When a driver makes the decision to contest a ticket, the first question that usually pops into their head is “What is traffic court like?”. The following is the simple step-by-step guide to a hearing in traffic court:

The Clerk Calls the Parties in the Case

The court calls all parties to the courtroom. The state is represented by a prosecutor. The defendant can choose to either represent himself or hire a lawyer for representation. All witnesses are called.

The Judge Listens to Any Motions

Motions are requests made on some aspect of the case. Motions include:

  • Request to dismiss the case
  • Request for a continuance
  • Request for the prosecution to give the defendant any officer’s notes

What Happens Once the Hearing Begins?

Prior to any testimony, the prosecutor and the defendant make opening statements. Either party may waive their right to make an opening statement. After all opening statements are made, the following happens:

  • Prosecution presents witnesses
  • Defense presents witnesses
  • Prosecution makes closing statements
  • Defense makes closing statements

Will I Have the Chance to Question Prosecution Witnesses?

Yes. The defense has the right to question each prosecution witness once the prosecution is done questioning that witness. This secondary questioning by the defense is known as cross-examination. All of the questions asked by the defense during cross-examination must relate to the traffic ticket. After cross-examination, the prosecution may ask the witness more questions or may dismiss the witness from the stand.

Will the Judge Give a Verdict?

A judge gives a verdict at the end of a trial. In some traffic cases, a judge will decide to take the matter under submission or advisement. The terms “submission” or “advisement” mean the judge wants to wait to make a decision, instead of making a decision immediately after each side has presented their closing argument. He may want to review additional evidence or testimony before giving a verdict.

What Is the Most Likely Sentence in a Traffic Hearing?

The sentence depends on how well the defense makes their case. The judge may find that the defendant is not guilty. If the judge is swayed by the defense, but not enough to give a "not guilty" verdict, he may:

  • Suspend the fine, or
  • Reduce the fine.

Should I Contact a Lawyer about Traffic Court?

A criminal defense attorney will help you answer the question what is traffic court like. An attorney will also prepare you for each step in the traffic court process. The legal help will eliminate the mystery from the traffic court process.