A traffic ticket is a citation issued by a law enforcement officer to a motorist who violates state or local traffic laws. Traffic tickets usually come in two forms, a moving violation, such as exceeding the speed limit or running a red light, or a non-moving violation, such as a parking ticket or equipment violation.
Most Traffic Cases are Considered the Lowest Level of Criminal Violations
In the USA, most traffic cases are considered the lowest level of criminal violations, sometimes called a “minor misdemeanor.” However, some offenses can be considered higher-level misdemeanors and carry the possibility of jail time, higher fines and possible driver’s license suspension. These offenses can include driving while intoxicated, driving under suspension, reckless operation, “hit and run” and speeding at an excessively high rate of speed. Each state’s department of motor vehicles maintains a database of the motorists licensed in that state, including their convicted traffic violations. Upon being ticketed, a motorist is given the option to either pay the fine and plead guilty or to appear in court and plead no contest (sometimes called no lo contendre) or not guilty.
If the Motorist Pleads Not Guilty
If the motorist pleads not guilty, a pre-trial or trial date is set. Some courts may require an out-of-state defendant to post a bond in order to plead not guilty. In this instance, the defendant pays money to the court to guarantee the defendant’s appearance at the pre-trial or trial. If the defendant does appear in court later – some courts will allow the motorist’s lawyer to appear on his or her behalf – the bond money will either be refunded or applied to fines and court costs.
If the Officer Fails to Appear in Court
If the officer fails to appear in court on the trial date, the judge will often find in favor of the motorist and dismiss the case, although sometimes the trial date is moved to give the officer another chance to attend. Sometimes the prosecutor will make a deal with the defendant in the form of a plea bargain. The defendant will plead guilty or no contest to a lesser charge or a lower rate of speed. If no agreement is reached, a trial is held on the charges.
If the motorist pleads guilty, the outcome is equivalent to a conviction after trial. Upon conviction, the motorist is generally fined a monetary amount and, for moving violations, is additionally given “points” or demerits against his or her driver’s license, under each state’s points system.
Types of moving traffic violations include:
- Running a red light.
- Failing to stop completely at a stop sign
- Making an illegal turn by turning against a light or against a posted sign.
- Taking the right-of-way from another driver.
- Changing lanes without using the turn signal.
- Using the carpool or “commuter” lane without the required amount of passengers.
- Driving a vehicle with turn signals and brake lights that do not function.
- Driving at night with no headlights.
- Failing to wear a seat belt.
- Hitting a parked or moving vehicle.
Contact a qualified traffic ticket attorney today for an evaluation of your ticket and case. Don’t wait until points have accumulated on your driving record and your insurance premium has gone up so high that you can’t afford to pay it. Fight your ticket the legal way, with an experienced attorney who has handled moving violations.
Some of the information on this page is provided by Wikipedia.