Fight Traffic Ticket in TexasPage Overview
There are three ways to plead after you get cited for a non-criminal traffic violation in Texas: guilty, no contest (nolo contendere) and not guilty. Whether you decide to pay or fight the ticket you must enter your plea by the appearance date listed on your citation. If you have misplaced your ticket, visit our section on Lost Traffic Tickets.
(Plead Guilty or No Contest)
- Pay the fine
- Option to plea bargain penalties
- Incur points on your driving record (could lead to license suspension/revocation)
- Possibly incur increase on auto insurance rates
- Possible option to take driver safety course and get ticket dismissed/points reduced
Learn more about
Paying your Traffic Ticket »
If you decide against paying your ticket outright, you can make an appearance in court to see about getting the charges reduced or dropped. In some cases, a court appearance does not necessarily mean you are pleading not guilty. However, if you decide to plead not guilty, you must follow a specific set of steps that could vary by county. Pleading not guilty can mean you lose the option of getting charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser traffic infraction. But that's not always the case.
Pleading Guilty or No Contest
When you plead guilty or no contest, you waive your right to a trial by judge or jury. You can simply pay the traffic fine and then look into the option of getting the ticket dismissed. For more on this, check out the steps on paying your traffic ticket.
Avoid Being Issued a Warrant
Completely ignoring your ticket or failing to make a plea could result in a warrant for your arrest. Therefore, begin taking the proper steps no matter how you decide to plead.
Locate the County Court
The state handles Texas traffic tickets on the county level. If you don’t recall the county in which you were pulled over, try remembering who issued the citation; it could be either a sheriff, local police officer or Texas Highway Patrolman.
If a TX Highway Patrol (THP) cited you for the traffic violation, use the state’s online ticket search to get more info on your specific infraction. If you were cited by a law enforcement agent from a department other than the THP, visit the appropriate county Web site for more on how to proceed.
Inform the Court In Person or In Writing
To contest your traffic ticket, you must inform the court that you are pleading not guilty to the violation. It’s likely that you must do so by the court appearance date listed on your actual citation. To play it safe, contact the court for exact steps on how and when to proceed. Ask whether you must do this in writing or in person.
If you must make an appearance in person, you might want to consult a traffic ticket attorney before going in. This will depend on your budget. If money is tight, simply hold off on getting legal counsel until after you go in on your own, listen to the plea bargain and plead not guilty (if you still disagree with the charges).
*Remember, if you plead not guilty, the court could take any previous plea bargains completely off the table. This could mean you face the the chance of being convicted on all charges stated on your ticket.
As mentioned above, consulting a traffic ticket lawyer might give you new insight. They will discuss the facts of your case and help you determine if it's worth contesting the ticket, and worth the expense of hiring legal counsel. Read below for more on this.
After notifying the court, you will likely be scheduled for an appearance docket to discuss your case with a prosecutor. Before your appearance, consider consulting a traffic ticket attorney. A legal counselor can help you through the process as you prepare your case. Or on your own you can gather the facts, order a driving record, ask for a continuance if you’re not prepared to go to trial yet, etc. Keep in mind this appearance is not your actual trial.
If you waive this docket, you’ll probably be scheduled for a trial by judge or jury. Whether you hire an attorney, you’ll also want to touch base with any bystanders or witnesses who were in the car with you. You’ll need to subpoena these witnesses when it comes time for your trial.
At some point, you’ll likely be given the choice to go before a judge or jury. This is when you’ll need to have your witnesses lined up, the facts of your case clear and the results of your investigation ironed out.
If you go before a judge, he or she will render a verdict and set the traffic fines and penalties if he finds you guilty. Otherwise, if a jury renders the verdict, it varies by county who sets the penalties and fines. You will be well informed of how to proceed through the court.
No matter the verdict and whether you have the option to reduce your driving record points through defensive driving, we suggest you check your driving record to ensure the state record accurately reflects your points―especially after getting a traffic ticket. Learn more on the points associated with specific traffic violations by checking out the TX point system.
Once you pay your ticket (if guilty) and check the resulting driving record points, inquire with your auto insurance company on how the violation will affect your rates. Because points stay on your record for up to three years, you could see an increase in your insurance premium the next time you renew your policy. Get ahead of the added expense by shopping online to compare auto insurance rates.Other Topics in This Section