Fight Traffic Ticket in Rhode Island

SUMMARY: How to Fight a Rhode Island Traffic Ticket

If you're going to fight your RI traffic ticket, you'll need to appear in court on your arraignment date to submit a “not guilty" plea and request a trial.

For detailed information, refer to your RI traffic ticket or contact the Traffic Tribunal or municipal court.

Fighting Your RI Traffic Ticket

You have a couple options in Rhode Island. You can:

Pay Ticket
(Plead Guilty or No Contest)

  • Pay the fine, possibly online.
  • Risk a suspended license or other penalties, like a habitual offender label.
  • Potentially receive the good driving record ticket dismissal.
  • Face increased auto insurance rates.

Learn more about
paying your traffic ticket »

Fight Ticket
(Plead Not Guilty)

  • Plead not guilty at your arraignment.
  • Prepare and present your case at a hearing, possibly with a traffic ticket attorney.
  • Gain no penalties if found not guilty.
  • Appeal the guilty verdict (if applicable).

What It Means to Fight Your Traffic Ticket

Fighting your RI traffic ticket means:

  • Appearing in court for your arraignment (date printed on ticket) to enter a "not guilty" plea and receive a hearing date.
  • Preparing for your hearing, possibly with the help of a traffic ticket lawyer.
  • Making your case before the judge.
  • Receiving a verdict.

If you're found "guilty," you can appeal the verdict, or go ahead and handle your specific traffic ticket fines and penalties.

Pleading Guilty or No Contest

Sometimes, drivers find it's easier to just plead " guilty" or "no contest," pay their fines, and deal with the penalties. Usually, these drivers face mild violations, have relatively good RI driving records, and don't want to spend the time (or have the evidence) to fight the charge.

Some drivers can even take advantage of the state's good driving record statute and have the traffic ticket dismissed.

Learn more about these options, including whether you can pay your fine online, at Paying Your Traffic Ticket.

Avoid Additional Charges

Your Rhode Island traffic ticket includes a date by which you must appear in court for your arraignment.

If you fail to appear on this date, the court will enter a default judgment and possibly put out an order for:

  • Driver's license suspension or revocation.
  • Vehicle registration suspension.
  • State income tax withholding.
NOTE: These penalties apply to drivers who fail to appear on their actual hearing dates, too.

Notify the Rhode Island Court

Determine Where to Plead

Your Rhode Island traffic ticket includes information about the court handling your violation, and this is where you'll plead.

Typically, Traffic Tribunal offices handle state violations and Municipal Courts handle city tickets.

Inform the Traffic Court

Generally, you must show up on your hearing date (the date printed on your ticket); this date is considered your arraignment date.

At your arraignment, you'll tell the judge you want to enter a "not guilty" plea, and the judge will schedule your traffic ticket hearing.

Rescheduling or Postponing Your Hearing

Typically, Rhode Island courts don't issue continuances for traffic ticket cases; however, this doesn't always mean you're stuck with your arraignment or hearing date.

First, try contacting the Traffic Tribunal office or Municipal Court handling your ticket. Explain the situation, and ask for a rescheduled date.

Then, if that doesn't work, turn to a skilled traffic ticket lawyer.

Hire a RI Traffic Ticket Attorney

Consider hiring a traffic ticket attorney if you:

  • Need help preparing and presenting your case.
  • Do not want to speak in court.
  • Want someone to examine and cross examine witnesses and the prosecution.
  • Have evidence to present.
  • Face serious charges, such as those involving DUI or fatality.
  • Would consider a plea agreement.

An experienced traffic lawyer can also help you reschedule your hearing, and file the paperwork and payment for an appeal.

Prepare Your Case

Consider these factors as you prepare your traffic ticket case in Rhode Island:

  • Testimony. This is “your side" of the events, and it's a good idea to practice it.
  • Evidence. Do you have any tangible proof that you're innocent?
  • Witnesses. Was anyone present during the event? Should you subpoena that person?

NOTE: Skilled traffic ticket lawyers have experience with each of these factors. Your attorney can also help you with any paperwork and filing procedures required for submitting evidence and subpoenaing witnesses.

Plead Your Case Before a Judge or Jury

Rhode Island traffic ticket cases are similar to most other kinds of simple hearings. Expect:

  • Opening statements from both sides.
  • Presentation of testimony, witnesses, and evidence.
  • Closing arguments.

After the closing arguments, there will be time for motions to dismiss. You or your lawyer might make a motion, or the court might make a motion.

Once that time is over, if the traffic ticket isn't dismissed or the judge dismisses only certain violations, it's time for a verdict.

If you're found " guilty," you must deal with all applicable ticket fines and penalties, or file an appeal.

Filing an Appeal in Rhode Island

The court is required to inform you of your right to an appeal, but in general you can file an appeal if you do not agree with your verdict. You must pay a fee and use your court's appropriate form.

Your first appeal will go to an appellate panel with the Traffic Tribunal; you can appeal the appellate panel's decision with the District Court.

Check Your RI Driving Record

Rhode Island doesn't use a point system, so you don't have to worry about points showing up on your driving record―regardless of your verdict.

However, violations still show up, so it's a good idea to keep an eye on your record and make sure:

  • No violations show up if the judge found you "not guilty" or dismissed your ticket.
  • Only the applicable violations show up if the judge found you "guilty."

Learn more at our page about RI Driving Records.

Shop for Better Auto Insurance Rates

Once it's time to renew your policy, your auto insurance provider will learn about your "guilty" verdict and likely increase your rates.

Talk with your agent about this possibility, and if you find out you do face an increase in your auto insurance, consider shopping for lower rates now.

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