Ready Law represents clients accused of the full range of traffic violations. Attorney Vernon Ready has successfully defended many, many traffic cases, including winning jury trials on traffic cases involving serious injuries. Traffic cases are often filed in the various municipal courts throughout the Denver metro area, and Attorney Vernon Ready has successfully defended clients in all of them. The same is true for all the Denver metro county courts. Working with an attorney who is familiar with the various county and municipal courts can be a major benefit for the accused. Knowing that a particular prosecutor or district attorney’s office has a policy or a history of dealing with certain traffic charges in a certain way can be very useful information early on for the accused.
Points and DMV Hearings
Most traffic violations in Colorado involve an imposition of points against the driver’s license. Depending on the offense a driver may face immediate suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). These suspensions do not always wait for a conviction in the criminal court. A charge can be enough all on its own to get the DMV moving on a suspension. This is the case in DUI per se cases, and in those cases where a driver refuses to test for intoxication. Although the driver is typically entitled to have a hearing at the DMV regarding any potential suspension or revocation of driving privileges, that hearing often happens independently of any case pending in the court. If a driver facing suspension or revocation requests a DMV hearing, the driver is usually also entitled to request that the ticketing police officer be present. The purpose of the hearing is for the DMV officer to determine whether a suspension or revocation of driving privileges is required under their rules, and if so, how long the suspension should be and whether any exceptions are appropriate. In these relatively brief and informal hearings, the driver and/or their attorney usually have an opportunity to question the ticketing officer and make brief arguments about whether a traffic stop was legal. Some DMV hearing officers may take the position that no such inquiry is appropriate for that hearing, and that may result in a legal argument between the hearing officer and defense counsel, if valid questions exist as to the legality of various police actions in the case. There is also a brief opportunity to present mitigating factors such as what the driver is doing to correct any issues underlying the traffic charges, and how a suspension might be shortened or modified to reduce the impact on the driver. DMV hearings related to a DUI per se can usually be accomplished by the attorney alone, and may not require that the driver be present. However, for DMV hearings on points, DMV officers typically do want the driver present, which can require additional preparations with the attorney so that the driver is adequately prepared to respond to questions the DMV officer may ask of the driver directly.
In Colorado, the points requirement for suspension of a driver’s license is 12 points in a 12 month period, or 18 points in a 24 month period, for an adult driver. For minors, the points requirement is lower, and in the case of some commercial or professional drivers the points requirement can be higher. As an example, a driver can expect a 4 point ticket for being caught driving 10-19 mp.h. over the speed limit. If a driver is ticketed for that offense three times in one year, they could be facing a suspension of their license due to points. It is certainly possible to get all the points needed for a suspension at once. Obviously a suspension can occur for just one DUI, but that its not based upon an accrual of points, but separate DMV rules established for DUI cases. However, the charge of reckless driving carries 8 points. Reckless driving is rarely charged alone, as the act of reckless driving usually includes other violations such as speeding, failing to yield, etc. In the case of reckless driving cases, it is very easy to have charges stacked such that even a significant reduction in charges still results in a suspended license. Leaving the scene of an accident, also known as failing to report or hit-and-run is a 12 point offense. So even if the other party is at fault in a collision, a driver could have their license suspended for leaving the scene without reporting. These high-point cases make representation all the more important.
Careless or Reckless Driving
Reckless driving in particular requires that the prosecution prove a willful or wanton disregard for safety. This is an important element of reckless driving because a reckless driving is an 8 point offense, and careless driving is a 4 point offense. If the prosecution is unable to prove willful or wanton disregard, careless driving is the more likely outcome, and 4 points in combination with other offenses is more likely to result in a driver keeping their license.
Careless or reckless driving resulting in injury to another person or property changes the nature of a traffic violation and requires a more complex defense. Although traffic tickets, relative to other criminal charges, often involve straight-forward issues, cases involving injuries almost always have higher stakes and often involve investigations and reports by outside experts. These cases are often further complicated by the threat of a looming lawsuit against the accused. An admission of guilt or or a loss at trial in these cases can then be used against the accused in a civil lawsuit. A loss in these cases can sometimes result in payment of restitution directly to the injured party, without them even having to sue, and can be financially devastating to the accused. Finally, these cases tend to involve more serious penalties than any other type of traffic violation, and often prosecutors who are eager to fully prosecute and less interested in resolving the case ahead of trial. Attorney Vernon Ready has successfully represented clients accused of causing injury to others by reckless and careless driving, sometimes with the injured party’s civil attorney present in the courtroom to watch the criminal trial. Like most cases, defending allegations of careless driving resulting in injury requires thorough investigation and a commitment to challenging the prosecution’s story. These matters are of special interest to us at Ready Law. If you are facing a charge of reckless driving, especially those involving injury to others, or vehicular assault or vehicular homicide, contact our office right away to discuss how we might be able to assist you.
Colorado has habitual traffic offender laws, which increase the punishment for those with prior traffic convictions. Those laws generally cover convictions for separate traffic offenses occurring within a period of 5 to 7 years prior to the date of the new offense. If applied, the habitual offender laws can result in more severe sentencing guidelines and will result in the revocation of the driver’s license.
Out of State Drivers and Penalties
Colorado is part of an inter-state compact, or agreement, to share information about driving penalties with other states. If an out of state driver is ticketed for violating a traffic law while in Colorado, any points or driving suspension will apply to that out of state driver just as it would to someone who resides here. So if an out of state driver’s license to drive in Colorado is suspended or revoked, that person will not be authorized to drive in Colorado until the Colorado driving privilege is re-instated. Colorado does report suspensions to other states. So it is possible that an out of state driver could have their right to drive in Colorado revoked or suspended, and then be unable to have their license renewed in their home state without first having the Colorado driving privilege reinstated. It is also possible the home state could suspend or revoke based on a Colorado suspension or revocation.
Colorado drivers who incur points against their driving record in other states, or who have their driving privilege suspended or revoked in another state, may also have those points, or suspension, or revocation applied here in Colorado. Colorado receives reports of some offenses from various states pursuant to the inter-state compact. However, Colorado does not in practice record all points for all offenses it receives reports on.
Charges of traffic violations can be serious, and can have serious consequences. Even seemingly minor charges can count toward habitual offender status, which can result in revocation of a license. If you are charged with a traffic violation and believe you might benefit from representation, call our office to schedule a consultation.