You received a traffic ticket and are now wondering what to do. Your first thoughts may be one of many: How much is this going to cost me? Do I just pay the ticket? Do I hire an attorney? Do I try to figure out the traffic court system myself? These are all valid concerns and thoughts people have had when they receive the dreaded traffic ticket. Most people have gotten one or more traffic tickets in their lifetime. While most people just pay the ticket and move on, it may be worth it to hire an attorney to fight your ticket. Most traffic attorneys have quite reasonable rates and it may be worthwhile to consult with an attorney to explore your options.
Below are some steps and guidelines on how to maneuver the system and hopefully make the decision of what to do a little easier.
- I received a traffic ticket-What now?
If you received a citation or traffic ticket, you may also receive a courtesy notice in the mail. The courtesy notice will include the following information:
- The bail amount for this citation,
- The due date when payment must be made,
- Eligibility for Traffic School,
- Information on clearing a “fix-it” ticket with proof of correction,
- How to pay by credit card, and
- Where and when to report if you would like to appear in court.
DO NOT disregard your ticket if you don’t receive your Courtesy Notice in the mail. You must appear at the courthouse or settle your case by the appearance date, whether or not you receive the Courtesy Notice. Failure to resolve your ticket by the due date may result in a $300.00 civil assessment penalty being added to the original bail and a referral to a collection agency, or a warrant for your arrest and/or suspension of your driver license.
- What is Trial by Declaration?
The Vehicle Code allows a defendant to contest a citation in writing, without the need to make a personal appearance in the courtroom. If this is an option for you, then you must request a Trial by Written Declaration by submitting the appropriate form to the court. You can also attach any evidence and statements that you wish to be reviewed. After submission of your request, the officer who issued your citation will be notified and given an opportunity to submit a declaration. After a judicial officer has reviewed all of the information, a decision will be made and mailed to you. If you are unsatisfied with the outcome, you can still ask the court for a new trial.
- I plan to appear at my court date-What happens the day of court?
The first appearance date as indicated on your ticket is called an Arraignment. If you decide to represent yourself, you will have to go to court, wait in line to check in, wait in court until your case is called, then wait again to receive paperwork from the business office after the hearing. If you hire an attorney, your attorney can represent you in court without the added stress of having to take time.
At the arraignment, the judge will ask if you have received a copy of the ticket and understand the charge(s) against you. The judge also will also explain the potential penalties for each offense and then ask what plea you wish to enter. If you plead not guilty and request a trial, the court will then set a trial date to contest the traffic citation.
The fine amounts and traffic school eligibility remain the same if you plead not guilty and set your case for trial. Keep in mind that if the officer does not appear for trial, the case is dismissed and you do not have to pay any fine.