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I just paid my ticket before my court date. Can I have the case reopened and talk with the DA to get a better deal?

A guy came to me the other day with this case. Seems he had already paid his speeding ticket—before his first court date. Problem is, he paid it just as it was, without the benefit of any negotiation with the DA. Then, when it appeared that what he had done was going to cause him some problems (I think the DMV sent him a letter saying his license was going to be revoked because of the ticket) he wanted to know if I could still go to court for him on his court date and get a deal from the DA.
So….can I have the case reopened? Well, yes and no.

Here’s the “no” part

See the problem with that is once the ticket is paid, it no longer has a court date. It goes into that big morass of “closed” files that the court puts in storage. In the court’s computer system the case is marked closed with a guilty plea and that’s that. You can’t go in and get any better deal because the court and the DA no longer have jurisdiction over the case. This being so, there would be no opportunity to talk to the DA and see about getting a better deal. That’s the no part.

Here’s the “yes” part

But it’s not all bad news, the yes part is that there is a device that exists here in NC called a “Motion for Appropriate Relief” (yes, really that’s what it’s called). What it means is that in some limited circumstances, a case, whether it be a traffic ticket or murder, can be re-opened for examination by the court or the DA. To make use of this, the attorney would have to draft a motion and—hopefully—get consent from the DA, and then get a judge to sign off on it allowing the case to be re-opened for the reasons stated in the motion. Then the case would be re-calendared and then, at that court setting, the attorney would have his opportunity to talk with the DA and maybe come to some sort of plea deal. That seems like a pretty easy way to go but, as I can tell you from experience, it’s not always.

They don’t like to “re-write” history

The thing is, most times the DA and the judge don’t want to reopen these cases and “re-write” history. They, and the clerks who work behind the scenes, have to deal with a lot of cases and often are reluctant to re-open matters because it takes time away from dealing with all the new stuff that they have to work on every day. That being said, it is not impossible to have a Motion for Appropriate Relief allowed and have the case reopened. I have found the best argument to be that, just like in this case, where the ticket was paid without assistance of a lawyer and without fully understanding what the consequences would be, in effect the ticket was paid “in error”. Usually that’s a compelling enough reason around these parts to get the matter re-opened. Just beware, doing an MAR (as they are called) is pretty labor-intensive and any lawyer is going to charge you a good deal more than just to do the ticket right in the first place.
Like my Grandma always says, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Costs less too!
Hey buddy, wanna by an ounce of prevention? Post your case on! It’s free and easy!
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