Sometimes you’re having so much fun on the road that you don’t notice the police behind you. Receiving your first ticket can be a nerve-rattling experience, especially when you aren’t sure how you’re supposed to respond.
Be calm and polite to the officer while they’re issuing your ticket, and don’t argue. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court, so say as little as possible. Write down the circumstances and anything that may have affected the circumstances.
After you’ve received your ticket, it’s time to decide how to respond. Whether you want to find traffic ticket lawyers or attend traffic school online, you’ll want to consider all your options.
Pay the Ticket
Paying the ticket is often the easiest option since you don’t have to appear in court or go to traffic school. There should be instructions on the ticket to either call in payment or to pay your traffic ticket/citation online. Most courts offer a payment plan that allows you to pay the fee over several installments, although there may be an additional fee. If you choose to go this route, make sure you pay by the due date each month, or there will be late fees. Ticket fees can be sent to collections if you don’t pay.
If you decide to pay the ticket, it’s also important to consider that the cost of auto insurance will go up. Car insurance rates typically go up about 25% after a speeding ticket. In an analysis done by NerdWallet, some insurance companies even doubled the rates for drivers with speeding tickets. So if you are planning on paying your ticket, you may want to consider shopping around and getting quotes from other car insurance companies.
You may receive the option to attend traffic school rather than paying the ticket. In some states, it can be called a defensive driving class or driving safety class. This option is often available once every 12 or 18 months. Many people decide to go in this direction to get out of paying the traffic ticket. Opting to go to traffic school also helps lower your auto insurance rates because it keeps points off your driving record. If you choose to attend driving school, it has to be done before the court date.
Traffic school is offered either in person or online. Traffic school will go over driving basics divided into sections with several quizzes throughout. You’ll need to participate and pass all the tests to pass traffic school. Most people who have attended traffic school, whether in person or online, claim the experience is very boring.
Dispute the Ticket
You will always have the option to go to court to dispute your ticket. If you request a hearing, be prepared to be met by a prosecutor and be questioned by a judge. Sometimes the officer doesn’t show up to the hearing, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ll win the case.
Even if you sincerely believe the officer was wrong to give you a ticket, traffic tickets cases are difficult to win. But if you want to fight the ticket, there are some ways you can improve your chances of winning. First, read up on your state’s motor vehicle code to know what law you allegedly broke. When you’re preparing for court, you can delay the hearing to give you more time to build your case. Your best case will contain evidence. You can look for dashcam video or GPS data. If there are witnesses, like passengers in the car, you can call them in. You’ll want to plan your questions to the officer. Questions with short answers will be best for your case. Don’t ask anything that invites the officer to elaborate.
If you’re not into confrontation but still want to fight the ticket, consider getting a lawyer. There are traffic lawyers that may take your case. Even though lawyers are costly, they may be worth it if you have an expensive ticket. A traffic lawyer typically costs between $250 and $350.
When you mitigate, you’re basically negotiating the penalties. You plead guilty, but you can ask for leniency under your personal circumstances. You’d be choosing to make a deal with the prosecutor and the court. Judges like mitigation because it saves the jurisdiction time and money by not having a hearing, and can possibly lower your penalty.
If you want to mitigate, check your court’s website or give them a call. You may be able to request for mitigation before or after the hearing, but some states require that you submit a request for mitigation in writing.
When you mitigate, you may be able to pay your ticket but not have it go against your driving record. You could also take a driving course instead of paying the fine, have the fine reduced, or you may receive extra time to pay the ticket.
Consequences of Ignoring the Ticket
Whatever you decide, don’t ignore the ticket. It won’t go away on its own. Your license can be suspended, and a warrant can even be issued if you fail to respond to your citation. If you don’t respond to your ticket and are pulled over by the police again, you could receive jail time or community service.
When you get a traffic ticket, the best thing to do is consider your circumstances, weigh all the options, and then decide what will work best for you. Whether you pay the fine, mitigate, attend traffic school or dispute the ticket, make sure to find out what each means in your state and county so you will be prepared.