When you get a traffic ticket, you will get a date set for an arraignment hearing. Your hearing is set after the system processes your ticket information. An arraignment hearing is your first appearance before a judicial officer of the court. Click here to read about what you should wear to traffic court.
You can choose to wait until your arraignment to decide how you plead. At the hearing, you will be informed of your rights and the charges and then asked how you plead. You can choose to be represented by an attorney (who you hire).
Alternatively, you can decide before your arraignment online, or on the phone or by mail. You don’t have to wait until your arraignment date to determine your plea.
If You Plead Guilty To A Traffic Ticket
If you choose to plead guilty, you admit to having committed the charges. According to the LA County Superior court, “The judge may require that you pay the base fine plus a penalty assessment and other fees. The judge may impose a fine for each separate violation. You may request community service and/or request a reduction in your non-mandatory fines/fees. The judge may allow you to attend traffic school if you are eligible. You will be required to pay the fees for traffic school.”
So simply put, if you plead guilty to a traffic ticket, then you pay the applicable fine(s), traffic school administrative fee, and take the traffic school option if you are eligible.
If You Plead Not Guilty To A Traffic Ticket
However, if you plead not guilty, then your case will go to trial. You may plead not guilty online, by phone, or by mail. These options depend on the county of the court that issues the ticket. Your trial is held within 45 days unless you forfeit the time.
You have three options for the trial:
- Court Trial – here you testify in court in front of a judge. The officer who gave you a ticket has to appear and testify. You may also subpoena witnesses to strengthen your case.
- Summary Trial – you have to appear in court, but the officer does not. You cannot subpoena any witnesses and the court proceeds based on the ticket.
- Trial by Written Declaration – the Trial by Written Declaration option allows you to send a written statement to explain your case and why the court should dismiss your ticket. The officer also has to prepare a statement. Then the judge makes a decision based on both statements. The judge has to allow this option.
If you are not found guilty, then your bail is returned to you. If you are found guilty, then you lose your bail, and you have to pay a fine. You may not be allowed to take traffic school if you are found guilty.
Unless you have a clear-cut case, it may not be worth fighting the ticket. It is time-consuming even if you hire a lawyer. If you lose your trial, you may have to pay higher fines, and you’ll still get the point on your record which could affect your insurance rates.