Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

Why Is It Worth Hiring an Attorney if It’s All About Paying Fines?

If your case is only about paying fines, there may not be a need to hire an attorney. There are many situations in which people come to me with some sort of minor summons and I will tell them they’re better off to just go in and pay the fine rather than hire an attorney. Those are not criminal cases.

If you are charged with a crime, you face things with far more serious consequences than a fine, and people often don’t realize that. They think it’s a relatively minor thing, so they decide to just pay the fine because they don’t realize that if they do not have an attorney to prevent the consequences this may result in having a criminal record, which is far more serious over the course of their life than any fine imposed.

The worst thing is some people go into court and don’t even realize that what they’ve been accused of is a crime, and they think that because the fine is smaller than the cost of the least-expensive attorney they’re doing great, and then they walk out of court with a criminal record they’ll be stuck with forever. I get calls all of the time from people who say they had a little problem 12 years ago and it was no big deal because they just paid a fine, but now they realize they have a criminal record.

Sadly, I have to tell them there is nothing I can do for them, that they are stuck and it’s too late. So, just because the only sentence you’ll receive is simply a fine is no reason to avoid having an attorney. If it’s not a criminal offense, no attorney is necessary, but if it’s in criminal court or it’s a violation of criminal law, you need an attorney.

Can An Attorney Predict The Fines Based On The Charge Imposed?

If it’s a less-serious type of crime in which fines generally are imposed, such as driving with a suspended license (which is actually a crime, not just not a traffic infraction, as opposed to driving with no license, which is just a traffic infraction), those fines don’t usually exceed a few hundred dollars, and are far less serious than other possible penalties, such as being stuck with a criminal conviction for the rest of your life. In reality, fines don’t really play a big part in criminal cases.

In many cases, the amount of the fine is often a tiny part of the actual cost. For example, if someone has a domestic violence case and the district attorney is offering a very good disposition of the case with no fine or anything, the plea agreement may require you to sign up and complete a program, like a Batterer’s program, which will require you to go to 30-40 sessions at $60-70 per session — which adds up to thousands of dollars and a lot of time. You may think you did well because you didn’t have to pay a fine or get a criminal conviction, but a good attorney could have helped you avoid everything.

Sometimes, you walk out of court with an attorney who doesn’t know what they’re doing and everyone is happy about how well they did in court, and yet it turns out they haven’t done well at all. In many DWI cases, people have to install an interlock device on their car for a year as well as pay $13 a day for all 365 days it’s installed, even though a good attorney knows how to avoid that. That’s why I say the fine is usually the least serious and the least expensive part of the whole case.

Do The Fines Increase For A Repeat Offense?

There is not only a chance of it, but if there is a fine involved, it will almost certainly be far greater for repeat offenders, and it’s up to the attorney to try to minimize that as much as possible.

For more information on the Importance Of Hiring An Attorney, please call (718) 793-5700 today to schedule a free initial consultation. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.

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