Nobody likes getting a ticket. You’re running late to work or school and get pulled over for speeding or yielding at a stop sign. One speeding ticket isn’t so bad. But if you’ve had numerous citations for speeding or other driving offenses, you could be looking at too many license points adding up, which leads to suspension. A suspended license will affect more areas of your life than you can imagine. Our criminal defense team will vigorously help you fight a traffic ticket.
Here’s What’s Covered in This Article
- Why You Should Fight a Traffic Ticket
- How Long Your License Can be Suspended
- How an Attorney Can Help You Fight a Traffic Ticket
- Colorado Driver’s License Points System
- Common Driving Violations and Associated License Points
- When Do Points Come Off of My License?
- Do Points Reset After I (or my kid) Turn 18 or 21?
- How Many Points are on My License?
I Need to Fight a Traffic Ticket
Every ticket adds points to your license, and your next infraction could trigger an outright suspension. Our experienced Criminal Defense Team has helped individuals hold on to their driving privileges. You don’t have to settle for a bad outcome like losing your license. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.
Are You Facing a Driver’s License Suspension?
Why You Should Fight a Traffic Ticket
If you drive, you probably depend on your vehicle. Think about how many times you drive every day or each week. To work and back. To school and back. To buy groceries and haul them back home. You tote the kids all over town: to school, lacrosse, band practice, sleepovers, and birthday parties. Maybe you go to the gym or religious services. Now, imagine if you couldn’t just grab your keys and go.
If your license gets suspended, you must find alternative transportation for each of these daily and weekly trips. And if it involves a motor vehicle, you’ll have to get used to the back seat, or the passenger side, or a space next to a stranger on a bus — but never behind the wheel.
Of course, some people resort to driving on a suspended license, which we do not recommend. If you get caught doing that, then you’re looking at criminal charges, jail time, and fines.
We cannot underscore enough how vital it is for your everyday life to fight a traffic ticket, especially if you’re in the running for a suspended license.
Take a look at this infographic for a quick breakdown: Driving License Points
How Long Your License Can be Suspended
If you accumulate too many license points over a certain period of time, the Division of Motor Vehicles will notify you that you’re being called for a suspension hearing. That’s not good.
You will be allowed to present testimony and evidence on your own behalf, however, the DMV could suspend your license for six months to a year. The state of Colorado is serious about taking dangerous motorists off the road.
Getting back on the road takes more than waiting out the suspension. You must present yourself at a full-service driver’s license office, show proof of current liability auto insurance, and pay a reinstatement fee. The current fee is $95.00. If you fail to take those steps before getting behind the wheel again, you can still get cited for driving on a suspended license, even if the punitive period has expired.
This statute (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 42-2-124(3)) was tested and upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court in Colorado Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles vs. Brakhage in 1987:
“Once a person’s license or privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been suspended, that person must pay a restoration fee before the license or privilege will be restored as required by Colo. Rev. Stat. § 42-2-124(3) (1984). Therefore, the status of suspension continues until the period of suspension has expired and the restoration fee has been paid.”
Limited Driving Privileges
The DMV could allow a probationary license for the length of your suspension so you can continue driving in limited circumstances, such as to work or school, or in the case of a medical emergency. As laid out in C.R.S 42-2-127 subsection 12:
“In the event that the driver’s license is suspended, the department may issue a probationary license for a period not to exceed the period of suspension, which license may contain such restrictions as the department deems reasonable and necessary and which may thereafter be subject to cancellation as a result of any violation of the restrictions imposed therein.”
Conditions on a probationary license can include mandatory enrollment and attendance in a driver’s education program and/or a drug and alcohol treatment regimen. Mandatory means that you must attend the scheduled meetings, or else fail to get your license back.
If you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, the DMV could install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle. It’s a breathalyzer test that locks the ignition on a vehicle until the driver submits to it. If the IID detects alcohol on the breath, the car will not start.
How an Attorney Can Help You Fight a Traffic Ticket
Many people just pay their ticket and move on. Let’s be honest, that’s usually cheaper than hiring an attorney. But there are situations when it’s smarter to get an attorney to help you fight a traffic ticket.
Let’s consider a couple of scenarios.
If you depend on a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for your livelihood, the stakes are even higher. Just one serious traffic violation can cost you your job, and quite possibly your career. This is in addition to other penalties such as jail time, fines and getting placed on probation.
Drivers required to hold a CDL are kept to higher standards by law enforcement and the companies they drive for. This is because they drive larger, heavier vehicles such as semi tractor-trailers and school buses, and transport everything from hazardous chemicals to groups of passengers, including children. The law has zero tolerance for certain violations a driver commits behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle (CMV). This means an automatic, one-year suspension of your CDL for even a first offense of:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .04 or higher
- Using a CMV or non-CMV in the commission of a felony
- Using a CMV or non-CMV to distribute, dispense or manufacture a controlled substance
- Refusing to take a blood alcohol test
- Causing the death of another person due to negligence while driving a CMV
These are disqualifying offenses, and will lead to revocation of your CDL even if you were operating your personal vehicle at the time of arrest.
A Colorado Case of Immediate CDL Revocation
On the night of December 4, 2002, a semi-tractor trailer approached a red light and never stopped. Silverthorne Police Department Officer Theresa Barger witnessed the violation and pulled the semi over. The driver, Terry Lee Hibbs, had bloodshot, watery eyes and slurred speech. So Barger administered three roadside sobriety tests. Hibbs failed all three. He also failed a breathalyzer test, blowing a 0.151 grams per 210 liters of breath, four times the legal limit of .04 for commercial drivers.
Officer Barger gave Hibbs a ride straight to jail, then forwarded her arrest report to the Department of Revenue. The DOR then sent Hibbs a notice of CDL revocation for one year, and summoned him to an administrative hearing, where Hibbs was found to be in violation of the 0.04 limit for a commercial vehicle operator. The hearing officer revoked all of Hibbs’ driving privileges for three months, and his CDL for one year, as provided by subsections 42-2-126(6)(b)(I) and (III), C.R.S. (2002).Colo. Dept. of Revenue vs. Hibbs, 122, P3.d, 999.
Hibbs and his counsel challenged some technicalities in Barger’s paperwork, and won two successive appeals of his CDL revocation, but the Colorado Supreme Court reversed those appeals and upheld the original revocation on November 7, 2005.
Endangering others, and your career
Other moving violations could be considered serious enough, under certain circumstances, to warrant an immediate CDL license revocation. In most cases, a first offense leads to a fine, with the second triggering an automatic, 60-day suspension of a CDL. They include:
- Speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the posted limit
- Reckless driving
- Erratic or aggressive lane changes
- Driving without a valid CDL as required by law
- Following too close behind another vehicle
The math is easy: No CDL equals no income as a commercial driver. While you’d be allowed to apply for a reinstatement of your CDL after one year, a conviction for any serious violation will blight your MVR (motor vehicle record) for years. Potential employers in the commercial driving industry could be reluctant to hire you.
There is also the matter of insurance. No, not your individual auto insurance (we’ll get to that soon) but the premiums your employer pays so you can earn a paycheck driving their commercial vehicle.
Federal and state law enforcement agencies are strict enough on CDL drivers. Employers can be even less flexible. Traffic violations by their drivers inflate insurance costs. It’s up to the individual employer to decide when enough is enough. They’re worried about their own bottom line and company reputation, not the Department of Motor Vehicles’ point system.
This applies also to working drivers whose jobs do not require a CDL. These include:
- Rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft
- Delivery drivers
- LPR camera car operators
- Small-transport chauffeurs carrying fewer than 16 passengers
Even if you don’t possess a CDL, your paycheck depends on a clean driving record. Protect it.
Everyday Drivers with Too Many Points Already
If you find yourself on the brink of a license suspension, fighting that traffic ticket could be well worth your time and money. Losing your driving privileges would leave you vulnerable to a wide range of expenses and inconveniences. Having experienced representation on your side can make all the difference.
Traffic Ticket Defenses
Experienced criminal defense lawyers know the law and can negotiate on your behalf. Even better, they employ a variety of legal strategies that can help you hold onto your driver’s license. Here are a few:
Negotiate with the prosecutor.
An attorney can work with the prosecutor to minimize the number of points a ticket adds to your license. For example, reducing a hefty moving violation down to a lighter non-moving infraction.
Challenge the accuracy of the responding police officer.
Officers are human. They don’t always have the best vantage point when spotting what looks like a traffic violation. An attorney has seen these cases time and again and knows when an officer’s citation should be challenged.
Use the “mistake-of-fact” defense.
In this defense, your attorney would argue that your vantage point was obscured when the alleged violation occurred. In other words, for example, you didn’t see the stop sign or that the lights had changed.
Get the ticket dismissed.
This is the best outcome possible. An experienced courtroom attorney is a decisive advantage if you’re challenging a ticket you believe to be unjustified. A lawyer knows the laws, the paperwork, the details, and the right questions to ask while defending you. A lawyer also has better access to crucial evidence, such as security camera footage.
Colorado Driver’s License Points System
What are Driving License Points and How Do They Affect My License?
The Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) uses a license points system to keep track of driving infractions. If enough points stack up on your record over time, your license could be suspended.
Certain driving offenses are assigned a range of points, with ‘1’ being minor and ’12’ reserved for the most serious offenses, any one of which can push a license to at least the brink of suspension. Some 12-point violations include:
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Eluding or attempting to elude a police officer
- Speed contests, or street racing
There are also a number of common moving violations that each add 4 points to a license. These include:
- Improper passing or lane usage
- Ignoring a traffic sign or signal
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Careless driving
How many points you’re allowed to have during a certain timeframe before the DMV takes action depends on how old you are.
Points Allowed by Age
The younger you are, the fewer license points you’re allowed during a shorter period of time.
The Youngest Drivers
A driver between the ages of 16 and 18 can accumulate 6 points in any 12 consecutive months, or 7 for the period of their license. This means a driver can collect only 7 points between the ages of 16 and 18.
18 to 21 Years of Age
Between the ages of 18 and 21, a driver can accumulate up to 9 points over 12 consecutive months, 12 points over 24 months, or 14 for the duration of the license.
22 and Up
After the age of 21, a driver can rack up 12 points over 12 consecutive months or 18 points over two years.
The Points Follow You
The Division of Motor Vehicles tracks demerit points by your name and date of birth. This means your driver’s license points follow you. You do not start with a clean slate if you relocate to another state or add a chauffeur’s license or commercial driver’s license to your DMV file. If your personal driver’s license has, say, 8 points against it that haven’t yet expired, they carry over to your professional license. And vice versa. If you get a speeding ticket on the job, those points count against your personal license as much as they count against your CDL or chauffeur’s license.
Additional Driving Violations and Associated License Points
- Driving while ability is impaired by alcohol – 8 points
- Reckless driving – 8 points
- Failure to stop for a school bus — 6 points
- Failure to maintain or show proof of insurance – 4 points
- Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle – 4 points
- Failure to yield right-of-way – 3 points
- Speeding over posted limit 5–9 m.p.h. – 1 point
- Speeding over posted limit 10–19 m.p.h. – 4 points
- Speeding over posted limit 20–39 m.p.h. – 6 points
- Speeding over posted limit 40–or more m.p.h. – 12 points
- Improper turn – 3 points
- Driving through safety zone – 3 points
- Driving in the wrong lane or direction on a one-way street – 3 points
- Failure to signal or improper signal – 2 points
- Improper backing – 2 points
- Failure to dim or turn on lights – 2 points
- Operating an unsafe vehicle – 2 points
When Do Points Come Off of My License?
License points stop counting toward a suspension after 24 months. That does not mean your tickets just evaporate. In Colorado, a traffic ticket stays on file for seven years, even if the points drop off after two.
A conviction for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) remains on your record for 10 years. Any suspension of your license stays on your DMV record permanently.
Traffic Tickets: A Gift that Keeps on Taking
Most insurance companies trace your driving record back at least three years to determine the cost of your premiums. Some go back five years. More tickets equal higher premiums, which leads to more money leaving your bank account every month. The amounts are not insignificant, either. According to Bankrate.com, full-coverage premiums increase by $20 to $30 per month for Colorado adults aged 40 or older, after just one ticket.
Premiums could shoot up even higher for younger drivers.
Do Points Reset After I (or my kid) Turn 18 or 21?
No. The number of points a driver can accumulate before license suspension slightly increases after ages 18 and 21, but demerits earned on your first license still count toward suspension for 24 months.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you get a ticket the week before your 18th birthday. The points from that ticket count on your driving record until a week before your 20th birthday.
The only way to obtain a clean record is to consistently obey traffic laws or hire a criminal defense attorney to help you get the points dismissed. Even then you may only receive a reduction in points – or none at all depending on the circumstances of your case.
How Many Points are on My License?
One way to know for sure is to keep track of your traffic convictions and the points they added. You can request a copy of your driving record online from the DMV. It’s not free. The DMV charges a $9 fee for your record. Certified driving records cost $10.
If you don’t like doing business online, you can make a written request via mail. If you do that, you’ll have to include a check or money order.
Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles
Driver Control Section
PO Box 173350-3350
Denver, CO 80217
Get a Criminal Defense Attorney to Fight a Traffic Ticket
If the possible suspension of your license hangs over you, don’t wait. At Robinson and Henry, we have experienced criminal defense attorneys who can review the facts of your case and give you the best chance at keeping your license. Give us a call at 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.