Fight Traffic Ticket in Pennsylvania
Plead Not Guilty to Your PA Citation
In Pennsylvania, you must submit your plea of not guilty to the traffic court handling your case, within 10 days of receiving the traffic citation, if you wish to fight your ticket.
Generally, you must inform the court in person if you plead not guilty.
HOWEVER, some PA traffic courts may allow you to notify them:
- By mail.
- By phone.
After informing the court of your plea, you must post collateral. In most cases, this includes the Pennsylvania traffic ticket fine AND any court costs and surcharges. If you win your case, the traffic ticket fines will be returned to you.
After pleading not guilty to the traffic violation(s), the court will assign you a date to return for a pretrial conference OR trial before a judge.
Contact the Pennsylvania traffic court in the county where you received your citation for more specific information on how to enter your plea of not guilty.
Missed or Postponed Court Dates
Keep in mind, missing ANY of your court dates could result in:
- Your driver's license being suspended.
- A warrant being issued for your arrest.
- Your case being fought and a verdict decided upon without your presence.
If you cannot make it to your assigned court date, usually you can request a continuance in writing or in person at the applicable PA traffic court. Handle this PROMPTLY as your court may only accept continuances submitted within a specific time frame.
What a “Not Guilty" Plea Means
When you plead not guilty, you're exercising your legal right to present your case before a judge, and implying that you:
- Can devote the time needed to appear in court (possibly on multiple occasions).
- Know you could face jail time if convicted of a serious charge, like DUI or DWI.
- Acknowledge points could be added to your driving record.
Review our page on choosing when you should fight a traffic charge for guidance.
Fight Your PA Traffic Ticket in Court
The steps to fighting your Pennsylvania traffic ticket can differ from court to court, though generally, the process consists of the following:
- Pre-trial conference.
- Trial before a judge.
Consider hiring a traffic ticket lawyer PRIOR to your court appearance(s). If you opt to represent yourself, you'll need to have some familiarity with the procedures of Pennsylvania traffic court before fighting your ticket.
The PA traffic court may also appoint you counsel if you meet the following criteria:
- You don't have the financial means to hire a traffic ticket lawyer on your own.
- If convicted, your charges could result in imprisonment.
At a pre-trial conference you (or your attorney) will meet with a Pennsylvania state prosecutor to try to work out a plea bargain. A plea bargain will require that you change your plea to guilty in exchange for reduced penalties.
If a plea bargain can't be agreed upon, the PA traffic court will assign you a date to return for trial before a judge.
If you accept a plea bargain and plead guilty, your car insurance rates could go up! Make sure you're fully aware of how traffic citations can affect your auto insurance rates BEFORE agreeing to a plea bargain.
Trial Before a Judge
If you end up going to trial before a judge, you can expect the process to follow this general outline:
- You (or your attorney) and the PA state prosecutor submit opening arguments.
- Evidence and witnesses (if applicable) are presented.
- Opportunity for cross examinations and rebuttals.
- Closing arguments from both sides.
- Judge's verdict.
- If the judge finds you guilty, they'll then decide on your penalties.
If you'd like to pursue your case after a guilty verdict and sentencing, you can file an appeal with the PA Court of Common Pleas with the county court where you received your citation.
Unfortunately, enrolling in a defensive driving course will not reduce points on your Pennsylvania driving record. However, with proof of PA traffic school or defensive driving course completion, you may still be eligible for discounted car insurance rates. Check with your insurance provider for more information.
Outcomes of Fighting Your PA Ticket
Depending on the judge's verdict, there are a variety of consequences to fighting your traffic ticket in Pennsylvania.
The penalties you'll face after a guilty verdict will depend on the severity of the traffic charges brought against you. Your sentence could include any of the following:
- Unless you can prove indigence to the court, you'll have to pay all fines on the day of sentencing if you're found guilty.
- License suspension.
- Community service.
- Points to your PA driving record.
- Jail time.
NOTE: According the federal law, all commercial drivers MUST notify their employer of traffic charges within 30 days of conviction.
Not Guilty Verdict
If the Pennsylvania judge decides you're not guilty of the traffic violations, congrats! You can look forward to:
- All traffic charges dropped.
- No fines or penalties.
- The collateral you paid when you pleaded not guilty will be returned to you.
- No additional points on your record.
- Auto insurance rates don't increase.
Now make sure to pull a copy of your driving record to ensure that it is clear. If your traffic violation still appears erroneously, you could be on the hook for major fines and even license suspension.