A traffic ticket, also known as a citation, is a notice issued by a law enforcement official to a motorist or other road user, indicating that the individual has violated traffic laws. Violations can range from non-moving violations like parking offenses to moving violations such as speeding or driving under influence. These tickets often come with fines, demerit points on your driving license, and can even lead to higher insurance rates.
Understanding your traffic ticket and consequent penalties is important, considering that they can have long-term implications on your driving privilege and financial situation. In some cases, accumulating a certain number of demerit points or committing grave offenses can result in license suspension or mandatory attendance to driving school. It’s also worth noting that not all tickets are deserved or issued correctly. In such cases, you might want to consider fighting the traffic ticket, an action that can lead to the ticket’s dismissal, a reduction in fines, or an eradication of demerit points.
Understanding Your Traffic Ticket
To fully comprehend the gravity of your situation, you must understand the information contained on your traffic ticket. This can typically include your name, license plate number, information about your vehicle, the date and the location of the violation, the stated violation, and the time frame within which you need to act. The citation will also contain instructions on how to either pay the fine or contest the ticket. You might not entirely comprehend the stated charges, especially if you’re a first-time offender. This is where a traffic ticket attorney can be of help, explaining the charges and guiding you through the steps necessary if you intend to fight the ticket.
Let’s differentiate between minor and major traffic violations. Minor violations or infractions often include offenses such as illegal parking, speeding, running a stop sign, red light camera tickets, etc. These types of violations generally lead to a fine, and do not lead to imprisonment. Conversely, major traffic violations include offenses such as DUI (Driving Under Influence), reckless driving, or leaving the scene of an accident. These can be classed as misdemeanors or felonies, carrying much heavier penalties. Finally, weigh the consequences of paying the fine immediately versus fighting the ticket. Paying the fine means the violation will go on your driving record. Fighting the ticket, on the other hand, offers a chance to dismiss or reduce the charges, keeping your record clean.
Grounds for Fighting a Traffic Ticket
Various grounds justify contesting a traffic ticket, the most common of which include inaccurate details on the ticket or procedural mistakes. If an officer wrote down incorrect information about your vehicle or the location of violation, your ticket could be invalid. Second, if you believe the officer’s judgment was wrong, that could serve as a legitimate reason to fight the ticket. For example, you may contest a ticket for running a stop sign if you believe the sign was obstructed or not clearly visible. Third, if a ticket issuing instrument like a speed gun was not correctly calibrated, tickets issued could be contested. Lastly, proving that the violation was a “necessary evil” for avoiding harm or danger could also serve as a ground for contesting the ticket.
Once you find valid grounds for contesting, it’s time to build your case for traffic court. Common defenses typically involve disproving the officer’s opinion or showing that your driving was justified. Disproving the officer’s opinion could involve providing evidence, like photographs of road signs obstructed by trees. You may also have a witness attest to your claims. Alternatively, you might provide evidence that your potentially illegal action was taken to avoid immediate harm or danger – for instance, veering into a no-drive zone to avoid hitting a pedestrian. Keeping a well-documented record following your violation can be immensely beneficial.
Steps to Fight a Traffic Ticket
- If you decide to contest the ticket, promptly request a court date. This process varies by jurisdiction but usually includes writing to the appropriate court to ask for a contested hearing.
- Prepare for your court date. This means gathering all the necessary evidence to support your claim and understanding your defense strategy in depth.
- When the court date arrives, you need to present your case confidently. Start with stating clearly and concisely why you believe the ticket should be dismissed. Discuss the specific reasons and support them with your gathered evidence.
Other Alternatives to Ticket Contesting
Traffic school can be particularly beneficial for those with minor traffic violations. Attendance at traffic school, either online or in-person, often leads to ticket dismissal or the deduction of points from your driving record. It’s an educational opportunity, allowing you to refresh your understanding of traffic laws and safe driving practices. Some states might even grant an insurance discount upon completion of traffic school.
But what if your ticket isn’t dismissible through traffic school?
Another alternative is negotiating with the court for reduced charges, a practice often referred to as “plea bargaining.” In short, you’d be agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser offense, usually one that carries fewer penalties or lower fines. Keep in mind, the success of plea bargaining heavily depends on the specifics of your case and local court practices.
While receiving a traffic ticket can be worrisome, you possess options beyond instantly paying the fine. By getting fully aware of the details encompassed in your traffic ticket and understanding the mechanisms of traffic court, you can make an informed decision on whether to contest the ticket, attend traffic school, or negotiate reduced charges. Ultimately, your choice may either lead to the ticket dismissal, reduced penalties, or ensure you’re better prepared to conducively address such situations in the future.