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What to do in traffic court after receiving a ticket

Updated on September 8, 2012

Well, I got a ticket for being in the carpool lane. (I wasn't trying to cheat, I swear! There was hardly anyone on the road and I didn't see the signs...) I really disagreed with the ticket the officer gave me (unlike my prior speeding ticket... I definitely was speeding).

I went to the traffic court to contest my ticket, and I must say I learned quite a bit from the experience.

Here's what I have to say after watching everyone at my arraignment in the traffic court go before me:

  • It can't really hurt to go to an arraignment: It doesn't cost any more money to go to the court, and the worst that can happen is you pay the full amount you were charged with beforehand. Of course, you may go and make a fool of yourself, maybe even annoy judge, by having no good argument.
  • Get there early! You might not be let in, or if your case was already called, it might be too late and you would have to schedule another arraignment.
  • Dress appropriately: Show the same respect to the judge and court that you want back.

  • Turn your cell phone or other gadgets off! If a cell sounds off, the bailiff will happily kick your butt outta there. For that matter, don't talk too much while you're waiting, either.
  • Use the bailiff to your advantage: If your bailiff seems like an okay guy or gal, go ahead and ask before the court is in session what you can do to try to reduce or avoid your charges. The bailiff knows all about the judge and what he or she will or won't go for. The bailiff has also seen enough cases in court and witnessed what works and what doesn't.
  • If you're guilty, the first word out of your mouth should be "guilty": Don't start with an explanation of why you are contesting the charges. The first thing the judge wants to hear is your plea, so don't make him or her mad by coming up with excuses immediately. If you want to explain or make a request, then follow up your plea with it.
  • Keep answers short: The judge doesn't want to hear stories or other redundant or superfluous facts. He or she only wants to know what's relevant to the case so a ruling can be made and you can get the hell out of there.
  • Ask for a reduced charge: A lot of people flat-out asked if they could pay less and have the fees and charges reduced. Reasonable excuses are if you are unemployed. The judge may be inclined to reduce charges by significant amounts. Your traffic school fees may even go down!
  • Think carefully before saying "not guilty": It's true that if the officer doesn't show up to your trial, then the case is dismissed. But you might end up looking like a fool if he does show up and contradicts your arguments, and you'll just have to pay the full amount anyway, and perhaps additional costs for assessments and such.
  • Request community service: If you don't think you can pay the charges, ask if you can do community service hours instead. The number of hours may be high; for my $396 ticket, the equivalent was 40 hours of service. A girl who didn't pay the $2 to use the public transit system had to do 25 hours of service.

What to expect:

  • If you arrange an arraignment after you go to court, don't expect to see an officer there. He only comes if you plead "not guilty" at the arraignment and a court trial is scheduled.
  • The first cases taken care of are ones that were put off from previous arraignments, such as ones that included extensions for payment. Cases requiring defendants to only show proof of documentation and such, like licenses or receipts, are done earlier as well. Then it seemed like cases are taken care of in the order of the date of the incident, with earlier ones first (not exactly in order, but for the most part).

Will and Karen in Traffic Court


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    • profile image

      bob 5 years ago

      i owe over 1000.00 in tickets and i cant pay what should i do

    • profile image

      jjho 5 years ago

      I got a ticket for no left turn during 5-7pm, and the time was 5:03. My ticket says a few minutes later, given the time it took to process.

      Do i need a lawyer to help me fight this... or if I do it myself what key points do i need to make to plead "not guilty"?

    • Paloma18 profile image

      Paloma18 6 years ago

      Hi I'm freaking out I need help.!

      I got pulled over Monday at 1:30 am after work

      I got a ticket for speeding 52 on a 30 speed limit

      & I got a second ticket for not stopping "CORRECT" on a red light ..I was turning right.. he took my license & one in ticket do not say what I did wrong.

      This are my 2first ticket's sense I have had my license. I'm 20 years old and in a month I will be turning 21.

      My friend called her lawyer to ask him what should I do & he said that they can take my license for a hole year for having 2tickets before I turn 21. & other people just tell me to go to court pay my tickets & they will give me my license back. I don't know what to do I want my license back & a clean record!! HELP ME PLEASE I'm freaking out! I got court July 9! I never been in trouble before!

    • profile image

      john 6 years ago

      Plz help me

      I got ticjet today i was on 89 pkmh in 55 kmh speeding says ob my ticket"coutappearance required" so i have to go to tbe court. And what should i say .

    • profile image

      John Varghese 6 years ago

      I went to traffic court yesterday. I had a good time. I wish I had known what will happen there. So for those of you who want to know "What really happens in traffic court - the procedure." please read my blogpost that I created today.

    • profile image

      Lue Allred 6 years ago

      I was falsely charged with failure to yield. I paid the ticket and asked for a Court Date. I hired a lawyer for $1,000 to represent me in court, as it was so important that my insurance company learn I was not guilty, as I was taken away in an ambulance and never gave a police report. The policeman who got in the ambulance to ask my name, address & insurance was NOT the policeman who showed up in Court! He said he saw skid marks way out in the mddle of the street, and the other driver said I turned and he tried to stop but could not. They were old skid marks, now from this indicent.

      The policeman said it was his professional belief that the accident occurred as the other Driver said. There were three teenagers in my car who ended up going to hospital in ambulances! They were there in court and my lawyer chose the timid low voiced girl and told her to not say a word but to answer his questions only

      He asked her four times where was the other car when she saw it and she rightly answered "on X road." BUT, he did not ask her "Where the car came from..." So she didn't say, "I saw it turn onto the road from the left side and head down the road."

      The entire lie of the other Driver was that he was just coming down the road...

      In fact, he was "flying" around that corner the down the road in the bike land, turned a blind corner at a ferociously high speed...and hit my car in the right read wheel, totaling it. The big Post Office blocked his view...the girls in the back seat saw him lighting a cigarette with both hands, and at the last minute, trying to turn away with only one hand! My lawyer said you hardly ever win if you Appeal Traffic Court and tha t it would cost a lot of money! He admitted he did not ask ANY correct question! He is a nice guy would was totally worthless and admitted it. What do I do? My paid for car was totaled, I had to lease a car and my insurance went from $68 a month to $227, as everyone was injured! I am an older lady with a small income and immorality of this entire thing--much LESS having no money--is breaking my heart.

      Oh, the other Driver was an UNREGISTERED in California man identified as an Aggrevated Criminal victims 13-16. Isn't that wonderful! Catch 5-6 mug shots of him online! Sorry, but I really would likew some ideas HOW TO APPEAL. I cannot stand it this way--must pay a lease, insurance $227 a month, cost upfront of a car I didn't need or want, and much more heartbreak. Thanks folks. lja

    • profile image

      Kubich 6 years ago

      I have a court tomorrow . I ran over the red light and got pulled over, actually i was making left turn trying to get in to the freeway and i was already on the freeway then i saw lights from the back. He told me do the exit from freeway and he gave me ticket

      Any advice i have final day tomorrow what i can say

    • profile image

      Max 6 years ago

      I have a court tomorrow

    • profile image

      nicole 6 years ago

      i got a ticket yesterday. i was driving and the officer pulled me over. he said i keep straight when i was in a right hand lane only.. later on i went bk and there were no right arrows on the ground or at the intersection they signs was way before u go to the intersection. i am disabled and i dont have alot of income coming in.. any advice..

    • profile image

      143flyers 6 years ago

      Just be thankful that you're not in New Jersey where they can run your plates through DMV just because they feel like it. Then give you tickets for things you didn't know. IE- I registered my car in October of 2011. Common sense said that the registration would be good until October of 2012...WRONG it expired in December of 2011. So they towed my damn car. Funny thing, he ran my plates in the parking lot of the development I live in, he could have just told me "don't drive it, your registration is expired". Instead, he followed me out of the development for a mile & a half and pulled me over & had my car towed. New Jersey is a horrible state to live in.

    • profile image

      jambe 6 years ago

      "Ask to see a copy of the verified complaint. This is a document the DA or city prosecutor has to have filled out and signed then have filed with the court. If they don't have it, request to have your case dismissed with prejudice as there is no actual charge or complaint against you."

      This is what I thought too, but the judge here in Saint Louis city said that things just aren't done that way here! I think he is wrong but lack the resources to prove it. All of the lawyers I have ever dealt with tend to think in terms of reduced sentences and other ways of just going along with the courts rather than to challenge anything about the process.

      Anyone have any suggestions for a lawyer that actually cares about procedure and is willing to step on a fellow lawyer's (the judge) toes?

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

      I'm sorry Sherry, I'm not sure how it works in Georgia. I would say ask for community service because they may grant it if your daughter has financial hardship.

    • profile image

      Sherry 6 years ago

      My 20-year-old daughter got a speeding ticket for going 50 in a 35 mph zone in Georgia. She was guilty, but this is her first offense, and she don't have the $180 to pay the ticket without having to take it out of her rent money which is due today. Her court date is in two days. Should she just go to court & ask if her fine and/or the number of miles over the limit can be reduced, and possibly have this not reported to the insurance company plus have no points added to her record? The fine must be paid by tomorrow evening if she is not planning on going to court on Wednesday a.m.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

      Raj, I don't know the answer to your question about points, but as for the community service, the court sets you up with an organization that helps you choose community service. I tutored kids. There are different things you can choose.

    • profile image

      Raj 6 years ago

      Two questions,

      How much can the judge reduce the point or charges (fee)?

      What are the possible community services they can let us do?

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

      Hi Liko, thanks for commenting. I did traffic school in a physical classroom, but a lot of my classmates did it online because it was faster (I was in my class for 8 hours, and my friends completed theirs online in 3 hours). I am not sure if one way is cheaper than the other though.

    • profile image

      liko 6 years ago

      Omg thank you so much please keep doing this your article is very good and clean I loved it. So apparently I will go over an arraignment before anything I think I will plea guilty I just want my ticket reduce and hopefully even let me do community hours (instead of paying). Also any recommendations if I should do traffic school online? I am from CA I just want the cheapest thing since I am not really working.

    • profile image

      SOS 6 years ago

      I was pulled over for unsafe passing a cop on right lane when the two lanes become one I'm 17 what should I do??

    • profile image

      jenny 6 years ago

      if anything on the ticket is wrong it has to be thrown out...whether that being the cops got the color of ur car wrong etc, etc..and they are their for our me i am scared, lol...anyways my hubby got pulled over and the cop said we were in a 80km zone...he said all highways are 80km..yah ok whatever...anyways he wasn't wearing his hat or his name tag when he came to our here we had turned on 5 min before he said the 80km sign was posted...ok and we were to know that how?? when the next day we went and took a pic of the 100km sign on the oter side of the road!!! how now my hubby can't appear cause he is not driving 8 hours one way to go to court..not fair..

    • profile image

      huhy 6 years ago

      Just got pulled over and I am the same...he wrote the color of my vehicle down as gold. My car is charcoal grey...couldn't be more off. Trying to simply dismiss this...any other help would be great as to some legal info behind any and all of traffic court.

    • profile image

      rebecca rizo 6 years ago

      I have traffic court on oct.4 at 8:30a.m.and somethings on the ticket anit even true. So this will be interesting.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      This is so fake

    • profile image

      JKidd 6 years ago

      I was making a payment of $15 dollars bi-weekly and end up being late on a payment. So they issued a bench-warrant and I called to see what I could possibly do to take care of it and the clerk told me to just come in and they'll send me to a judge is this true or false? Can they just send me to a judge just like that? I ask because I really cant afford to be jailed and I recently just got a great job and had a newborn a couple days ago can anyone explain to me what would really happen if I go to the district court???

    • profile image

      Help me 6 years ago

      What happens if they do have a verified complaint for a traffic ticket (will they usually have a verified complaint?)

      I was caught speeding in a 35 (i thought it was a 45 my fault), and my insurance/registration proof was at my house on my desk - I did/do have insurance and proof of registration.

      What if I say that I am present only on a restricted appearance and not there to testify, plead or swear to any oaths and they DO have a verified complaint when I ask for it what do I do?

    • profile image

      help 6 years ago

      this guy is clearly uneducated in the realities and rules of court. Do not apply what he has written in your court proceeding. When you go to your arraignment, ask first if this is a court of record. If no, ask that it be recorded. This is so that if the judge, commissioner, or judge pro tem makes a mistake, it is recorded. Next ask for a real judge, not a commissioner or judge pro tem. Once all of that is in place tell the judge you are present only on a restricted appearance and not there to testify, plead or swear to any oaths. Ask to see a copy of the verified complaint. This is a document the DA or city prosecutor has to have filled out and signed then have filed with the court. If they don't have it, request to have your case dismissed with prejudice as there is no actual charge or complaint against you. The "ticket" you received is only a notice to appear to court, not a verified complaint. The cop is a witness not a plaintiff. Only a prosecutor can charge and prosecute you. So, if the prosecutor has not filed with the court, there is nothing to "plead" to. He HAS TO dismiss the case right there during the arraignment. Hope this helps!

    • profile image

      kkvaas 7 years ago

      I got pulled over by police officer for turning right from an inappropriate line. Because the Road work put a "Right line Close" sign and weird way of cone block. So I got a notice to be appeared on court. It said that I have to be appear on the court by or before Aug 22th. Does that mean I can go to court at any time within this 2 months? Or do I have to go there at exactly time on Aug 22th?

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

      You won't know, but that's a chance you take. Think about if you might ask for community service, a reduced charge, etc.

    • profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago

      I will be going to court tomorrow, my first time after a few extensions. I am unemployed now, but not at the time I received the ticket. I turned left at 3:05 when a sign was posted that said no left turn between 3 and 7. There was a car in front of me but I should have seen the sign I suppose, or was not paying attention. If the police officer is not there is it automatically dismissed? How will I know?

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 7 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      I am going to have to FAN you!


      - Harlan

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your comments! Harlan, thanks for your perspective - I can't say I disagree :)

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 7 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      I suppose in some cases its good advice to plead guilty, and if I am guilty, I just pay it and don't even go to court - if that is an option. However, my personal philosophy is, be polite to the cop, give him your ID and insurance etc., and pretty much anything else, plead the 5th. Demand a trial by jury - you wont get one - but ask for it anyway and plead not guilty till the cows come home. That is how my mind believes...

      Nice hub, I like your writing, I just see the end game differently.

      - best Wishes

      - Harlan

    • profile image

      Stephanie 7 years ago

      Cool article, I go in tomorrow with the "faulty" equipment schtick. I just read its up to 30% when both parties are driving.


      I'll let you know how it goes...

      Also, here are my notes Im going in with:

      10-25-2010 I, Stephanie Bell was pulled over at 5:20 AM for allegedly going

      52 in a 40 after leaving Lifetime Fitness in Chesterfield, Missouri.

      Driving an 03 Cadillac (nealry 9 years old) the possibly of making it 1/4 mile

      to 52 mph on a fresh start as I left the gym, which is alleged is nearly impossible in 30 degree temperature, which

      is was that cold damp morning.

      In fact a 2010 University of Colorado study determined that up to 20%

      of all speeding citations were issued in error due to the radar improperly

      held and/or malfunction.

      In fact if both parties are moving that error rises to 30% they say.

      My argument is the following: Not only was the equipment extremely faulty but

      the officer in question was beyond disrespectful and i believe he is carrying around faulty


    • Entourage_007 profile image

      Stuart 7 years ago from Santa Barbara, CA

      Thanks for all the information glassvisage. This is a really helpful article so I decided to link one of my hubs to it: Getting a Ticket For Having Clear Turn Signals. Feel free to link back if you find it relevant.

    • tonyn13 profile image

      tonyn13 7 years ago

      Oh so common. Most of us are face the challenge of not being able to afford quality legal representation - in many cases that can make all the difference... but the cost is a problem. Feel free to check out my article on an amazingly affordable solution:

    • profile image

      sonia 8 years ago

      my daughter had her moving violation fee reduced by the court and then, forgot to pay the fee that was due yesterday! What can she do? Can she still make arrangements?

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

      Good luck, Teresa! And they won't give it to just anyone... I had to also add that I don't make a lot of money at my job and that I couldn't afford to pay a lot for a ticket. I noticed a lot of people said that in court :)

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      I've got traffic court on Monday, so thanks for this -- I'll ask for community service and see what happens.

    • fishskinfreak2008 profile image

      fishskinfreak2008 9 years ago from Fremont CA

      An interesting story and perspective


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