Every day, Americans are given tickets for traffic-related infractions, such as speeding or running a stop sign. Occasionally, you will need to go to traffic court for your ticket. Yet, if you have never appeared in traffic court, you presumably will not be familiar with how it works.

If you have been halted and given a ticket, you may be unsure about the next steps that you should take. Depending on the circumstances, a motorist may want to challenge the ticket, pay the ticket, or ask for traffic school as an option. Here are broad answers to some of the questions that normally occur in this area, although each person’s cases are unique. You should consult with a lawyer if you have detailed questions.

What Transpires After I Get a Traffic Ticket?

After you receive a traffic ticket, you have to pay a fine to comply with the law. Suppose the ticket also puts points on your driving record. In that case, some jurisdictions also allow the opportunity to go to traffic school to get points subtracted from your record.

Nevertheless, occasionally you will have to go to traffic court for a hearing about your violation.

You could find yourself in traffic court in the following circumstances:

  • You failed to pay the fine associated with your ticket;
  • You got a ticket for a more weighty traffic offense, such as reckless driving; and
  • If you argue your ticket, you could ask for a hearing before a traffic court judge to discuss your case.

What Are the Distinctions Between Traffic Tickets and Additional Offenses?

Traffic tickets usually lead to less harsh outcomes than common crimes. A motorist seldom faces jail time. Traffic court uses less proper processes, and a motorist usually does not have a right to a jury trial. The standard of proof occasionally is more forgiving than in a criminal case.

A state that categorizes a traffic infraction as a civil offense may instruct the prosecution to prove the violation only by clear and convincing evidence or a preponderance of the evidence, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, a state that regards a traffic violation as a criminal infraction will use the more heightened standard beyond a reasonable doubt.

What Are the Differences Between Infractions, Misdemeanors, and Felonies?

Most regular traffic tickets are infractions, which means that you may pay fines and related assessments but will not go to jail. Suppose your ticket is categorized as a misdemeanor. In that case, you may encounter more substantial penalties and maybe up to a year in jail. Traffic tickets that are classified as felonies are incredibly rare.

These may materialize when a motorist causes a wreck that resulted in death or severe injury or when a motorist has a lengthy list of prior violations. A felony can result in incarceration of more than one year, as well as even more significant fines.

What Happens at a Traffic Court Hearing?

Traffic court differs from place to place, but this is what is normally applicable in each proceeding:

Prosecution Evidence

  • Suppose you have a hearing in traffic court. In that case, you will appear before a traffic court judge to determine if you are guilty of the traffic violation. The prosecutor appointed to your case will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you are guilty.
  • A preponderance of the evidence burden of proof implies a prosecutor must only prove that the motorist is more likely guilty than not of perpetrating the crime. Because this is a lower burden of proof, battling traffic tickets can be more difficult.

Defense Evidence

  • As the defendant, you will also be entitled to offer witnesses and evidence. Suppose you hope to use evidence in custody of the police department or prosecutor (such as the police statement or any video footage taken by the officer). You will have to file a written request in traffic court before the hearing in that circumstance.
  • You will also be able to cross-examine any witnesses that the prosecutor offers. The prosecutor will almost always call the police officer who pulled you over as a witness. If the officer does not appear for your hearing, the case will be dismissed a lot of times.

Judge’s Ruling

  • After the case is heard, the traffic court judge will determine whether you are guilty of the traffic violation. If you are found guilty, you will most likely be instructed to pay the fine associated with the ticket, along with any other punishment the traffic court inflicts.

Is There a Downside to Owning Up and Paying a Ticket?

Paying a ticket is equivalent to pleading guilty in a criminal case. Suppose you pay the ticket rather than challenge it. In that case, the conviction will remain on your driving record for the duration provided by state law. You may have points added to your license, raising your risk of heightened insurance premiums and a license suspension if you get too many points. However, if you have no genuine defense and a clean record, paying the ticket may be the proper route to take.

Can I Pay an Officer to Get Out of a Traffic Stop?

Paying an officer is typically understood as the crime of bribery, which can result in much more severe results than a traffic ticket. You should not panic or overreact during a police stop. If you want to oppose your ticket, you have legal opportunities to do so.

>What if I Cannot Afford My Traffic Ticket?

You should not dismiss the ticket if you cannot pay for it. Failing to pay a traffic ticket can result in extra delinquent expenses and potentially put your license at stake. In some circumstances, a judge might even administer a warrant for the arrest of a motorist. If you are qualified for traffic school, you can use this prospect as an alternative to paying the fine. Or you can ask the judge if you can get a fine deduction, set up a compensation strategy, or do community service.

Are There Assertions That I Should Avoid Utilizing in Traffic Court?

People use several arguments to try to get out of tickets. You should avoid using the following, as they will not be regarded as defenses to your ticket under the law:

  • You broke the law but did not hurt anyone;
  • You were not knowledgeable of the traffic law that you broke; and
  • You told a compassionate story instead of supplying a defense.

Rather, a standard defense that will hold value in traffic court is that you did not break a traffic law. Keep in mind that this will still be difficult to establish since the burden of proof for the prosecution is low.

Should I Hire an Attorney?

If you got a traffic ticket and only have to pay a fee, you will not need to get an attorney. Many courts will also supply payment programs to pay off the balance of your traffic ticket.

However, suppose you have to appear for a traffic court hearing. In that case, you may want to consider hiring a local traffic ticket attorney. An attorney can help prepare your case and develop a strategy to attempt to get your ticket discharged.