If you ever receive a traffic ticket, the first thing you probably wonder is what the next step will be. You may be told by the officer that you have to appear in court, or you may be told simply to pay the fine. You should know what your legal rights are and make an informed decision for what you should do. While this guide will explain what your options are, it is a good idea to talk to a traffic ticket attorney as well to get advice specific for the exact state and county that you live in.
It is important to understand that the exact laws surrounding traffic tickets does vary depending on your state, but the basics are almost always the same. Typically, you have two options:
- Pay the ticket
- Contest the ticket
For most tickets, you can choose either of these options freely. For more severe cases, such as reckless driving, drunk driving, or any accident in which someone was seriously injuries, a court appearance may be mandatory. In these cases, you unfortunately do not have any choice and must appear court on the listed date or face more severe consequences. However, most of the time, you do have a choice.
Paying the Ticket
If you pay for the ticket, the case is completed. You do not need to appear in court. You can usually pay online, by mail, or by visiting the clerk’s office for your county. Paying a fine in this way, however, is the same as agreeing that you did commit the traffic violation. It is put on your record for a set number of years and may affect future violations.
Contesting the Ticket
Instead, if you choose to contest the ticket, you may be able to eliminate the fine, remove it from your record, reduce the fine, or substitute the fine for community service. Contesting a ticket is your legal right. If you choose this route, your first step should be to contact a traffic ticket attorney. Instead of appearing in court on your set date, you can remotely request to plead not guilty and set a trial date. This is essentially all that would happen in court anyway. Then, when your trial date arrives, you have the chance to defend yourself and potentially have the ticket removed or reduced. It is always a good idea to have legal representation if you hope to contest a ticket. A lawyer can explain what all your options are and the details of your state’s traffic ticket laws.