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Busted! How and Where to Handle Traffic Tickets

By: Staff WriterJuly 10, 2012
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After getting cited for a speeding ticket and enduring several minutes, maybe hours, of self-flagellation, you must next shift focus towards deciding on whether to pay it or fight it.

Traffic Ticket Penalties

Traffic tickets come with several stated and unstated penalties. Besides the traffic ticket fine, usually posted on the citation, you may also face:

  • Driver's license suspension or revocation. This depends on the severity of the charge and if you're a repeat offender. Driving while intoxicated (DUI), for example, results in in an immediate suspension. A first-time speeding ticket generally doesn't.
  • Driving record points, if applicable to your state.
  • Increased car insurance rates.

Paying Tickets for Moving Violations

Paying a traffic ticket is an admission of guilt. This means you're accepting the consequences. No court appearance is required. Simply follow the payment instructions posted on the citation.

In most instances you'll get the option to online or by mail. Either way, you must submit your payment before the ticket's due date.

Failing to act before the due date could lead to stiffer fines, the loss of driving privileges, and possibly a bench warrant being issued for your arrest.

Fighting Traffic Citations

Entering a not guilty plea means you want to challenge the charge in court. You must notify the presiding court before the due date posted on the traffic ticket.

Most courts require appearing in person to enter a not guilty plea. Some courts may allow you to enter by mail. Check your traffic citation for instructions, and if you have traffic ticket questions, contact the court listed on the citation. The court clerk can assist with ticket questions, but cannot impart legal advice.

Keep in mind that there are no guarantees when fighting a ticket. Depending on how the court rules you may have:

  • All of the charges dismissed.
  • Some of the charges dismissed.
  • The charges reduced, via plea bargain. (Often, this includes attending traffic school.)

Challenging a traffic ticket requires time and money. If you elect to represent yourself, you must take the time to prepare your case and face the prospect of taking on an seasoned prosecuting attorney.

On the other hand, hiring a traffic ticket lawyer experienced in traffic laws will increase your chances for having charges dropped for say multiple speeding tickets in a short period of time, but will cost you in legal fees.

When was the last time you received a traffic ticket? Did you plead guilty or no contest and move on, or did you contest the citation in court?

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