Why Representing Yourself on a Traffic Ticket in Pittsburgh Can be a Mistake


If you found this article during an internet search, you're probably thinking about representing yourself in traffic court. You've probably searched AVVO and found a few attorney websites with information on your traffic charges. Maybe you've called a few traffic ticket attorneys, trying to get as much free information you can.

Nobody wants to hire a lawyer. But going in blind can be your undoing.


We recently had occasion to watch a young man represent himself during his summary trial. This unrepresented individual had existing points on his license and was clocked traveling at 83mph in a 45mph zone. He was facing 5 points, a mandatory 15-day license suspension and possible penalties for exceeding 6 points or 11 points.

This unrepresented individual made nearly every possible mistake that you can make in traffic court, which included:

  • Unfamiliar With Penalties: He had to ask the Judge what the penalties were for his citations.
  • Arguing With the Officer: While you may disagree with the speed timing results, you will never win an argument with a police officer. However, when given the chance to discuss a resolution of the citation, this defendant proceeded to argue with the police officer that he clocked the wrong person. This made the police officer visibly angry and unwilling to negotiate a plea with a less severe result.
  • Disrespectful: He stood before the judge with his hands in his pockets, and smirked during the entire hearing. The judge clearly did not appreciate his demeanor, and it showed in the verdict.
  • Poor Cross-Examination: The defendant wanted to establish that the officer clocked the wrong vehicle, but didn't ask the proper questions. He also failed to object to the admission of the speed results, which were not properly authenticated.
  • Incriminating Admissions: The defendant admitted under oath that he was speeding at a rate slightly lower than his clocked speed, but claimed his stop was unfair since everyone else around him was also speeding.

This case didn't end well, as he was convicted of the speeding offense. By failing to hire a qualified traffic ticket attorney, this person will now have to file a summary appeal and a statutory appeal to challenge the license suspension. This will come at an additional cost of $233.50 in excess of the court costs and fines associated with the ticket.


A qualified Pittsburgh traffic ticket defense lawyer would not make the mistakes listed above. There are many possible advantages that apply when you hire a traffic ticket lawyer, which include:

  • Familiarity With the Traffic Court System: A Pittsburgh traffic ticket attorney practices frequently in traffic courts throughout the area. Experience negotiating case resolutions with individual police officers and judges can play a significant role in obtaining a favorable outcome.
  • Access to the Police Officer Before Your Hearing: In many traffic courts, a self-represented person will not be given the chance to discuss a resolution of the citation with the citing officer before their case is called. However, an attorney may be given permission to access the courtroom prior to the hearing, and discuss a resolution with the officer in advance.
  • Knowledge of the Penalties and Alternative Offenses: A Pittsburgh traffic ticket attorney understands the penalties associated with your individual offense, and can work to negotiate a plea to an alternative offense that carries fewer penalties.
  • Presenting a Compelling Argument for Leniency: A qualified Pittsburgh traffic ticket attorney knows how to present your background in the most positive manner possible.
  • Authentication of Speed Timing Results: In the cases that cannot be resolved, a Pittsburgh traffic ticket attorney can challenge the admissibility of your speed timing results if not properly authenticated.
  • Cross-Examination: A Pittsburgh traffic ticket attorney knows how to cross examine a well-trained police officer.
  • Familiarity with Careless Driving and Reckless Driving Case Law in Auto Accident Cases: If you are involved in a reportable accident, many departments have policies requiring the officer to cite you with these offenses. There are previously decided Pennsylvania cases which may support a dismissal of your charges.

Before representing yourself in traffic court, we encourage you to call the Zuckerman Law Firm at 412-447-5580. We provide a  free consultation and work to offer fair rates for representation in the Pittsburgh area.