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Don’t “just pay” that traffic ticket!

Never plead guilty to a traffic ticket issued in connection with an auto accident.

Many people just pay their traffic tickets without giving a second thought to the consequences. In Iowa, if you get a ticket in connection with a car wreck or other accident you should NEVER just plead guilty and pay the ticket. Why? Iowa Code Section 321.489 provides that the record of a CONVICTION of a violation of Chapter 321 (Iowa’s traffic code) is inadmissible in any subsequent civil action. However, the record of a guilty plea is admissible. So if you just pay the ticket, and later you get sued for causing the accident, your own negligence (due to speeding, running a stop sign, or other traffic violation) will be simple for the opposing party to prove. They can use your conviction record to prove you actually did what the ticket charged. But, if you go to trial and the judge finds you guilty, the record of conviction from the case becomes inadmissible at the later civil trial. So next time you get a ticket, EVEN IF YOU ARE GUILTY, enter a not guilty plea and show up for the trial. Often there are multiple causes of an accident, and by pleading guilty to a traffic offense, you may limit your ability to recover for your own injuries by giving the insurance company lawyers easy proof that you were at fault.

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