If your traffic citation is for a minor offense (jail is not a possible penalty) such as speeding, then you can either pay the fine, request a disposition (waiver) hearing, or request a trial within 30 days of the ticket. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in your license being suspended, which obviously leads to more problems.
Pay the fine
If you pay the fine you will have the conviction on your public driving record and automatically receive any points associated with that ticket. Your car insurance company will be able to see these points when they pull your driving record and will likely raise your insurance rates at your next renewal.
Request a Waiver Hearing
If you request a waiver hearing, you are waiving your right to a trial, admitting guilt, and asking to explain the circumstances to a judge. The officer that gave you ticket will not be required to be present in court. The judge will find you guilty of the violation and determine your fine. The judge can either raise the fine up to the statutory maximum (for most minor traffic violations that is $500.00), reduce the fine down to zero dollars, or keep the fine the same as it printed on the ticket. You will have to pay court costs and also be assessed the points associated with that ticket. Again, your car insurance company will be able to see these points when they pull your driving record and will likely raise your insurance rates as a result.
Depending on your driving record and the circumstances of your current ticket, the judge may offer you Probation Before Judgment (PBJ). A PBJ keeps the ticket off of your public driving record, you receive no points, and your insurance company will not know about the ticket; and therefore your insurance rates will not be affected by this ticket. If you accept the PBJ, you waive your right appeal the judge’s decisions.
Request a Trial
Except in a very few rare circumstances, this the option that I recommend. If you request a trial the State is required to put on its evidence and prove to the Court that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is done through the testimony of the police officer that gave you the ticket and any civilian witnesses. You, or your attorney if you are represented, will have the opportunity to ask the officer questions via cross-examination. You also can give testimony if it makes sense strategically.
If the judge finds you not guilty there are no fines, no court costs, nothing on your driving record, and most importantly you receive no points. If the judge finds you guilty, then you proceed to the sentencing stage and the judge will determine your fine, court costs, and you will be assessed points on your driving record, unless the judge offers you a PBJ and you accept it.
Even a minor traffic citation can result in significant outlay of money due to increased insurance premiums, a damaging driving record, etc. Having an experienced attorney by your side can save you considerable money in the long run. At TBH&E, we take pride in helping our clients fight any criminal or traffic charges.
About the Author
Justin Esworthy is a founding partner of Timmerman Beaulieu Hinkle & Esworthy, LLC. Justin’s practice focuses on criminal defense, traffic defense, and complex civil litigation. He also advises individuals and businesses of all sizes on general business and risk management issues. He can be contacted by phone at (410) 649-4440 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.