm, on Saturdays. You can find the current schedule for the class here. The fee is $40.

AAA online defensive driving class

Maine allows a qualified online driver improvement class to take 3 points off your license. AAA offers these programs and they provide a more convenient alternative to the in person course. The cost is $50 and there is an additional fee for a certificate of completion which I recommend purchasing.

In either case, there is a slight delay between taking the class and having the points applied to your license. The Bureau of Highway Safety class is administered locally and then the paperwork is mailed to the central office to be processed. Results are then forwarded from Highway Safety to BMV and they enter the information to show the point reduction. The AAA online class completion list is forward electronically from AAA to highway safety, usually on a Monday or Tuesday. The information is processed and then forwarded to BMV. In either case, it can take up to 2 weeks for the point reduction to show on your driving record.

Other Administrative License Suspensions

Indefinite suspension can be imposed for the following reasons. Once the issue is resolved, the license can be restored:

  • Failing to pay fines or fees
  • Failing to appear for court dates
  • Failing to pay child support
  • Medical or Mental condition that affects the ability to drive

A 120 day administrative suspension can be imposed for a driver who:

  • Is found to have committed a new offense that adds license points, or can trigger a suspension and,
  • Has been suspended for violations 3 times within the past 3 years by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the Court.
  • The new offense need not actually trigger a points accumulation suspension. Even a person with zero current points can be suspended for 120 days if they commit a new violation and have 3 prior suspensions within 3 years.
  • Suspensions for failing to pay fines or child support, failing to appear, medical condition or other similar suspensions do not count toward the 3 priors.

Habitual offender revocation is possible

Maine’s habitual offender law is found at 29-A §2551-A. It provides that a driver’s right to operate will be revoked for 3 years if they are convicted of 3 major motor vehicle offenses within a 5 year period. That means three convictions for OUI, OAS, Eluding an officer and similar offenses will take you off the road for a long time. But lurking in the HO law is this clause allowing revocation if:

The person has accumulated 10 or more convictions or adjudications for moving violations arising out of separate acts committed within a 5-year period.

That means a person who gets 2 tickets each year for 5 years could get revoked for 3 years if they admit to all those tickets. For people who drive a lot, that’s a realistic possibility. You can’t tell what might happen in the future, and by the time you rack up you next violation, it’s too late to fight the first. Contesting your ticket today might save you a few points a few hundred dollars in fines today, but it could save your license in the coming years.

Paying a traffic ticket fine or filing fee

You pay fines or filing fees for speeding tickets or other citations to the violations bureau. Payment can be sent to:

Violations Bureau
PO Box 480
Lewiston ME 04243-0480

Tickets of filing fees can also be paid online through the Paytixx system. It works pretty well but it is not instantaneous and I have heard of people waiting a long time before their tickets are payable through the system. As of my last check, the site included this warning:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: There is a delay from the time you receive a ticket until it is entered into the Paytixx system. The clerks at the Violations Bureau must manually key in ticket information into the Paytixx system.

Currently, the Violations Bureau is short-staffed and has a backlog of tickets. If you have questions or concerns about your ticket, please contact the Violations Bureau at (207) 783-5422

Image from Chicago Man via Flickr.

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