Fight Traffic Ticket in West Virginia
Plead Not Guilty to Your Traffic Ticket
To begin fighting your West Virginia traffic ticket, you must submit a plea of “not guilty" to the WV magistrate court in charge of your case.
The methods for notifying the court of your not guilty plea will differ from county to county. Typically, you'll have the option of pleading not guilty:
- In person.
- By mail.
Regardless of method, you'll need to enter your plea ON OR BEFORE the date printed on your traffic citation. Your ticket will also list the specific WV magistrate court you need to report to.
If you can't find your citation, take a look at our Lost WV Traffic Ticket page for guidance on what to do.
Once you've pleaded “not guilty," the court will:
- Require you to post bail, guaranteeing your return to court.
- If you win your case, bail will be returned to you.
- Assign you a date to return for your pre-trial hearing.
Make sure to mark your calendar! If you miss ANY court dates the penalties could include:
- Driver's license suspension.
- Warrant issued for your arrest.
If you need to reschedule a court appearance, or you still have questions about pleading “not guilty" to your West Virginia ticket, contact the specific WV magistrate court that's handling your traffic case.
Implications of Pleading Not Guilty
When you decide to plead not guilty, you're exercising your legal right to make a case for your innocence before a West Virginia judge.
Keep in mind, by pleading not guilty you're implying that you:
- Can devote the necessary time to appearing in court, potentially on multiple occasions.
- Are aware points could be added to your WV driving record.
- Know you could face jail time if convicted of a serious charge like DUI or DWI.
If you're still unsure about pleading not guilty, take a look at our guide When to Fight a Traffic Ticket for additional tips and information.
Contesting Your WV Citation in Court
Contesting your traffic citation in court will usually include the following steps:
- Pre-trial hearing.
- Trial before a judge OR jury.
- By default, you'll go to trial before a judge. However, if you'd like to argue your case before a jury, you'll need to submit a written request to the magistrate court no more than 20 days after your initial court appearance.
BEFORE heading to court, consider hiring a traffic ticket lawyer. Should you choose to represent yourself, you'll have to be familiar with the rules and practices of West Virginia traffic court.
Some WV magistrate courts may appoint you counsel if:
- Your traffic violations could result in incarceration.
- You can prove indigence and the lack of funds to hire an attorney on your own.
If you're still on the fence about hiring an attorney, check out our page When to Hire a Traffic Ticket Lawyer to see if your circumstances warrant representation.
At the pre-trial hearing, you'll meet with a West Virginia state prosecutor to try and work out a plea agreement. A plea agreement could require EITHER:
- The state prosecutor dismisses the case due to a lack of viable evidence against you.
- You change your plea to guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence.
If a plea agreement is reached, you'll avoid going to trial. However, if you and the prosecution can't come to an agreement, the court will assign you a date to return for trial before a judge or jury.
Keep in mind, when you change your plea to guilty your auto insurance rates can increase! Make sure you're fully aware of how traffic violations can affect how much you pay for car insurance BEFORE consenting to a plea agreement.
Trial before a judge or jury will typically follow this format:
- You (or your attorney) and the West Virginia state prosecutor make opening arguments.
- Each side presents:
- Opportunity for rebuttals and/or cross-examination of witnesses.
- Both sides give closing arguments.
- Verdict from the judge or jury.
- If you're found guilty, the judge will then administer your sentence.
If you're found guilty of a misdemeanor traffic offense, and want to appeal the verdict, you have 20 days to file an appeal with the WV magistrate court handling your case.
The particular type of appeal you'll need to submit will depend on if you went to trial before a:
- Judge: Petition for Appeal of Bench Trial (SCA-M111).
- Jury: Petition for Appeal of Jury Verdict (Form SCA-M110).
Consequences of Fighting Your Ticket
Depending on the outcome of your case, the consequences of fighting your West Virginia traffic ticket will either have a long-lasting positive OR negative impact on your life.
If You Lose
If you lose your traffic case, the severity of your charges will determine which of the following penalties you'll face:
- Suspended driver's license.
- Points added to your WV driving record.
- You should be prepared to pay all fines on your trial date if you're found guilty. The court may allow you to pay in installments if you can prove indigence.
- Community service.
- Jail sentence.
NOTE: If you hold a West Virginia commercial driver's license (CDL) you're required by federal law to notify your employer of any traffic violations within 30 days of conviction.
DID YOU KNOW: In West Virginia, completing a defensive driving course can REMOVE points from your driving record. Reduce the chances of having your license suspended and become a better driver overall with a WV defensive driving course.
If You Win
If the judge or jury find you not guilty of the traffic charges, congrats! You can look forward to the following:
- No fines or penalties to deal with.
- All charges and your citation dismissed.
- No additional points on your WV driving record.
- Insurance rates won't increase.
After receiving your verdict, it's important that you check on the accuracy of your WV driving record. Any incorrect information could lead to unnecessary fines, penalties, and stress in the future.