When you receive a traffic ticket, you do not by default have to give in, admit guilt to it, and pay your fine. You can fight the traffic ticket. And depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction where you received the ticket, you often have several different options as to how you can successfully fight traffic violations.
Not Paying the Fine
Before we dive into the most common ways you can fight a ticket, it is important to remember not to pay the ticket. When you pay the fine associated with a traffic ticket, you have essentially admitted guilt to the traffic violation in most jurisdictions. Once you have paid a traffic ticket, you generally will not have the option to later change your plea, present a defense, and possibly receive back the money you paid. Therefore, do not pay the fine related to a traffic ticket if you plan to fight the ticket.
Common Defenses Against Traffic Tickets
There are a few common defenses against a traffic ticket. Depending on the type of ticket you received, the situation under which you received the ticket, and the laws of the jurisdiction where you received the ticket, some of these defenses may not be applicable to you.
When you choose to fight a traffic ticket, know that you often have to choose a date to appear in court (and depending on the jurisdiction, possibly a couple of dates to first enter your plea and then to actually have the trial related to the ticket in front of a judge). So while fighting a traffic ticket may take a little of your time, it may be worth it if it saves you money. The time in court is something you will have to weigh against lost wages and anything else you may have to give up to make the court date or dates.
Officer Not in Court
The first of the common defenses related to the police officer. If the police officer who wrote you the traffic ticket does not show up in court, you will receive a default verdict in your favor. You can do a couple of things to increase the odds that the officer will not appear. First, if there is a date noted on the ticket when you can appear in court, contact the court to attempt to change the date. The default date on the ticket may be the date when the officer is attempting to appear in court for a number of the tickets he has written, so if you can appear on a different date, the officer may not be able to appear.
Second, if you receive a different date to appear in court, try to choose a date that might be inconvenient to the officer, such as one near a holiday when the officer may be on vacation.
Research the Law
There wording of some traffic laws if sometimes not as strict as we often believe they are. Therefore, based on the violation the officer wrote on your traffic ticket, research the exact wording of the law for your jurisdiction to determine if you actually violated the laws.
For example, while the speeding laws in some states make it clear you are speeding even if you are driving only one mile per hour above the speed limit, other states allow some leeway if you can demonstrate that you were still driving at a safe rate of speed, even if you were exceeding the speed limit. Likewise, the laws related to stoplights and stop signs in some states do not explicitly require tat you come to a complete stop but rather only that you slow to a rate of speed that allows you to safely proceed.
Note Facts in Your Favor
When you first receive a traffic ticket, even if you have not yet decided you want to fight the ticket, it is wise to capture as many details about the event as you can in writing and possibly using photographs. Such facts include but may not be limited to road conditions, how heavy traffic is, if there were obstructions between your vehicle and the officer, if there were circumstances that caused your behavior, and possibly creating a diagram identifying the position of your vehicle and the officer during the incident.
Capturing all of these details may help you identify relevant information that you (or a defense attorney if you hire one) can use that will help in your defense.
Even if you have a general idea of ways you can fight a traffic ticket, it is usually a good idea to hire a defense attorney who specializes in traffic violations. Such an attorney will be able to review the evidence in your specific situation and often obtain a result that will cost you far less money that the amount of the original fine, even when you factor in the fee you will need to pay the attorney.