Fight Traffic Ticket in MichiganPage Overview
In Michigan you have three ways to plead after being cited for a civil infraction (traffic ticket): guilty, guilty with an explanation and not guilty. Regardless of plea, you must submit it to the court by the appearance date posted on your citation.
Failing to respond before your ticket's appearance date comes with consequences. Learn more in our Traffic Ticket FAQ page.
(Plead Guilty or No Contest)
- Pay the fine OR
- Pay the fine with an explanation
- Incur points on driving record that could lead to license suspension
- Possibly incur increase on auto insurance rates
- Possible option to take driver improvement course to reduce points
Learn more about
Paying Your Traffic Ticket »
(Plead Not Guilty)
- Contest traffic ticket via trial
- Choose to represent yourself or hire a traffic ticket attorney
- No penalties if found guilty, but must pay court/attorney fees
- Court finds you guilty, must pay fines, court/attorney fees and incur penalties
Read full details below
Challenging your traffic ticket requires requesting a court hearing with the intent of having the charges reduced or having the ticket dismissed. Hearing procedures vary with each district court. If you're unsure on how to proceed, call the district court listed on your citation.
After pleading not guilty, you'll have the option to represent yourself or hire legal counsel. The court will then issue one of the following outcomes:
- Not guilty, no traffic violation fines or driving record points. You still must pay court and, if applicable, legal fees.
- Guilty, but to reduced charges. You'll still be required to pay court and, if applicable, legal fees, and possibly the fine for a lesser charge.
- Guilty, meaning you must pay all related fines and fees, and incur points on your driving record.
Pleading guilty is an admission of guilt, forfeiting your right to a court trial. Once the court receives your payment, the case is considered closed. Learn more in our Paying Your Traffic Ticket page.
Pleading Guilty With an Explanation
This option requires requesting a hearing to explain the mitigating factors behind your violation. The court will consider your request and notify you of its decision by mail. If your request is rejected you'll be asked to submit your traffic ticket payment. If it's accepted, the court will schedule a hearing date.
Traffic tickets are handled by county district courts. You must send your plea to the court listed on your Michigan traffic ticket. This means, for example, that if you were cited in Lansing but live in Detroit, you still must settle your ticket with the Lansing court listed on your citation.
Inform the Court in Person or In Writing
Notification instructions will be clearly detailed on your citation. Be sure to notify the court by the due date posted on your ticket. Most courts will request notification by mail. Some may allow you to appear in person, but call ahead to make sure.
Informal or Formal Hearing?
There are two types of hearings:
- Informal Hearing―You (defendant) and the citing officer (plaintiff) appear under oath before a court magistrate. Both you and the plaintiff may present testimony and call witnesses, but you must do so without the presence of legal representation.
- Formal Hearing―You present your case while under oath before a district court judge. A prosecutor will represent the citing officer (plaintiff), while you'll have the option to either represent yourself or hire a traffic ticket lawyer.
When submitting your plea you must specifically request for a formal hearing. Otherwise the court will initially schedule you for a pre-hearing. During the pre-hearing the magistrate will listen to both testimonies and then issue a decision. If you disagree with the magistrate's decision you have the right to appeal. You will then be scheduled to a formal hearing before a district court judge.
If your budget allows, consult with legal counsel. A traffic lawyer is experienced on the ways of the court. This familiarity might improve your chances for reduced charges or for the dismissal of your citation.
After receiving your plea the court will notify you of a hearing date. Unless you specifically request for a formal hearing, you will be scheduled for a pre-hearing before a court magistrate. If you opt for legal assistance, a traffic ticket attorney will organize your case (though a lawyer cannot represent you during a pre-formal hearing, he or she can still advise you). If you opt to represent yourself you will need to gather evidence and interview and subpoena witnesses.
After presenting your defense, a judge or magistrate will issue a verdict. If found guilty, you will be advised of all penalties and instructed on how to pay all fines.
Regardless of verdict, check your driving record for accuracy. Verify that all listed charges and posted points are accountable. Immediately notify the SOS if you detect any errors. Unsubstantiated points or violations could cause an unwarranted jump in your car insurance rates or the loss of driving privileges.
A traffic violation may cause a leap in your car insurance premiums, depending on the policies of your provider. If your auto insurance rates are exceeding your budget, take the time to research other car insurance companies. You can compare car insurance rates online from a variety of insurance providers. The process is fast and easy.Other Topics in This Section