While you do your best to follow traffic laws, sometimes you have a slip-up that can lead to a traffic ticket. Whether you were speeding, ran a red light, or just parked in an illegal parking spot, getting a traffic ticket is a terrible feeling, especially if it's your first one.
What to Do if You've Gotten Your First Traffic Ticket
The first time an officer hands you a speeding ticket or you see one on your windshield, you probably go into a state of panic. You think of everything you did wrong, how you should've done things differently, and how you're going to pay for it. Take a deep breath, relax, and learn what steps you need to take with your ticket.
1. Calmly Accept Your Ticket
You are likely in a state of panic after seeing the flashing sirens of a police car in your rearview, but do your best to remain calm and safely pull over. When the officer approaches your car, be as polite as possible while answering all of their questions.
If it was a speeding violation, ask how fast you were going and what method they used to record your speed. It may come in handy if you decide to fight the ticket. Otherwise, you'll have to sign and accept your ticket and be on your way. If you refuse to sign it is actually a misdemeanor in some states, which means they can arrest you.
2. Pay Off Your Ticket
The quickest way to not have to deal with your ticket anymore is to just pay the fine. You can do this at the local police station, by mail, or even online through some localities. Just be sure to pay it on time, or there could be late fees tacked on, making it even more expensive.
Although paying off your ticket is the easiest option, it is not always the best. A ticket will end up costing you more than just the fine printed on it. Your insurance rates will likely increase, and you could have points added to your license.
3. Fight Your Ticket in Court
You may want to fight the ticket in court if you feel like the ticket was a mistake or there wasn't enough evidence to issue you one. You'll have the chance to argue your case in front of a judge against a prosecutor from the state. Present all of your evidence and why you think the ticket was unjustly issued. If you are up against a serious infraction that may cost you your license, it is best to hire an attorney.
Try some of these tips to help put the odds in your favor:
Dress your best — If you look like a slob, the judge won't respect you.
Show up early — If you are late, the judge won't be happy and may not even see you.
Be polite — Always address the judge as "your honor" and follow all directions.
Be prepared — Know your argument and how you want to present it. If it is a speeding ticket, know all of the possible flaws in the detection method they used.
There is always a chance of the officer that issued the ticket not showing up to court. While some may think this is a guaranteed victory, the court still places their trust in the officer's statement, and you still need to present your case.
4. Negotiate Your Ticket
The final option, known as mitigation, is to negotiate the penalty of your ticket. This saves the state money by not having a hearing and potentially reduces your fine or penalty against your license. You can ask for mitigation before or at your hearing. Some states require you to ask for one in writing, so check ahead of time.
5. Attend Traffic School
Whether you negotiated your ticket or lost in court and have to attend traffic school, it's not as painful as you think. Nowadays you can take the course entirely online, instead of having to fit it into your schedule. The benefit of traffic school is the potential reduction or elimination of any points against your license, saving you money on your insurance rates.
Drive Safely and Avoid Getting a Ticket
The best way to deal with a ticket is by not getting one in the first place. If you do end up with your first ticket, you can either fight it, negotiate a deal, or pay the fine. In many cases, the court may require you to take defensive driving classes to clear your record. IDriveSafely.com offers completely online defensive driving classes that will satisfy the court's requirements. Find the defensive driving class for your state, and get back on the road in no time!