Hopefully that speeding ticket is your first offense and an online defensive driving course or traffic school can lower or forgive your fines. If you are going to traffic court, be prepared. Take everything you need and be polite.
What should I expect in traffic court?
Procedures for traffic court are routine. You will be tried before a judge. This is not a closed proceeding; other cases will be in the audience. The trials happen very quickly.
- You appear on the date of your subpoena (on time).
- You will be sworn in as a group.
- The clerk will call your name, usually saying "The State vs." or "The People vs." and your name.
- Rise and go to the witness box or one of two tables that face the judge.
- Follow the ques and instructions by all court officers and the judge.
- Wait for your turn to speak.
If your case is complicated, you may want to see legal council. However, most standard traffic court tickets, from speeding to jay walking, are standard procedure and streamlined.
4 Tips for Traffic Court
Follow these tips for traffic court below to make the most of your time in court. Being respectful of the courts and court officers is key in getting any consideration.
1. Dress the part
Wearing your Sunday best is a way to show respect to the judge. Be courteous and well-presented. (That means as clean-cut as possible.) Do not wear a hat. Do not chew gum.
Fighting a traffic ticket is not fighting the authorities. It’s begging for leniency. It’s okay. Your ego will recover.
2. Mind your manners
Never interrupt the judge, insult the officers, or show disdain for the law. This should be a no-brainer, but emotions can be high when fighting costly tickets.
Always call the judge, "your honor." Call officers of the court "sir" or "ma'am". Follow directions. Wait until you are spoken to speak. Do not speak or make noise while in the gallery. (And don't wear a hat.)
People are more likely to help you if you are likable. That said, avoid being the class clown.
3. Show up, and show up early
Traffic court is a long day with groups of people. Showing up early can help you get a seat closer to the front, the order they hear cases in. If the court room doors close, you may be turned away. That’s not good.
Opting for court instead of paying a ticket does not mean you can change your mind. No-shows at court can result in serious consequences (and it’s definitely going to result in a guilty verdict). Wages can be garnished. Court time can be fined to you in addition to your ticket. And, your license can be suspended.
4. Be prepared
When your name is called, you will be asked to step forward to face charges. You will already have been sworn in. This part goes fast.
The high volume of people that appear before a judge in a busy traffic court is overwhelming. They have heard all the excuses. If you are going to fight a speeding ticket or other lesser charge, be prepared and polite. If you have evidence, have it out and ready.
What about officer non-appearance or fault?
The officer did not show, so you win. Right? No. It entirely depends on the court.
Also, police officers are generally trusted by the courts. Accusing them of lying, unfair treatment, or otherwise being suspect is never looked upon favorably.
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