1) Should I hire a paralegal? Some say yes, some say no. I am a little confused about the process of the courts and how this will play out.
2) Ultimately, I want to beg the judge for a lesser charge (speeding), and I feel I have good reasoning for it. Firstly, this is my first offence (first time ever being pulled over), and I have never broke the law. I require a car to get to my job as there is no public transportation where I live. I make minimum wage and am currently paying back $40,000 in student loans (currently at 34k remaining) since I recently graduated University. I moved home with my father out in the countryside to do this. Being charged with stunt driving would make my insurance completely unaffordable and I would have to give up my car and not be able to work. The officer was very polite and even gave me a ride home as to not leave me stranded at the station, where there was also no public transit. It has been a really eye opening experience for me and I will never do anything to get myself caught up in this sort of thing again. I am very very remorseful.
3) As far as plea bargaining goes, how does it happen? Can I ask the JP at my first appearance summons for a lesser charge? Do I plead not guilty and wait for my trial, and then ask for leniency there? OR is there anything in between where this can be settled and I can get a speeding charge without even doing a trial. I really don't want to waste the courts time.
4) I have been recommended to do the following: that I should plead not guilty at my first appearance summons and wait for my trial. Arrive early for the trial and speak with the officer in the lobby and let him know before we go in that I plan to plead guilty and provide reasoning for requesting a lesser charge. Basically tell the judge everything I said in #2 and let them know how sorry I am (which I very much am! believe me this has been so stressful for me).
That's what happened, and mostly looking for answers to #3. I've considered just hiring a paralegal, but am worried it may look bad if I can afford representation while asking for a lower fine and charge.
I will check this thread regularly, thanks to anyone who has helpful advice
Once you have disclosure it might not hurt to at least consult with a paralegal. Many offer free consultations and you can see what they suggest. You'll have to weigh their costs against how much help they can be in your case. If all they offer is the same plea deal that you can get on your own, save your money. If they see a flaw and think it's worth going to trial, then you'll want professional representation. If you do use a paralegal, that should NOT be held against you by the Courts in terms of fines, etc. You're entitled to representation if you want it.
In terms of fines, once you plead guilty or are found guilty, you can explain your financial situation to the Justice of the Peace. Sometimes they have flexibility with fines and can lower them. They can also put you on a payment plan of sorts, with extended time to pay off your fines. Again though, they cannot change the offence itself. To be found guilty of a lesser offence, you'll need to work out a plea deal.
I hired a local paralegal (since my summons was in a VERY french area and I am not bilingual). The paralegal didn't really do much that I couldn't have done myself. She did speak to the prosecutor 2 times (which I wasn't quite sure how to go about doing).
At the summons he wasn't willing to budge from the stunt driving charge from anything she said, only a reduction in the fine to $1000. He was very strict and stern and tough to negotiate with. I then spoke up out of nowhere and explained my situation, and was completely honest and genuinely remorseful. He suddenly dropped it to 129 in an 80, which puts it at 49 over, which merits a $294 fine and 4 pts.
Here's how it worked out financially for me.
Paralegal: $350 (since it didn't go to trial, just summons)
Towing & Impound: $340
License Reinstatement: $150
Total expenses: $1134
Suffice it to say, I would say I got really lucky. I would say honesty is the best policy, and the prosecutor will likely recognize that if you have no prior offenses like me. If you can afford to take the speeding ticket and the pts, then this is what I recommend doing. If you need the charge gone completely, get a lawyer, though that is still rolling the dice.
Should you hire a paralegal? Maybe. I don't feel like the money was wasted since she was able to inform me about procedures and how this would play out. I was going into this blind and she was able to give me a bit of peace of mind. But was she able to do anything to help me reduce the charge? Not really.
I do however think this law is quite unfair, and the punishments do not fit the offense for those who are unable to get the charge lowered to speeding. But it exists, so make sure not to cross that threshold when driving.