Fight Traffic Ticket in Tennessee
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Plead Not Guilty to Your TN Citation
The first step to fighting your Tennessee traffic ticket is pleading “not guilty" to the charges. Depending on the court, you may have the option of entering your plea:
- In person.
- By mail.
- Through e-mail.
You'll need to plead to the municipal OR city court in charge of your case ON OR BEFORE the hearing date printed on your ticket.
More specific information on how AND where to plead not guilty can also be found on your traffic citation. If you misplaced your ticket, take a look at our page regarding lost TN traffic citations.
Once you've pleaded not guilty, the court will assign you a date to return for your pre-trial conference. Take note of this date! If you miss ANY scheduled court appearances your driver's license will be suspended.
If you need to reschedule a court date OR still have questions about pleading “not guilty," contact the TN municipal or city court that's handling your case.
What it Means to Plead Not Guilty
When you plead “not guilty," you're exercising your legal right to stand before a Tennessee judge and make a case for your innocence. You're also confirming that you:
- Have the time to appear in court, possibly on multiple occasions.
- Understand you could face jail time if found guilty of a serious charge, like DUI or DWI.
- Are aware points could be added to your record as a result of a conviction.
If you're still unsure about submitting a not guilty plea, take a look at our guide, When to Fight a Traffic Ticket, for additional tips and information.
Contest Your Traffic Ticket in Court
Typically, the required court appearances for fighting a traffic ticket in Tennessee include:
- Pre-trial conference.
- Trial before a judge.
If you're facing multiple and/or serious charges, consider hiring a traffic ticket lawyer BEFORE heading to court. Remember, if you choose to represent yourself, you should be familiar with all procedures of Tennessee traffic court.
You may be eligible to receive court-appointed counsel if you meet the following criteria:
- A guilty verdict could result in incarceration.
- You can prove a lack of means to afford an attorney of your own.
If you want to learn more about which traffic violations might call for legal representation, take a look at our guide, When to Hire a Traffic Ticket Lawyer.
At the pre-trial conference you (or your attorney) and a TN state prosecutor will attempt to negotiate a settlement. A settlement will usually require:
- Changing your plea to guilty.
- Reducing the penalties for your charges.
A major benefit of accepting a pre-trial settlement is that you can avoid having to go to trial. If a settlement can't be agreed upon the TN municipal or city court will assign you a date to return for trial before a judge.
DID YOU KNOW: Pleading guilty can substantially raise your car insurance rates.
Before accepting a pre-trial settlement, make sure to read up on how traffic violations can affect how much you pay for auto insurance.
Trial Before a Judge
Generally, trial before a Tennessee judge follows this process:
- The TN state prosecutor and yourself (or your lawyer) make opening arguments.
- Opportunity to present:
- Rebuttals and/or cross-examination of witnesses.
- Both sides give closing arguments.
- Judge issues a verdict.
- If you're found guilty, the judge will then announce your sentence.
If you want to appeal a conviction, you'll need to do the following within 10 days (excluding Sundays) of receiving a guilty verdict:
- File a Notice of Appeal with the Tennessee circuit court in the county where you originally fought your ticket.
- Post bond of $250.
For more information about requesting an appeal, contact the specific circuit court you'll be filing an appeal with.
Consequences of Fighting Your TN Ticket
The outcome of your case will determine whether the consequences of fighting your traffic ticket have a long-lasting negative OR positive influence on your future.
If You Lose
If you lose your case, the severity of your charges will determine which of the following penalties you could face:
- Mandatory enrollment in a defensive driving course.
- Points added to your record.
- Community service.
- Suspended driver's license.
- Jail time.
NOTE: If you're a Tennessee commercial driver, you MUST inform your employer of any traffic violations within 30 days of being convicted. Convictions occurring outside the licensing jurisdiction must be reported to the licensing agency within 30 days.
Did a guilty verdict add points to your driving record? Are you now in danger of losing your driver's license?
If so, take the time to enroll in a Tennessee defensive driving course. Doing so can keep your license from being suspended AND will make you a better driver overall.
If You Win
If you win your TN traffic ticket case, you can look forward to the following:
- No fines or penalties to endure.
- All charges dismissed.
- No additional points on your TN driving record.
- Insurance rates don't increase.
After receiving the results of your case, it's important to check the accuracy of your Tennessee driving record. Any incorrect information can lead to undeserved stress, fines, and penalties down the road for you.