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Legal How-to: Contesting a Traffic Ticket in Court


Getting a traffic ticket is not the end of the world, but taking care of a violation can be an inconvenience. If you’re found guilty of speeding or running a red light, you’ll face financial consequences.

But you might feel like you shouldn’t have been given a ticket. Or you might think that the penalty should be lower. You can contest your traffic violation in court.

Should You Fight Your Violation in Court?

If you were cited for a traffic violation, you could decide whether to contest it in court or pay the ticket and move on. Some states give you the option to fight the violation in writing. Although paying for the ticket is a quick way of handling the situation, it could mean that you’re admitting you committed the violation. When you contest the ticket, the judge might beat the ticket or reduce your fine.

But contesting the violation means investing time and energy. You have to miss work or school to go to court. If you can’t go to court, you can hire an attorney.

What Happens if You Go to Court?

Check your ticket for instructions on when and where to go. Your first day in court involves an arraignment, where you admit to the violation or plead your innocence. The court may also subpoena the officer who cited you so that they can prove your guilt.

If you plead “not guilty,” the judge will require you to post bail to ensure that you return to court. The amount is usually the amount of your fine. If you fail to show up in the next court hearing, the court will find you guilty in absentia and issue a warrant for your arrest. You’ll also forfeit your bail.

Disproving Your Offense

The government, usually represented by the officer who cited you, has the burden of proving that you committed the traffic violation. They’ll often refer to the officer’s notes, a video of the offense, and other forms of evidence.

On the other hand, you have the right to disprove the government’s evidence. You’ll often have access to the evidence in the government’s possession such as officer notes and maintenance documents for their equipment such as a Stalker radar gun. You or your attorney can also cross-examine the officer.

Presenting your evidence is not required, but you have the option to do so. You can bring witnesses to court, such as your companion in the car when the alleged violation happened. Videos from dashboard cameras can also support your position.

The Verdict

At the end of the trial, the judge will find you either guilty or not guilty. The latter decision means that you beat your ticket. It’s like you never had it in the first place. The court will also refund your bail.

If the court finds you guilty, you have to pay the fine. The violation will also appear in your driving record. Depending on the situation, you might also face additional consequences such as the suspension of your driver’s license.

When an officer cites you for a traffic violation, paying the fine and moving on are an easy choice. But if you feel that you didn’t do anything wrong, consider contesting the violation in court. It may sound inconvenient, but when you’re declared not guilty, you’ll be glad you have taken the effort.

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