Fight Traffic Ticket in South Carolina
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If you think you have the means to prove you unfairly received a traffic ticket in South Carolina, keep reading to find out how you can fight your citation in court.
(Plead Guilty or No Contest)
- Pay the fine, possibly online.
- Accumulate driving record points.
- Risk license suspension or revocation.
- See increased auto insurance rates.
- Possibly attend a defensive driving course to combat points and get an insurance discount.
Learn more about
paying your traffic ticket »
(Plead Not Guilty or Nolo Contendere)
- Contest ticket during your hearing.
- Possibly have a traffic ticket attorney represent you.
- Gain no penalties if found not guilty (except applicable court/attorney fees).
- Appeal the guilty verdict (if applicable).
Learn more below.
Plead Not Guilty to Your SC Citation
You must to appear in court on the date of your hearing to enter your “not guilty" plea. Check your traffic ticket for the date and time.
In South Carolina, traffic ticket cases are primarily handled by the following courts:
After pleading not guilty, the SC court clerk will notify you of the date and time you need to return for a pre-trial hearing OR trial before a judge (or jury if you request it). You may be required to post bond (i.e. pay your ticket fine), which will be returned to you if you win your case.
Keep in mind, if you miss your court date(s), you could face the following penalties:
- Suspended driver's license.
- Warrant for your arrest.
If you still have questions about when and how to plead not guilty, call the South Carolina court handling your case. Your traffic citation includes the name and contact information for the SC court you should get in touch with.
What Does It Mean to Plead Not Guilty?
Entering a “not guilty" plea essentially means you believe you are innocent of any charges against you, and you're accepting your right to prove so in court.
Before entering your plea, make sure that you:
- Will make the time to appear in court (possibly on multiple occasions).
- Are aware you could face jail time if convicted of a serious charge, like DUI or DWI.
- Understand points might be added to your record, and lead to a suspended license.
Check out our When to Fight a Traffic Ticket page for more advice on choosing your plea.
Fight Your SC Traffic Ticket in Court
The process for fighting your SC traffic ticket can differ from court to court, though generally the steps to formally contest your citation will include a:
- Pre-trial hearing.
- Trial before judge or jury.
- You can only request a trial before a jury in writing before your assigned trial date.
PRIOR to your first court appearance, you may want to hire a traffic ticket attorney. If you opt to represent yourself, you should have some familiarity with the rules and procedures of South Carolina traffic court.
In some cases, the SC court may appoint you counsel if you can prove indigence. For more information, contact the court in charge of your traffic citation.
If you're required to return for a pre-trial hearing, you (or your attorney) will meet with a South Carolina state prosecutor to try and reach a plea bargain. A plea bargain could require any of the following:
- The state prosecutor dismisses your charges on the grounds that:
- There isn't sufficient evidence against you.
- You agree to enroll in a SC Traffic Education Program (TEP).
- You change your plea to guilty in exchange for lighter penalties.
If a plea bargain isn't agreed upon, you'll need to go to trial and plead your case before a judge or jury.
Although you may receive a lighter sentence, pleading guilty to your traffic charges can raise your car insurance rates! Before you agree to a plea bargain, make sure you fully understand how pleading guilty to a traffic citation can affect your auto insurance rates.
When you stand trial before a judge or jury, the process will typically follow this structure:
- SC state prosecutor and you (or your attorney) give opening statements.
- Both sides present their:
- Rebuttals and cross examinations.
- Closing arguments from both sides.
- Jury or judge's verdict.
- If you're found guilty of your traffic charges, the judge will then decide on your sentence.
Outcomes of Contesting Your SC Ticket
Depending on the verdict of your case, you could be looking at a wide array of positive AND negative outcomes for contesting your South Carolina traffic ticket.
If the SC judge or jury find you guilty, the penalties you'll face will depend on the severity of your convictions, and could be any of the following:
- Driver license suspension.
- Community service.
- Defensive driving courses.
- Points added to your driving record.
- Jail time.
NOTE: Per federal law, if you hold a valid commercial driver license, you MUST notify your employer of any non-parking traffic violations within 30 days of conviction. You must also notify the Department of Motor Vehicles within 30 days of a conviction issued outside the jurisdiction.
Filing an Appeal in South Carolina
If you're found guilty, you have 10 days to file an appeal with the court to request that your traffic charges and sentence be overturned. For more information on filing an appeal, take a look at the South Carolina Court of Appeals' FAQ page.
You can ease the pain of a guilty verdict by completing a South Carolina defensive driving course. You may be able to reduce the amount of points added to your driving record AND become a better driver at the same time.
Not Guilty Verdict
If the judge or jury agree that you're not guilty of the traffic charges brought against you, then:
- All traffic charges are dismissed.
- No points are added to your driving record.
- You won't have to pay any fines or endure any penalties.
- Your car insurance rates won't increase.
At this point, it's very important that you check your driving record to make sure it accurately reflects your dismissal. If left unchecked, a driver history error could lead to massive fines and even license suspension.