Learn How to Fight a Ticket in Your State

fight a ticket
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When you are behind the wheel you need to be very careful and follow each and every rule and regulation. Not following any of these principles will surely leave you with a traffic ticket.

Tickets are issued constantly all over America. In fact, according to Motorists.org, not considering parking tickets, approximately 50 million traffic tickets are issued every year. The majority of those tickets are issued due to speeding (1 speeding ticket is issued per second in our country), followed by:

  • Running a stop sign or red light.
  • Not using the turn signals when changing lanes.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Following too closely.
  • Violating railroad rules
  • Driving in the wrong direction
  • Not stopping for pedestrians.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)

You can either fight a traffic ticket or pay for it. Here you will find the most important information that you need to keep in mind before acting on it.

Where to Start

First of all, you need to check that all the information on the ticket is accurate. Then you need to decide if you are going to pay for it or if you want to ask for clarification, which can lead you to fight a traffic ticket.

Keep in mind that the ticket will remain in your driving record, and there are some types that cannot be paid off, such as inappropriate driver’s license, insurance or car registration number or having defective car parts.

If you decide to pay the ticket, authorities give you approximately 30 days to do so—this varies from state to state. This is clearly the easiest option there can be; however, not everyone can afford the costs. The first and most important is that your insurance premiums will surely rise and can even reach $2,500, depending on what was the cause for the ticket you received.

If you take the course of action, you will have to fight a traffic ticket in court or seek some sort of negotiation to avoid paying for it.

General Information to Fight a Traffic Ticket

To fight a traffic ticket, you need to take a close look at the documents the officer gave you. There you will find the date and time for your meeting, as well as the cost, means of payment and expiration. Then, before you get into all the fighting procedures, ask your local Department of Motorized Vehicles (DMV) if there are any ways in which you could dismiss your ticket completely. Sometimes, first offenders are lucky enough to achieve that.

Regarding the method and place where you need to show up, we need to highlight that legal procedures typically vary between states. In some cases, you have the choice to either fight a traffic ticket by mail or attending to a court meeting. The cause of your ticket will determine if the first option is available for you or not.

For non-severe traffic violations, such as a first offender speeder, these meetings to fight a traffic ticket are usually quick. However, for more severe charges (DUI or having a suspended license), the meeting can be long and take up much more of your time.

What do I need to fight a traffic ticket?

Previous to showing up to the courthouse, it is extremely important to mention that you cannot defend yourself against the ticket with anything other than the truth. Also, to fight a traffic ticket you need solid proof to support your story.

That being said, try to gather all the documentation and be as clear as possible when presenting your case to the judge to fight a traffic ticket. You should mostly focus on why you should not be considered guilty of the traffic violation stated in the ticket.

What documents/information do I need?

There is no point in going to the court interview without the documents that you need to fight a traffic ticket, so take the time to gather them up. Information is key in this case, as it is the best tool you will have to present your case.

The lawyers will ask you questions about the day of the traffic infraction. Therefore, try having the answers ready to appear calm and at ease the day of the interview. For example, you should consider gathering the following information to fight a traffic ticket of any sort:

  • A copy of the ticket that you were given. You can also print a copy of the online document, found on the website of the party that gave you the ticket.
  • Your insurance and registration information, since they will want to verify that you have everything in order and up to date.
  • Exact time and date in which you were given the ticket.
  • Weather conditions of the day of the ticket. Some traffic violations are a consequence of climatic variations and, if that is the case, this information will come in handy.
  • If possible and needed, get a hold of your radar readings.
  • Have a brief description of how the officer reacted to the situation before giving you a ticket.
  • Your outfit on the day of the ticket. As weird as it may seem, it has been a recurrent question in court.

Do I need an attorney?

It depends. To answer that question, you need to evaluate how severe the traffic infraction was. The more serious the ticket is, the more you should consider hiring a professional in traffic violations. They can inform you of your rights, explain the law to you, guide your cause and even represent you in court.

Keep in mind that these attorneys charge you around $250 and $400 dollars on average for the consult to fight a traffic ticket. Therefore, you should make a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether or not you need to spend money in that. Remember that some tickets cost between $100 and $250 dollars, so hiring a traffic attorney would be more expensive than just paying the debt.

One of the cases in which people certainly need the help of an attorney to fight a traffic ticket is if they have been caught driving under the influence (DUI), presenting a revoked or suspended license or causing a crash. Also, speeding tickets can be tricky if it is not your first time getting one.

What if I am a tourist?

Even if that is the case and you are not a US citizen, you still have the chance to fight a traffic ticket. However, you need to make sure that you have enough arguments against the ticket, and also if you will be in the state where you committed the infraction the day that they call you in.

You may think that by leaving the state you would avoid having to go to court or paying the debt, but there may be severe consequences for doing that. There are high chances that if you ever come back to that state you will be arrested, as minor tickets are not federal violations.

Possible Punishments if You Lose

If you fight a traffic ticket and lose, the only thing that will happen is that you will have to either pay for it or accept the consequences. Penalties for traffic tickets vary from state to state, but they can be very tough if the violation is deserving of it. There is no doubt that second-time (or more) offenders and severe violations have the worst fines and consequences.

The United States has a very important driving culture. It is just important to enforce the existing laws to keep transit controlled and checked, which is why you will find that penalties and fines tend to be quite harsh in some cases. For example, the most common ones are:

  • License suspension. Some traffic violations are considered so severe that it is very common that drivers lose their licenses for prolonged periods that can vary from 6 months up to 2 years.
  • Traffic ticket. If you have been caught doing illegal activities behind the wheel, it is most likely that you will be given a ticket for it. Of course, now you know that you have the right to fight a traffic ticket.
  • “Points” of your license. The point system is actually very important because it has consequences in other aspects of your life. They function as strikes against you and your driving; therefore, after x number of strikes, you are out of the game because your license will be suspended. Plus, insurance companies keep an eye on their clients’ records and apply increased premiums for the risk that you now mean for them. Perhaps you used to pay $1,250 in premiums but, after a crash or infraction, it can go up to $2,500 dollars.
  • Community service. If you are lucky enough, you can be granted some sort of negotiation that replaces the cash payment. In this case, you will have to go through a number of hours of service to the community that will be determined by the court judge.
  • Driving courses. Just as in the previous item, only first-offenders and non-severe traffic violations get this kind of penalty. The judge can rule that you have to attend traffic school as a penalty.

Jail time. This option only applies to extreme or recurrent cases, so unless you belong to any of those categories, you are safe.