If you have received a citation, you may feel that you should just pay the ticket instead of spending time and effort preparing for court and contesting the ticket. This may make sense if you have not received a ticket in a long time and have a history of being a safe driver. You also might be eligible for traffic school in this situation, which can be a good way to keep a ticket off your record and potentially avoid the fine as well. However, if you have a valid defense, you may want to seriously consider fighting the ticket, especially if you are not eligible for traffic school and have previous tickets on your record. Accepting it could lead to increased premiums and put you at risk of a license suspension.
Did You Actually Violate the Law?
Before you go to court to fight your ticket, you should prepare your arguments. This involves researching the law on which your citation is based. You should examine each detail of the traffic rule at issue, which may be very precise. Every element of the rule is critical, since the judge will need to find that all of them are satisfied before determining that you are guilty. In other words, you can get rid of the case by showing that the evidence does not support just one element of the rule.
You should not worry that your argument is overly technical or nitpicky. The judge will take a detail-oriented approach to their legal analysis as well. Many tickets have been defeated based on a very small nuance, even when the driver violated the main elements of a rule. Read more here about researching traffic laws.
Do You Have Another Defense?
Sometimes a driver violated the letter of the law but had a legitimate reason for doing so. Perhaps they were responding to a medical emergency or a sudden hazard that they could not have anticipated. Or perhaps they were legally justified in their actions, such as when a driver slows down in the left lane before turning left.
In other situations, the officer may have made a mistake. They may not have been able to see the full scene from the position of their vehicle, they may have misidentified the vehicle that committed the violation, or they may not have properly used equipment to measure a driver’s speed. In still other situations, an officer makes a subjective judgment about whether a behavior is unsafe, and a driver may be able to argue that this judgment was unreasonable. This may apply in speeding ticket cases based on an alleged violation of a presumed speed limit.
Throwing yourself on the judge’s mercy by arguing that personal woes affected your actions will not avoid a ticket, nor will complaining that the officer singled you out, unless you have evidence to prove it. Saying that you did not realize what the law was or pointing out that nobody got hurt also are not winning arguments. You may be able to get a fine reduced if you can show that you are facing a severe financial hardship, but you will not avoid a ticket on this basis.
Should You Gamble on the Officer Not Coming to Court?
You might be surprised to find out that this is not a rare occurrence. If the officer does not come, you probably can beat your ticket even if you do not have a legally valid defense. This is a major gamble to take, however, especially if you are eligible for traffic school. If the officer does show up, you almost certainly will be found guilty, which means that you will need to pay a fine and get points on your record.
An officer likely will appear if the driver’s alleged conduct was egregious. If you blew through a red light at 80 mph, the officer probably will make a point of coming to court so that you do not get away with it. If you were making a U-turn on a quiet street when an approaching car was slightly less than 200 feet away from you, the officer may not make the effort to show up. Sometimes an officer will be less eager to come to court if it is far away from where they work. The summer season sees more no-shows than others because more officers tend to be on vacation.