Fight Traffic Ticket in ArizonaPage Overview
You can plead guilty and pay your traffic ticket fine, or plead not guilty and fight your ticket in court―the choice is yours. Make yourself aware of each option’s pros and cons before deciding.
(Plead Guilty or No Contest)
- Pay the fine.
- Accumulate driving record points (sometimes leads to license suspension or revocation).
- Pay higher auto insurance rates.
- Possibly use Defensive Driving Program to satisfy ticket and avoid point accumulation.
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Paying your Traffic Ticket »
(Plead Not Guilty)
- Contest the ticket during a hearing.
- Represent yourself or hire a traffic ticket lawyer for help.
- Possible lose the chance to plead to lesser charges.
- Pay only attorney fees (and possibly court costs) if found not guilty.
- Appeal the verdict, if found guilty.
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Simply put, fighting your AZ traffic ticket means:
- Making the decision to contest the ticket in court before a judge or judicial hearing officer. You’ll show up on the hearing date printed on your ticket, or contact the court to schedule a date.
- Possibly hiring a traffic ticket lawyer to help you prepare your case as well as represent you in court.
- Presenting evidence to the judge proving you are not guilty (or “not responsible”) of the violation (as well as evidence that proves any other matter including the police officer’s attitude, your financial situation, and who was at fault for an accident).
- Receiving the hearing officer’s judgment, which means being found either not guilty or guilty (at which point you must pay your fines and deal with other traffic ticket penalties.
- Possibly filing an appeal.
NOTE: Generally, drivers who opt to fight their tickets in court give up the option to have the ticket dismissed by enrolling in the Defensive Driving Program.
Pleading Guilty or No Contest
Some drivers choose to plead guilty, or no contest, so they can pay their traffic ticket fines and put the ordeal behind them. For some drivers, this means incurring driving record points and possibly putting themselves closer to license suspension or revocation; for others, it means enrolling in the Defensive Driving Program and not only satisfying the citation, but also avoiding point accumulation.
Refer to our Paying Your Traffic Ticket page to determine whether pleading guilty and paying your AZ traffic ticket fine is your best option.
Avoid Further Consequences
Your ticket should include a date by which you must respond to the charges. On most tickets, this is the hearing date, and you must pay your ticket by this date or show up in court to plead one way or the other.
Generally, if you fail to respond to the ticket by or on this date the court will give you a default judgment of guilty (or “responsible”) and notify the MVD to suspend your license. Once this happens, you’re responsible for paying the traffic ticket fine, court costs and another other related fees such as the default fee, and the cost to have your license reinstated.
Locate the County Court
Your ticket includes information about the court in charge of handling your case. Check your citation, or find out how to replace a lost traffic ticket in order to retrieve the information.
Schedule Your Hearing
Under normal circumstances, you won’t have to schedule a hearing; most AZ traffic tickets already include a hearing date.
If yours doesn’t, check the information provided on the ticket about scheduling a hearing. It’s not uncommon for courts to require phone calls or paperwork.
Rescheduling or Postponing Your Hearing
Check your AZ traffic ticket for information about rescheduling your hearing; generally, the citation will include at least a phone number to call.
As long as you try reschedule within a reasonable time period, you shouldn’t have any problems; however, if an emergency pops up too close to the hearing date to reschedule (under normal circumstances), and you absolutely cannot make the date, you might need to consult a traffic ticket attorney.
Drivers seek legal assistance for a variety of reasons. Consider hiring a traffic ticket lawyer if:
- You simply want to fight your AZ traffic ticket.
- You’re willing to plead to lesser charges if the judge will offer the option. A traffic ticket attorney can help get you to this point.
- Your charge or violation is criminal in nature (i.e. the traffic citation is related to alcohol or drugs, or manslaughter, homicide, or the commission of any kind of felony in a motor vehicle).
AZ traffic ticket lawyers can help with other matters, too, such as rescheduling hearings (see above) and appealing guilty verdicts (see below).
NOTE: Your court might require you to notify it within a certain number of days if you plan to use a lawyer.
The direction your traffic ticket hearing takes will depend on your particular situation, and this direction determines how you should prepare your case.
You can expect the judge (or judicial hearing officer) to hear testimony and view evidence from both sides, but you must be prepared to make sure your testimony and evidence is related to your particular case.
For example, your hearing might involve determining:
- Who was at fault for an accident related to the citation, and therefore who should pay for the damages.
- The manner in which the police officer handled the citation.
- Whether the violation was an oversight or intentional.
- The defendant’s (your) financial situation (i.e. whether you can pay the traffic ticket fine and related charges).
- Whether anyone was injured or put at risk for injury due to the violation.
As you can see, there’s potential for quite a few considerations as you prepare your case. For many drivers, this is reason enough to team up with a traffic ticket lawyer.
Regardless of the direction a hearing takes, there are a few standards most proceedings follow.
For example, after court is called to order, expect the judge to:
- Receive testimony and evidence from the state’s witnesses.
- Receive testimony and evidence from the defense (you and your traffic ticket attorney.
- Allow a rebuttal from the state.
- Allow a rebuttal from the defense.
- Provide the verdict at the close of the hearing.
Your next steps are dependent upon the judge’s verdict. Generally, if you’re found not guilty (or not responsible), you can leave the court and put the situation behind you.
On the other hand, if you’re found guilty (or responsible) of the charges you’ll be required to handle your traffic ticket fines and penalties. Your judge might also inform you of the driving record points you’ll accumulate, and whether those points mean your license is suspended or revoked.
NOTE: Some courts require payment by the end of the same business day, so be sure to talk with your court or attorney about whether you should show up prepared to pay.
Filing an Appeal
Most courts allow you to file an appeal if you’re unsatisfied with your verdict. You can inquire about your court’s specific process after the hearing, or have your traffic ticket lawyer handle the process for you, but note that you:
- You must file the proper paperwork (usually called a Notice of Appeal) within the allotted time period.
- You probably won’t receive the option to present new evidence or testimony; the appeals process might consist only of a higher court listening to an audio version of your original hearing.
- You’re responsible for all related costs.
As our section on the AZ Point System explains, accumulating too many points on your driving record can lead to license suspension or revocation.
So, regardless of your verdict, it’s a good idea to check your driving record after your hearing. Drivers who are found guilty can make sure their driving records received only the required number of points, and drivers found not guilty can make sure their records received no points.
If your judge finds you guilty and does not offer you the option to take a defensive driving course to satisfy the ticket, you might face an auto insurance rate increase.
Talk with your insurance agent about how a traffic violation might affect your coverage costs when you renew your policy; if you find out your premiums will increase, consider comparing auto insurance rates online to find a more affordable plan.Other Topics in This Section