What to Wear to Traffic Court

If you’ve never attended any kind of court proceedings (as many people haven’t), deciding what to wear to traffic court can be tricky. This guide will help you determine what to wear to traffic court in California, what to wear at different parts of the process, and why your dress code matters when you go to traffic court.

Why What Your Wear to Traffic Court Matters

First things first: Why does choosing an outfit for traffic court matter so much?

On paper, judges are required to be impartial — that is, they’re bound by the ethics of their role to treat everyone the same, regardless of how they look and dress. In reality, though, things aren’t that simple. Everyone has biases — sometimes we aren’t even aware of some of the ways bias impacts our judgment and decisions. 

That’s why what you wear to traffic court shouldn’t matter in theory, but it does in reality. By dressing professionally and respectfully, you present yourself in a way that’s less likely to trigger any of a judge’s conscious or unconscious biases.

There are also some more practical reasons to dress a certain way for traffic court. How you dress can affect the way others see you. If being seen a certain way can help you in your case in traffic court, it’s important to dress the part — that’s part of doing everything you can to strengthen your case.

For example, if you are taking the stand to argue your case, you’ll want to look credible. If you’re asking a judge to allow you to attend traffic school — especially if your violation doesn’t make you automatically eligible — you’ll want to look studious and responsible. And if you’re being sentenced and asking for a financial hardship waiver, wearing a lot of jewelry or expensive designer clothing may influence a judge to believe you don’t need the financial assistance you’re asking for. 

don't wear a lot of jewelry

Examples of What to Wear to Traffic Court

When going to traffic court, you want to look smart, professional, and put-together, but avoid overdressing. It may feel like a fine line to walk. Here are some examples of acceptable clothing, accessories, and grooming.

What to Wear to Traffic Court for Male and Masculine-Presenting People

What to Wear to Traffic Court for Male and Masculine-Presenting People

Acceptable clothing:

  • Nice jeans without rips or tears. They should fit well, without being baggy or sagging
  • Khakis or slacks
  • Polo shirts
  • Button-down shirts

Acceptable accessories: 

  • Clean sneakers or tennis shoes, without rips or holes
  • Dress shoes
  • Nice belt
  • Tie
  • Jewelry that is not oversized or very flashy

Acceptable grooming:

  • You should be clean and tidy
  • Try to get a haircut before your court date
  • Shave or tidy up any facial hair

What to Wear to Traffic Court for Female and Feminine-Presenting People

What to Wear to Traffic Court for Female and Feminine-Presenting People

Acceptable clothing: 

  • Nice jeans without rips or tears. They should fit well, without being baggy or sagging
  • Khakis or slacks
  • Skirts that are just-above-knee-length or longer
  • Polo shirts
  • Button down shirts
  • Blouses
  • Jackets or blazers
  • Casual dresses that aren’t too revealing.

Acceptable accessories:

  • Clean sneakers or tennis shoes, without rips or holes
  • Dress shoes
  • Nice sandals (avoid flip-flops)
  • Conservative heels (avoid stilettos and platforms)
  • Nice belt
  • Hair accessories like headbands or hair ties
  • Jewelry that is not oversized or very flashy

Acceptable grooming:

  • You should be clean and tidy
  • Make sure your hair is brushed and styled
  • Makeup should err on the conservative side. Avoid very bright colors, glitters, etc.

What Not to Wear to Traffic Court

What Not to Wear to Traffic Court

Sometimes it’s easier to decide what to wear when you know what not to wear. Some things that are generally not acceptable in traffic court include the following.

Clothing that’s too casual for traffic court:

  • Any clothing that’s dirty, ripped, torn, or ill-fitting (either too small or too large and baggy)
  • Graphic tees
  • Tank tops
  • Shorts
  • Short skirts
  • Low-cut tops
  • Crop tops
  • Swimwear
  • Pajamas
  • Athletic wear, sweatpants, or leggings
  • Flip-flops
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses

Clothing that’s too formal for traffic court:

  • Suits
  • Tuxedos
  • Formal dresses

What to Wear for Different Parts of Traffic Court in California

In California, there are typically two parts to appearing in traffic court: arraignment and trial.

What to Wear for a Traffic Court Arraignment

The arraignment is also known as your first appearance. This is the part of the process where you’ll appear in traffic court (typically on a due date indicated on the back of your ticket) to enter your plea.

Arraignments can take a long time. How this process often works is that everyone who chooses to enter a plea appears in traffic court on their due date, and judges and clerks will work their way through the list in alphabetical order. Even though each person may only speak to the judge for a few moments, the paperwork and the process of moving through everyone on the day’s docket can take a while. If your name is toward the end of the alphabet, you can likely plan on a long wait.

People who simply pay the fine for their ticket before the due date are not required to go to an arraignment. If you’re there, it’s typically to do one of three things:

  • Plead guilty to the violation, explain yourself to the judge, and ask for a reduced fine.
  • Choose to attend traffic school, or ask the judge to allow you to attend traffic school if you’re not automatically eligible based on the type of ticket you received.
  • Plead not guilty and ask for a trial.

What you wear to an arraignment depends on why you’re there. If you’re simply there to plead not guilty and request a trial date, you can wear anything that doesn’t violate the rules of the court (hats and sunglasses are often prohibited).

What to Wear for a Traffic Court Arraignment

If you plan to ask for a reduced fine or for the judge to allow you to attend traffic school, you should wear something smart and professional-looking. See the above list of examples for ideas — any of them would be acceptable to wear to your arraignment.

What to Wear for a Traffic Court Trial

The trial portion of the traffic court process is when you’ll go before a judge and present your case. For this, it’s important to look clean, tidy, and professional. 

Refer to the example lists of acceptable and unacceptable clothing, accessories, and grooming from earlier in this article. Everything on the example list would be appropriate to wear to a traffic court trial.

Want to Avoid Traffic Court?

For many minor traffic violations, you can avoid traffic court altogether, and instead attend traffic school to mask the point on your driving record. If you’re eligible based on your violation, you can start as early as today! Start traffic school online for free

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