Do I Need a Lawyer for My Class C Ticket?

Happy Friday everybody, hope you all are having a great week. Wanted to talk to you for a minute today about an issue that comes up every once in a while. And that’s people wonder if getting a lawyer is necessary when you get a class C misdemeanor. In other words, a ticket. And just to give you some background for those of you might not be aware, class C misdemeanor, it’s the lowest level offense in the state of Texas. It is what you get when you get a speeding ticket or a seatbelt ticket or something of the like. The range of punishment is no jail time at all, it’s punishable by fine only and that fine can’t exceed $500. So a lot of times we have people come in, who’ve been given a ticket and they want to know is it even worth paying the money for a lawyer to deal with it?

And the answer that I typically give is it’s not a simple answer. It’s really up to the case. It’s up to the client. It’s up to the facts because what is seemingly a relatively minor issue can sometimes if it’s handled in the incorrect manner, it can become a much bigger problem and I’ll give you a couple of examples. So the first one is I had a case not too long ago, where two brothers got into a fight as brothers sometimes do. And the officers ended up citing one of the brothers with a class C misdemeanor for assault, which the officer felt he was doing the brother a favor by not charging it as a class A, which is assault causing bodily injury. But just a simple class C, assault by offensive contact.

The problem is because the two were brothers, it was designated as a family violence offense. And if that brother would have simply gone to the municipal court, paid the fine and gone on about his business, what would have occurred is that class C misdemeanor would go on his record as a conviction for a family violence offense, which would mean that under federal law, he is no longer allowed to possess firearms or ammunition. Now this young man was a hunter, so that would have been a very big issue for him. So for that case specifically, it was well worth paying a retainer fee to a lawyer to make sure that it gets done properly so that his firearms, his Second Amendment rights were not compromised by the result.

Another issue that we have come up from time to time is when it’s a class C misdemeanor but the client has specific immigration issues. So if it’s a class C let’s say a shoplifting charge, they shoplifted something out of a store. The value is less than a $100, it’s a class C misdemeanor. But again, if they simply go in, pay the fine, it becomes a conviction on their record. And because theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude, they could run into some fairly significant issues when they go to either renew their visa or apply for citizenship or something of the like. So that’s why it’s an incredibly fact-specific question.

The other times that sometimes it’s worth handling a lawyer, even if it’s not one of these cases that has these extenuating circumstances is simply because it’s a client who, for whatever reason, simply can’t or doesn’t want to attend court hearings. So something like even a public intoxication or a speeding ticket, if the person let’s say in the COVID world is an immunocompromised individual. I just came back from the Frisco Municipal Court, representing a client. And the benefit of him hiring me was that I was allowed to appear on his behalf. They are still requiring appearances in person, but the lawyer can appear on your behalf. So he didn’t have to get out of his house and go up to the municipal court to take care of this situation. So that’s another reason that it could be beneficial to hire a lawyer for a class C misdemeanor.

Ultimately, my advice to anybody out there, if you do get a class C misdemeanor, it doesn’t hurt at all to at least call a criminal defense lawyer like me, like somebody that represents people in the state of Texas and simply asked the question. Most of the time we will either tell you over the phone that it’s something that could likely be handled by yourself, or we’ll refer you out to somebody who routinely does these traffic ticket type cases. So they can take on your case for a much lower fee than, than what we would charge. Or we’ll bring you in for a free consultation. We’ll sit down with you and we’ll go over pros and cons and let you know what we think the best strategy is moving forward. And then you can make an educated decision on what you want to do based on that information.

So again, it’s no harm. There’s nothing that keeps you from at least calling and talking to me about it because I will walk you through the process, what to expect, what can happen. And if there is something out there that could cause you issues, it’s much better to handle it upfront than coming to me in two years and saying, “I just applied for a new visa and I’m getting denied. I need to go back and change this guilty plea to a deferred”. It’s going to be much too late for me to fix it at that point. So give me a call and I’m happy to walk you through that.

Hope everybody had a great week. Looking forward to a very hot weekend, but hopefully everybody out there staying safe, staying healthy. Wear your masks people. Be safe, be smart, and we’ll get through this and come about the other side relatively unscathed with all things considered. So give me a call if you have any questions. If you have any topics you want me to cover, drop a comment, drop an email. I’m happy to take them up on an individual basis. Looking forward to talking to you all next week. Have a good Friday.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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