Mississippi Traffic Ticket: What to expect.
If you are issued a Mississippi Traffic Ticket, some variation may occur depending on the county or municipality, but generally the same process is followed. Keep in mind the burden is on prosecuting entity, the government, and it is a violation of law under the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Below is an overview of what to expect.
The Traffic Stop
This is the most stressful part of what you can expect from getting a Mississippi Traffic Ticket. It is also the most crucial part of your case. This is where you get to take a look at the officer. Listen carefully to what is said. And make notes afterwards.
- Take a good look at the officer. Your attorney will likely ask you on your court date if you see the officer there. If the officer is not there, then a good attorney may be able to get the entire ticket thrown out and end everything right then and there.
- Next, listen to what the officer says. The old adage about two ears and one mouth is crucial. If asked by the officer if you know why he pulled you over, the answer is always “NO.” Unless you are a mind reader, there is no way for you to know the reason the officer stopped you. You may even have a suspicion or two, but you do not know the reason the officer initiated the traffic stop. Let him or her tell you the reason for initiating the stop and your attorney can sort through whether or not it violated your constitutional rights. Plus, officers often give as much or more information than they take, so Listen Up.
- Further, exercise your right to remain silent. You don’t have to tell the officer where you were or where you were going. The officer may say he or she knows you are up to something since you won’t talk. Silence is never an admission in criminal matters. You can use your best judgment on this one, but some information is just none of the officer’s business and could lead to probable cause to search your vehicle or to an arrest. You have the right to remain silent, don’t hesitate to exercise that right.
- Additionally, take good notes. What happened before, during, and immediately after the stop from your perspective are very important pieces of information, which only you may know. Memory fades over time and you may not remember the weather that day or if other vehicles were on the road. Take a moment and jot down what happened on the back of a piece of paper so you will have something to refresh your memory when you speak with the attorney.
- Lastly, never be rude to the officer. The side of the road is not the place for an argument. On top of that, an ounce of sugar goes a lot further than a pound of salt.
Get all the information you can. Call the court. Ask for a copy of your file, the ticket, and anything else they will give you. This will be a big help in your initial consultation with an attorney. From day one everyone will know what the situation is.
Show Up for Court
This is not limited to just court dates relating to your traffic ticket. Appear for all of your court dates relating to any legal matter. Usually a person will have two court dates for a traffic ticket in Mississippi. The first one is your initial appearance and the second date is your trial.
- Initial Appearance: This is where you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The facts of your case will not be presented to the judge. This is not where your case is argued. You will be called to appear in front of the judge, the charges read, and a request to enter a plea. While Mississippi does offer a plea similar to no contest (nolo contendere) it is relatively uncommon to see it entered at this point. You will enter your plea and the clerk of court will schedule your Trial Date.
- Trial Date: You will be there along with the officer, other witnesses, any experts, the prosecutor, and hopefully you retained counsel to assist you who will be there.
- Continuances: While courts as a matter of practice reschedule or continue court dates you will be notified in such an event. If you need to reschedule a court date, such an action for a Mississippi Traffic Ticket charge generally requires a showing of good cause. Having a cold is not likely good cause. An emergency surgery to address a life-threatening issue is likely good cause. Use your better judgment when asking for a continuance.
Most cases do not go to trial. The vast majority of criminal cases in Mississippi resolve through plea deals.
Your attorney may communicate with the prosecuting attorney before your court date or before court begins on your court date to discuss a plea bargain. Both sides will discuss the facts and circumstances of the case, then compare them with the laws of Mississippi. In that way everyone can determine the possibilities of the different verdicts.
A plea bargain can consist of anything from dismissal of all charges to an open plea. An open plea is rarely, if ever, entered since you would be admitting guilt and throwing yourself on the mercy of the court.
This is where you get to confront your accusers pursuant to the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, you are entitled to due process of law throughout the handling of your Mississippi Traffic Ticket case. A trial begins with opening statements by all parties. Then, the prosecution, who represents the government, presenting their case, then you will put on evidence and witnesses, if any, and finally the judge will make a ruling entered by the clerk of court if you are found guilty.
- The Prosecution’s Case: The prosecution is trying to have the court find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the charge identified in your Mississippi Traffic Ticket. The government will spend this portion building their case against you. Usually, the government will call the police officer that issued the citation as a witness along with anyone else who saw the alleged crime. Once the government presents their case, their attorney will rest.
- Your Defense Case: You don’t have to build anything. Most of your time is spent poking holes and knocking down what the prosecution is attempting to build since you are presumed innocent. Your attorney will cross examine any witnesses the government calls. Additionally, a good portion of your defense’s efforts may be dedicated to keeping out certain evidence. Rarely is a witness called on your behalf unless there were passengers in the automobile with you.
Additionally, while you have the right to testify on your own behalf under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, it is not recommended you do so. Your credibility will undergo serious scrutiny. Further, people often get emotional since they are charged with a crime. In short, rarely does it benefit you to testify on your own behalf when defending a Mississippi Traffic Ticket.
What if I am found not guilty?
Wonderful! You are free to go and cannot be charged with the same crime under the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. You may want to consider expunging any records of the arrest, but that is discussed further down.
What if I am found guilty?
Depending on the charge, fines and/or jail time will be assessed immediately after the judge’s ruling. If the court orders you to pay a fine, a significant portion, or the entire amount in some jurisdictions, must be paid that day. Many courts understand people live on a budget and allow an individual to make monthly payments. If jail time is ordered, you may be taken into custody immediately following trial, or the court may allow you to serve the time when convenient to you. The courts aren’t trying to turn productive men and women into homeless men and women.
If you are found guilty in a municipal court or justice court, you have the right to appeal your case to the county court, or circuit court if a county does not have a county court. However, Rule 12.02 of the Uniform Circuit and County Court Rules only allows thirty (30) days from the date of judgment to file your appeal. To perfect an appeal for a Mississippi Traffic Ticket, you must post the proper cost bond and appeal bond. Additionally, a proper notice of appeal must be prepared and filed.
An appeal to the county court will result in a brand new trial. This is called a trial de novo in legal terms. That makes the justice or municipal court trial essentially an expensive practice run.
Another great advantage of appealing to a county or circuit court is the applicability of the Mississippi Rules of Evidence and the Uniform Circuit and County Court Rules which are not found in the justice or municipal courts. This means procedures exist for admitting, or excluding, evidence. Additionally, these rules create certain rights and obligations for all parties, especially concerning documents relating to you Mississippi Traffic Ticket.
In the event you do not get a favorable ruling at the original trial court or at the county/circuit court, then you have the right to file an appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Usually, these will be deferred to the Mississippi Court of Appeals where a panel of judges will hear your case. You do not receive another trial de novo at this point. The Mississippi Supreme Court will only review the record and evidence from the lower court. The Mississippi Supreme Court will not admit new evidence or testimony.
While you may have a right to appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals from this juncture, the circumstances must concern a constitutional issue. Appeals going this far are rare, but worth mentioning.
An expungement will not remove all records of your arrest. It will remove records accessible to employers who are not governmental entities. While agencies such as the department who arrested you, the FBI, and CIA will likely always have a copy of your record, they should not be accessible to the vast majority of employers. Hence, it is a good idea to retain the attorney who represented you for your Mississippi Traffic Ticket to petition the court for an expungement.
If the court finds you guilty of a traffic ticket, it cannot be expunged under Mississippi Code Annotated Section 99-19-71(1). However, if your case is dropped or dismissed, upon your petition, the court shall expunge your record pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated Section 99-15-123(3).
Therefore, it is always a good idea to speak with an attorney regarding any expungement. In fact, Mississippi law severely limits the options for expungement.
Is it worth hiring a lawyer?
Yes! Besides possibly avoiding jail time and fines, you may save a significant amount on your monthly insurance premiums. Contact your agent and discuss the increased costs associated with a speeding ticket. Make sure you ask how long you will pay the increased premiums. This is even more serious when you get a traffic ticket in Mississippi as a commercial truck driver.
After speaking with your insurance agent, call law firms who handle Mississippi Traffic Ticket defense. Get the price they charge to represent you and compare it with your increased premiums. That way you will know the dollars and cents you are looking at either way. Just don’t forget about issues regarding employability when performing the math.
How do I know if my lawyer is good?
Ask him or her what their experience is. Another good thing to ask is whether they handle matters in the justice and municipal courts of Mississippi. Ask what areas of law they practice in the most. I know I do a significant amount of criminal law throughout Mississippi’s municipal, justice, county, and circuit courts and do not hesitate to answer any questions a client has about potential representation.
Call and setup an initial consultation with The Franks Law Firm, PLLC
Our staff is here Monday through Friday to discuss your options regarding any Mississippi Traffic Ticket you received. We charge an affordable $20 fee for an initial consultation. During that time we can discuss the facts of your case giving you peace of mind as to what faces you. Contact us now so we can begin assisting you with your Mississippi Traffic Ticket. Time is always important is any legal matter. Call us now.