I’ve been thinking a lot about my traffic ticket lately. Though I think I’m supposed to.
In case you have your own life, a few weeks ago I wrote about a moving violation I got for allegedly making an “unsafe” illegal left turn that everyone in town makes – including cops – but that I personally had never made before when nothing could technically have been unsafe anyway because everyone for a few blocks in every direction was stopped in traffic. Not that I’m sore.
But just because I regret what I may have done doesn’t mean that I don’t want to fight the ticket. According to what it says on the ticket, if I don’t fight it, it will cost me money, and I’ll lose points off my license. I don’t really care so much about the money, but no one wants to lose points.
Now the truth is that it’s 2 points, and these are the only 2 points I will have lost in my 20 years of driving so far, and points only really matter in the first place because they add up. If I lose 2 points every 20 years of driving, and New Jersey takes away a license after 12 points, then they’re probably going to take my license away when I’m 140. Although maybe they should take it away by then anyway. So I’m not so worried about the points either.
But if you get points deducted, your car insurance goes up, and you have to shell out more money. And yes, I just said that I’m not so worried about the money, but I am worried about that money. With ticket fines, the cops at least let you know how much the fine is up font, so you can brace for it. The insurance company can just make up a number, and that’s your number forever. Just because one time I made a left that everyone else makes anyway, I’m going to pay the insurance company more money for the next 1200 months?
So the first thing my wife said was, “Maybe you should call a lawyer.” So I made a mental note to do that, as soon as I got a chance, and the very next day, I got letters from a dozen law firms. I didn’t actually do anything to get these letters. I hadn’t called anyone. I don’t know if these lawyers are spying on the cops or spying on my house, or what. Is this legal?
But it’s nice that my one traffic violation is supporting the entire Tri-State area’s law industry. I got literally a dozen letters, and also one postcard. That last law firm was like, “Let’s just send him a postcard!” What am I, your bubby? The postcard is actually bilingual – it has words in Spanish and Arabic. I would say trilingual, but the English wasn’t that great. For example, it says on the back, “Got a traffic ticket only $199 each.” Just like that; no punctuation. I don’t know if that means I’m paying $199 for the ticket, or the lawyer, or what. Are they saying that they got a traffic ticket? And they’re selling it?
Maybe I should call them. After all, it also says on the postcard, “All cases 100% confidential.” Except for the fact that they didn’t bother putting this in an envelope.
I’m not sure I want to go with any of these guys. I don’t want to go with a lawyer who follows the cops around and sends letters the very next day. All these lawyers knew that I got a ticket. I didn’t tell my parents that I got a ticket. They’d be like, “See? I knew we shouldn’t have let him start driving… Twenty years ago.” I was even hesitant to tell my wife, but she was wondering why I got home late. I had to tell her something. And I’m glad I told her, or she’d be wondering about all the lawyer letters that started coming in the mail the next day.
I don’t trust these lawyers, because they’re all calling and offering to represent me, and none of them knows for sure that I’m innocent. I hadn’t told anyone why I thought I was innocent. Do they just assume that everyone is innocent? Everyone?
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you off.”
How do you know you can get me off?
What is your motivation to do a good job? So that in 20 years when I get another moving violation I’ll remember you and call you? You don’t have an easy-to-remember name! No law firm does. There’s no alliteration in law-firm names. (“I called the Ticket Tacklers!” “Yeah? I called the Lamdanim at Law!” “I called the Taanah Team!” “I called the Law Suits!)”
I mean, I guess I understand why they sent these letters so quickly; they’re trying to drum up business. I only have a couple of weeks to get my act together here, and he’s a lawyer for traffic cases; how should he get business? Does anyone know him from before? Is anyone ever thinking, “I should really look into traffic lawyers, so I have one on retainer when I start making illegal lefts.” People have a couple of weeks until their court date, and they’re going to go with the first lawyer they hear of, because the truth is that all lawyers could probably get them off equally. It’s not like the judge is in any major hurry to execute traffic violators on the spot. It’s a traffic violation – he could just take away your license and you won’t be able to hurt anybody. Unless what you did was drive without a license. Then taking it away won’t accomplish much. But even then, for 95% of people who drive without a license, it’s because they left their license in their other pants. In fact, I think when you pass your license exam, they should give you two, and you can pop them out of a larger piece of plastic, like with library cards. Maybe one can be a key fob. That you put on your car keys. Why has no one thought of this?
So I asked some friends what I should do, and a lot of people were saying that seeing as it’s so easy, I should go fight it myself. But I wasn’t sure I could. I’ve never fought anything in my life. I’m a people pleaser. I will say whatever seems like it will inconvenience people the least.
So I called a law firm that my wife had originally found for me to call, I think based on the fact that the name of the firm sounded Jewish. Though looking at these letters I got, the name of every firm sounds Jewish. Except for the postcard one. But they did advertise that they give free ten-minute phone consultations. So I asked them some hard-hitting questions, like, “Would there be a benefit to my hiring a lawyer?” and they answered objectively that yes, I should definitely hire a lawyer, and preferably them, in their unbiased opinion.
“We can get you off,” they said.
Only they can get me off? What about all these other people who mailed me?
So I asked, “What’s your success rate?”
And they said, “We have a phenomenal success rate. Don’t even worry about it.”
So I said, “Okay. And what’s the success rate of people who don’t use a lawyer?”
And they said, “Well, we obviously don’t have the stats for that. The people who don’t use a lawyer don’t call us afterward to tell us how it went. Everyone we know uses us.”
So I said, “Well, then what good are you? All you know are reasons I should hire you. Who can I call for unbiased opinions? Is there like a judge I can call?”
So I called my uncle, who’s in insurance. But not car insurance. That’s the official reason I called him, but he also strikes me as someone who may have experience with moving violations.
I asked him, “Do you think I could do this myself?”
And he said, “Of course you can. All you have to do is show up with an argument.”
So I said, “Listen, I can’t think on my feet. This lawyer that I just called was sure that he could get me off. Maybe it’s worth hiring him just to take some of the stress off me.”
So he said, “I’ll tell you what: Call them back and ask them if they’d stake their pay on it – in writing – that if they don’t get you off, you don’t have to pay them. And if they’re willing to do that, keep their number. And also send it to me.”
So I called the law firm back, and they said, “No way.”
And I asked, “Why? You said you’re sure!”
And they said, “We can’t do this for free!”
And I said, “I’m not asking you to. You’re going to get me off, and I’m going to pay you. You can do this!”
I think the fact that I asked that question in the first place made them nervous that this was going to be a harder case than usual. Though I don’t even know why they were scared. They’re lawyers; they could have agreed to what I said and then argued out of it later. Were they afraid I’d have my own lawyers read over their contract for loopholes so they couldn’t? If I have my own lawyer, why am I calling them?