So you got a traffic ticket, now what? The ticket the officer gives you will indicate what violations you were cited for, when your court date is, and sometimes the amount of the fines you will have to pay for the violations. Your ticket will also have some instructions on the bottom or on the back. Be sure to carefully read and follow those instructions.
Your Options and How to Take Care of a Traffic Ticket
If you were cited for a misdemeanor violation, you are required to appear in court. Most minor traffic violations are infractions. For infractions, you have several options on how to take care of your ticket. If you do not do one of the following actions by your court appearance date, the court may charge you with a "Failure to Appear" violation, your driver's license may be suspended or revoked, and additional fines may be added to your ticket.
If you do NOT contest the violation(s):
- Pay the fine.
If the fine amount is not listed on the ticket, contact the court for bail information. You will not have to appear in court. You will be convicted of the violation and it will appear on your driving record. A point may be added to your driving record and your insurance may be adversely affected.
- Elect traffic school.
You may be able to avoid the point on your driving record by attending traffic school. You may still have to pay the fine, but, after you attend traffic school, the violation will be dismissed and the point will not be added to your driving record.
- Correct the violation.
If your violation is listed as "correctable," have a law enforcement officer or authorized inspection station agent verify the violation has been corrected and sign the proof of correction. The violation will be dismissed by the court after proof of correction is presented to the court.
If you contest the violation(s):
- Request a court trial.
Appear in court on your court date to request a court trial on a future date when the officer and any other witnesses will be present. The judge may or may not allow you to attend traffic school at the conclusion of the trial.
- Request a trial by written declaration.
A trial by written declaration is a trial by mail. You can request a trial by written declaration via mail or by appearing in court on or before your court date. You will be given forms to allow you to write a statement and to submit other evidence without appearing in court. The officer will also submit a statement. The judge will consider the evidence and decide the case. You will be notified of the judge's decision by mail. You may have to pay the fine amount before submitting your trial by written declaration. If you are found not guilty, the fine will be refunded.
How to Get Your Ticket Dismissed
There are many reasons why a traffic ticket may be dismissed by the court. There may be an instance when your citation is deemed to be invalid, such as:
- The officer fails to appear in court.
The officer must prove to the court that you did what he or she said you did. If the officer doesn't show up, the court will have no choice but to dismiss your ticket.
- An error on the ticket.
Missing or incorrect information on the ticket may be grounds for dismissal. If the officer makes a mistake on the ticket, bringing that error to the attention of the court may save you from a conviction.
- Faulty equipment.
If you can prove to the court that the equipment the officer used, such as the RADAR gun or red light camera, was not working properly, the court may throw out your ticket.
Defenses That Don't Work
The following is a list of common defenses people have tried when fighting traffic tickets that just don't work:
- Ignorance of the law.
It doesn't matter that you honestly misunderstood or didn't know the law. Most minor traffic laws don’t require that you intentionally violate the law.
- Going with the flow of traffic.
The fact that other drivers are also violating the law does not help your case.
- The officer selected you alone out of a many other potential violators.
You are essentially admitting that you, and the other violators, are in fact guilty. The fact that the officer picked you, and not somebody else, is generally irrelevant, unless you can prove the officer did so unethically.
- No one was hurt and no property was damaged.
Most minor traffic infractions don't require that the officer prove someone was injured or property was damaged for a violation to occur.
- A sad story.
Traffic court judges hear excuse after excuse all day long and may doubt your honesty. At best, you may get a slight reduction of your fine.
- The officer is lying.
In court, the officer is under oath to tell the truth. Between you and the police officer, the judge is more likely to believe the officer, unless you have specific proof.
Consider Highway Traffic School
Highway Traffic School offers easy, self-paced, and stress-free online traffic school, defensive driving, and driver improvement courses for drivers of all ages. Enjoy the confidence that our courses are state approved to dismiss your violation and prevent points from being added to your driving record. There is no need to sit in a classroom wasting an entire day. Instead, learn at your leisure - day or night, on your breaks, whenever you like. Start your online traffic school course today.