All too often I receive phone calls from current or potential clients that repeat the phrase, “The cop told me that I should….” And it is followed with some type of advice as to how to handle their situation. Unless I am mistaken, the police academy is not the equivalent of law school.
I have heard everything from, “the cop told me I should request a hearing if I want to fight my ticket” to “the cop told me that I wasn’t really being arrested.”
When disputing a payable traffic ticket, such as a speeding ticket, there is a difference between a hearing and a trial. If you request a trial, the officer has to show up in court and testify. If you merely request a hearing, he or she never has to go and you are admitting your guilt. The officer is not going to explain that difference to you. When asked, the officer will likely mention your right to a “hearing” and not mention your right to a “trial.”
Second, when you are given a citation for driving suspended, you are being arrested despite the fact that you may never be taken to the police station. This gives the false impression that the ticket is “no big deal.” In the meantime, some of these tickets carry a maximum penalty of a year in jail and can put 12 points on your license!!
I have also heard people tell me, “the cop told me that if I just paid the money, I wouldn’t have to go to court.” This is AFTER the cop has filed theft charges. I like to hope they are just very confused as to how the system works, but either way, these deceptive statements are very misleading (to say the least). Once charges are filed, the officer no longer gets to decide if the case is going forward in court. It is now the prosecutor’s decision.
The bottom line – DO NOT trust the “advice” that the police are giving you. The minute you come into contact with a law enforcement officer, immediately contact a Maryland criminal attorney to best assist you with how to handle the situation. Remember, attorneys went to law school – police officers did not!!!