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Cinamingrl's avatar

What Happens When You Contest A Traffic Ticket?

Asked by Cinamingrl (82points) November 11th, 2011

I received a traffic ticket for “following too close”. I want to contest it instead of pleading guilty like usual. If I do this and plead “not guilty”, what happens? Do I have to pay money at that time or a bail amount then? Or do I wait till I go to trial? And if I loose, what happens? Do I have to pay a larger fine? And when?

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14 Answers

YoBob's avatar

Well, you get a court date, show up, and tell the judge you weren’t following too closely. This makes it your word against the word of the cop who gave you the ticket, and since it is the cops job to make that determination unless you have some sort of significant and incontrovertible evidence you will be found guilty and have to pay the fine.

I’m not sure about additional court fees, but don’t you have better things to do with your time than fighting virtually unwinable battles?

wonderingwhy's avatar

Basically the same as @YoBob said with the addition that you will likely have to pay court fees (it should say the copy of your ticket). There is also a chance the cop won’t show up, that can get it dismissed.

wundayatta's avatar

Or you can get a lawyer who is expert at this sort of thing and will likely get you off. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. In fact, where I live, if the Judge sees a lawyer, they almost automatically dismiss it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

On the ticket, there should be a date for you to show up if you plan to contest the charges or information for how to proceed with doing so. You show up on your court date and tell the judge your side of the story. The judge will listen to what you say and listen to what the cop says (if the cop shows up) and make their decision. If you have any way of proving you weren’t following to closely, you’ll need it. In my experience, it’s rare for a judge to take the word of the offender (or possible offender) over the cops. Once the judge makes their decision, you will have to pay whatever amounts they determine at that time. You shouldn’t have to pay anything until you after your court date.

Usually costs include the fine for the traffic offense and court costs. Some jurisdictions may have other costs as well.

Coloma's avatar

What everyone else said, and yes, it will be a waste of time.

I think your attitude should be one of accepting responsibility instead of trying to sidestep it.

Life lesson number #1 : If you’re guilty, man or woman up and take your lumps, learn from it and pay attention. Had you rear ended someone you’d be dealing with a lot more than a ticket.

Judges don’t take kindly to wasting their time of these types of situations.

zenvelo's avatar

Do you have a way to demonstrate you are innocent? Do you have anyway to impeach the testimony of the policeman?

A friend challenged a speeding ticket when he knew he was right at the speed limit in his new sports car. He thought his speedometer might be off, so he had it checked, turned out it was exact right up to 70 m.p.h.

He asked for a jury trial. He researched how police check speed with out radar, and pointed out in court how inaccurate it could be. He asked the policeman what he and his date had been wearing; the policeman did not remember that my friend had just come from a costume party dressed as Bam-Bam and Pebbles. He was found not guilty.

But if you can’t demonstrate inaccuracy on the part of the cop, it’s your word against his (or hers).

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
CWOTUS's avatar

The big thing is to show up in court. If you plead not guilty, then the judge will require the cop to present his evidence. He can use the information on the ticket to help refresh his memory, but he has to testify. If he doesn’t show up, which is common, then the judge will probably not dismiss automatically, but will allow the cop to appear and testify. If he declines, which is also not uncommon, then the complaint will be dismissed at that time.

If the cop shows up and testifies to exactly what is on the ticket, and there’s no way for you to introduce reasonable doubt or shake / break his story, then you’ll be found guilty and probably have to pay the full amount of the ticket, plus court costs.

There is one other scenario: if the cop doesn’t show up to testify, or sometimes even if he does, the judge (who usually isn’t a full-fledged judge, in some jurisdictions, but someone with somewhat less authority who has been appointed to “settle cases”) may offer you a compromise judgment. For example, you may be found guilty, but with a lesser fine, or pay the ticket and the judge will waive insurance points or something.

The main idea behind traffic court is to settle cases. The longer you keep it open, the more pressure the judge will feel to “get this behind us”.

Go to court. It’ll be a great learning experience. (I went once to contest a speeding ticket, and the cop didn’t show up. A month later I received a dismissal notice in the mail. That was Michigan. In Connecticut, I was busted for an expired registration – from California – and I went to court to plead extenuating circumstances: I had just moved, and hadn’t found a permanent residence yet. When the judge saw that I was now legally registered, she simply dismissed the case with zero cost.)

john65pennington's avatar

Reading into your question, this is not your first traffic citation, since you normally just pay the fine.

Going to court incorporates several factors. You have to dress for court or they will not hear your case. Take no weapons and you will be searched. Take only the minimal objects needed. Traffic court is not like Criminal court. The clerk will read the docket, to make sure everyone is there for their case to be heard. If you are contesting the citation, your hearing will be heard last on the docket. When your name is called, go to the podium and be sworn in. The officer will tell the judge who, what, when, where and why you were given the citation. Then, its your turn to speak. Be prepared to tell why you think the citation is not justified. If you have a previous traffic record, the judge will rely heavily on it and the officers testimony, before making a decision. If you are found guilty, the judge will either send you to traffic school or levy a fine on you. If found guilty, since this is a moving violation, points will be placed on your drivers license and you can expect to pay a higher auto insurace premium for a long while. You can take an attorney with you, but remember, if you are found guilty, you will have to pay the attorney in addtion to the fine and court costs. This could be expensive for you. The court will set up a payment plan for you. Be sure to pay the plan or you will lose your drivers license and probably your auto insurance, too.

Proving you are not guilty is really hard in traffic court. Its one word against the other. Your past traffic record may be the judges deciding factor of guilty or not guilty.

Its more or less a gamble on your part.

blueiiznh's avatar

While this may be your right to appear and plead not guilty, unless you really have a reason that you believe and can prove you are no guilty, don’t waste the court, officer, public officials time and money.

First, you have to return the ticket stating you wish to appeal it and file not guilty by the date on the ticket.
Then you will be issued a date to appear in court.
You must appear and plead your case. Depending on the state, it may be to a magistrate or to the officer first, so they are aware of your stand.
You will then be sworn in to your testimony and your traffic record will be reviewed and brought into record.

Cinamingrl's avatar

Thanks to all of the helpful people who posted, (and the not so helpful).

prioritymail's avatar

I have contested several non-moving violation traffic tickets before. This is probably under State law so laws may vary from place to place. I wrote professional timely appeals (there are deadlines), provided documentation as I thought was necessary (one was a ticket for parking within 4 feet of a driveway, and I included a photo of my parked car and a measuring tape clearly showing I was more than 4 feet from the driveway, e.g.), and sent it in. A judge reviewed each one and issued a decision that was mailed to me. I think all but one was in my favor. Generally you still have to pay a fee for processing or whatever but it can be substantially less than the original ticket. I think the judge’s rulings were final. Appealing a moving violation might be a different process…

whitetigress's avatar

You can pay the bail with a payment plan if you are deemed guilty. Most likely they’ll lower your ticket too just by hearing your side of the story.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)

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