So You Go To Trial For A Traffic Ticket
Your “day” in court will mostly likely be one of the most long, drawn out, boring, tedious, and strange dates in your entire lifetime. And not due to the long list of questions you’ll be asking.
Every judicial system is a bit different and the forum and procedures they implement are also going to vary but you can expect to see some things which are the same…
You will have to wait anywhere from 10 minutes (if you are lucky!) to several hours waiting to speak to anyone. This is before you even get to the actual trial. Bring a book or something to read. Don’t bring a cell phone or beeper. Even though the judge will probably not actually talk to you, and might not even enter the room for a while, the chances are that the judge will take a look at the court room (just to see how long the day will be). Nothing will annoy a judge or a prosecutor more than if you are one of the many “trailer folk” talking to someone else, talking to yourself, or worst… talking on a phone. They will not be terribly sympathetic to your “plight”. More here
So, hunker down and be prepared to have to wait. To make it really enjoyable, watch the “variety” of people you will see today. There will be lawyers dressed in three piece suits, “average Joe’s” dressed in slacks and button down shirts, and some “nice” people dressed in rotted jeans and T-shirts.
There will most likely be one (or more) chances for you to plead guilty or guilty with explanation. If the court room is empty or if the judge appears to be a serious hard-a** you might want to take an outie here and plead. Even though you have just wasted a day, you might be able to “plea bargain” your offense down to a lesser crime, reduced fine, and/or no points (record). Keep in mind, that judge and prosecutor… they also have places to do, things to see, people to meet etc… They WILL work with you to avoid having to go to trial… they wanna go home too!
There will also probably be some chance for you to talk “one-on-one” with the prosecutor. This is the time to ask for a plea or to ask for a complete dismissal. ALWAYS ask for the dismissal first. Give a brief explanation of why you are not guilty. Don’t explain your whole case away, but do make a good reason as to why you will win. No prosecutor is going to want to fight a long trial if there is a chance he will lose. Give him an out. If the prosecutor won’t dismiss the ticket (which is usually true unless the ticket is obviously bad), ask for a plea.
Offer a not guilty plea, but an agreement to give a “charitable contribution” to Mothers Against Drunk Driving or to some other such group. Make the amount fairly close to the amount of the fine you plan to pay. The prosecutor will be hard-pressed to deny such a plea since it helps charity, keeps your record clean, legitimizes the court’s claim to support safety, and even gives the prosecutor a “clean conscience” And… the court, police, and government make no money! Plus… you can claim the contribution at the end of the year for a tax break! More Information on this website
When making a plea bargain, be mindful of what the actual terms of the bargain are. Generally, don’t settle for less than a “no points” agreement and don’t pay more than the “standard” fine. Keep in mind, the “standard” is normally the same as the “bail” (usually $75-$100) which is 10% of the maximum fine. Also keep in mind the crime you have been charged with. Most states make speeding tickets over 15 or 20 MPH a higher form of misdemeanor than lower speeds. Speeding in a construction zone or school zone is also a higher offense and might have a mandatory added fine. Moving violations are generally “point/record” offenses, meaning a higher insurance rate and a driving record is kept. A non-moving violation usually avoids this. The court prefers to issue non-moving decisions since they don’t want to lose a “paying customer”. Make sure the fine you are quoted includes court costs, otherwise you might end up paying much more than expected. Please watch this video