Fight Traffic Ticket in Michigan

SUMMARY: How to Fight a Michigan Traffic Ticket

If you plan to fight a civil traffic ticket, you must request a court hearing and plead “not guilty." Refer to your MI traffic ticket for specific instructions or contact the appropriate court directly.

Fighting a Traffic Ticket in Michigan

In Michigan, there are several ways to plead after being cited for a civil infraction (traffic ticket):

  • Guilty.
  • Guilty with an explanation.
  • Not guilty.

Regardless of the type of plea, you must submit it to the court by the appearance date posted on your MI traffic ticket.

Failing to respond before the set appearance date comes with consequences. Learn more on our Traffic Ticket FAQ page.

Pay Ticket
(Plead Guilty or No Contest)

  • Pay the fine.
  • 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 »

Fight 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

What It Means to Fight Your MI Traffic Ticket

Getting your charges reduced or dismissed is the goal of challenging your traffic ticket in court. Hearing procedures vary with each district court in Michigan. If you're unsure on how to proceed, call the district court listed on your citation.

After you plead " not guilty," you'll have the option to represent yourself or hire a traffic ticket lawyer. The MI court will then issue any 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: You must pay all related fines and fees, and incur points on your MI driving record.

Pleading Guilty

Pleading "guilty" to your traffic ticket in Michigan, is an admission of guilt, which forfeits your right to a court trial. Once the court receives your payment, the case is considered closed. Learn more by reading our Paying Your Traffic Ticket page.

Pleading Guilty With an Explanation

This option requires a court hearing to explain the mitigating factors behind your traffic violation. The Michigan 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 accepted, the court will schedule a hearing date.

Notify the MI Traffic Court

In Michigan, traffic tickets are handled by county district courts. You must send your plea to the court listed on your MI traffic ticket. For example, if you were cited in Lansing but live in Detroit, you'll have to settle your ticket with the Lansing court.

Inform the Court In Person or By Mail

Instructions will be clearly noted on your citation. Most courts will request notification by mail, and sometimes in person. Call ahead to make sure.

NOTE: Be sure to notify the court by the due date posted on your ticket to avoid additional penalties.

Informal or Formal Hearing?

There are different types of hearings for traffic tickets in Michigan:

  • Informal: You (the defendant) and the citing officer (the 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: 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.

NOTE: During your 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 in a formal hearing before a Michigan district court judge.

Hire a Traffic Ticket Lawyer

If your budget allows, you may want to consider hiring a traffic lawyer. A traffic ticket lawyer is experienced in the ways of the court and Michigan traffic laws. This familiarity might improve your chances for reduced charges or the dismissal of your MI traffic citation.

Prepare Your Traffic Ticket Case

After receiving your plea, the court will notify you of a hearing date. Unless you specifically request a formal hearing, you will be scheduled for a pre-hearing before a court magistrate.


  • If you opt for legal assistance, a MI traffic ticket attorney will organize your case. While a lawyer cannot represent you during a pre-formal hearing, he or she can still advise you.
  • If you opt to represent yourself in court, you will need to gather evidence, and interview and subpoena witnesses.

Plead Your Case Before a Judge or Magistrate

After presenting your defense to the Michigan court, 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.

Check Your MI Driving Record

Regardless of verdict, check your MI driving record for accuracy. Verify that all listed charges and posted points are accountable. Immediately notify the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) if you detect any errors. Unsubstantiated points or traffic violations could cause an unwarranted jump in your car insurance rates or the loss of driving privileges in Michigan.

Shop for Better Auto Insurance Rates

Depending on your provider and traffic violation in Michigan, you may receive points on your MI driving record and a leap in your car insurance premiums. If your auto insurance rates are exceeding your budget, take the time to research other car insurance companies and compare car insurance rates online from a variety of insurance providers. The process is fast and easy.

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