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What Happens If You Plead Guilty to Running a Red Light?

In Missouri, running a red light is a moving violation. A subsequent ticket can have significant implications for your driving record and insurance premiums. If a police officer pulls you over for not stopping at a red light, you have the right to fight the ticket in court, whether or not you think you are guilty.

Pleading guilty may seem like the right thing to do, but this may not always be in your best interest. Read on to find out about pleading guilty and your legal options when you run a red light.

Guilty Plea

Even if you think you violated a traffic law, you are not obligated to plead guilty. The burden of proof lies with the prosecutor who has to convince the judge that you indeed violated traffic laws.

Many people wrongly assume that pleading guilty will help to avoid a lengthy court trial process. All you need to do is sign the back of the ticket and consequently plead guilty. This allows you to pay the fine and avoid going to court.

If you ran a red light and violated other traffic laws at the same time, you might not be able to avoid traffic court altogether. The officer who stopped you might require that you make a court appearance.

In traffic court, you have the option of pleading guilty with an explanation. This means pleading guilty and providing the judge with a good explanation of why you violated traffic laws with the hope that the judge will reduce or suspend the fine.

Even with the best explanation, you have no guarantee that the judge will suspend or lower your fine. A better approach would be to work with a skilled traffic attorney to prepare a good defense against your traffic citation.

Driving Record Points

If you plead guilty and pay the ticket, you will accumulate demerit points on your driving record. In Missouri, violation of state stop sign laws will result in two demerit points and violation of county laws will result in two points too.

Violation of municipal stop sign ordinances will result in one point for an infraction that did not result in an accident and two points for a stop sign infraction that resulted in an accident.

One or two demerit points may not do much harm to your driving record. However, accumulating eight or more points within 18 months will result in the Department of Revenue suspending your driving privilege.

Repeat traffic violations and consequently an accumulation of demerit points could result in the Department revoking your driving license for a year. Pleading guilty to a traffic violation could easily tip the scales against your favor, especially if you have already accumulated demerit points on your driving record.

On the contrary, pleading not guilty gives you a fighting chance to avoid accumulating demerit points altogether or accumulating more points.

Plea Bargain 

In some instances, for example, where you have no evidence to defend against a ticket so the judge will likely find you guilty, and you want to avoid accumulating points on your record, pleading guilty may be your last resort.

A skilled traffic attorney can help you negotiate a plea bargain deal with the prosecutor. This means you plead guilty, pay the fine (which might be higher than the original fee), and have the infraction reduced from a moving to a non-moving traffic violation.

A non-moving traffic violation will not add points to your record and will not affect your insurance rates.

Pleading guilty to an alleged offense, including a minor traffic infraction, should not be your first course of action. Your best bet is to seek advice from an experienced attorney to discuss available legal options.

If you have received a traffic citation, get in touch with the skilled attorneys at David Naumann & Associates in St Louis, MO, to help you prepare a strong defense.

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