Getting a traffic violation ticket is never fun. Aside from the embarrassment of being pulled to the side of the road by a police officer, you then have to pay a potentially exuberant fine on a ticket that could increase your auto insurance and mar your driving record.
In most cases, the easiest way to handle a traffic citation is to pay the fine immediately, even though doing so will admit guilt to the violation. If you believe that you did not commit the violation, you can elect to attend traffic court.
At the conclusion of the traffic court process, you will be presented with one of three solutions:
- Pay the fine in full
- Pay a negotiated amount
- Pay nothing
If you decide to argue your ticket, you will first attend an arraignment. Most citations contain instructions on when and where to attend court if you want to contest the amount. Once in the courtroom, the judge will begin running through a list of cases. You will usually be in a room with several other arraignment cases that the judge will handle in alphabetical order. When your name is called, you should state your plea. There are two options for this: “not guilty” or “guilty.”
While it might seem counterintuitive to plead “guilty” at arraignment, it could potentially save you some money. Since traffic judges have the authority to reduce your fine, going to the courthouse could possibly lower the final fine amount. However, in most cases, you want to plead “not guilty” at your arraignment. After your plea of innocence, you will receive a date for your traffic court trial where you will be able to argue your case in front of a judge and the officer who issued your citation.
But can you plead “not guilty” if you are guilty of the violation? Of course. And there’s a reason you should. The officer that issued your ticket is required to show up for your traffic trial date. However, if he neglects to arrive, you automatically win your case and the violation is cleared from your record. Some people elect to plead “not guilty” at the arraignment, then change their plea if the officer does show up for the court trial.
On the day of your traffic court trial, you will head back to the courthouse to present your case in front of the judge. The officer will begin the process, presenting any evidence of your violation. This can come from radar guns, red light cameras or dashboard camera footage. After the officer presents the evidence, you are allowed to cross-examine, testify and present your own evidence before the judge reaches his decision. If you’re found guilty at the end of the proceedings, you will have to pay the full fine initially issued. In severe cases, your license may even be suspended.
If you do plan to go to traffic court, you should consider having a skilled attorney, like a Criminal Defense Attorney in DC, by your side. Traffic ticket lawyers will be able to help you testify against the citation and keep your spotless driving record intact. If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence in Texas, contact Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for a free consultation.
Thank you to the experts at The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C., for their insight into criminal defense law.