Your Case

The Citation
Your citation is your official notice to appear in court. You were asked to sign this citation only as a promise saying that you will show up in court or that you will deal with the citation appropriately. Signing the ticket, in California, does not admit your guilt (in some states, it is an admission of guilt) .

Also listed on your Notice to Appear, are the charges that you have been cited for. You can also receive what is commonly know as a "fix-it" ticket, which can be dealt with by fixing the mechanical problem that you have been cited for, then having it signed off by a police officer, or the DMV. Once the citation has been signed off, you must return it to the court of jurisdiction.

At the bottom of your citation is an "on or before" due date. You must appear on or before that date unless you receive a courtesy notice which may give you options: paying the fine, signing up for traffic school, or going to court.

Courtesy Notice
A Courtesy Notice usually is sent by the court to notify you of when your due date is (which could be different than the date on the citation), the dollar amount of the bail (the fine), and the amount of what it would cost to attend traffic school, if that is an option in your case.

Traffic school eligibility is determined by a number of factors, with the foremost being your driving record, the nature of the violation, if/when you last attended traffic school, and your type of license.

Should you decide to defend yourself by going to court, make sure to have the courtesy notice with you as it will aid the court personnel in locating your case and ensuring that your case is not "lost in the shuffle."

Paying the Fine
As previously stated, this is the easiest way out of your citation. There are a couple of things to consider before you start writing your check however.

First, there is a chance you can get your fine reduced. The fine that was handed to you is based on a standard scale used by that county, and depending on your driving record, can possibly be higher than usual. As has been mentioned, there might be certain unique circumstances to your case that need to be told. Should you decide to go to court to fight your citation, these circumstances can be heard by a judge, and if he/she agrees with you, your fine could be substantially reduced. Should you decide to just pay your fine, the citation you received will go on your driving record and could cause your insurance premiums to increase, costing you a lot more money in the long run!

Traffic School
Traffic school is generally given as an option to drivers whose records are clean and have not had any traffic violations. Not every driver who is issued a citation is offered traffic school as an alternative to paying a fine. However, if you are not offered traffic school as an option in your courtesy notice there is still a chance that you can go to traffic school.

What is traffic school you ask, well, it is school. In most cases, it takes either a couple of weekday evenings (3-4 hours per session), or a full weekend day. Traffic school is designed to teach you about traffic laws and how to be a better and safer driver. This may sound like a piece of cake, but traffic school is not free! The cost of traffic school is generally higher than what your fine would have been, and it is a class you must attend. Judges do not look favorably upon those who opt for traffic school and don't show up.

Some of the drawbacks to traffic school are time and money. Not everyone can afford to take a couple of weekday evenings away from work or home, or even a weekend day off. Also, as mentioned previously, traffic school does cost money, and in some cases, you might not have the money or the time to take the class.

Traditional traffic school has changed in the recent years. In the past, traffic school was taught by off-duty or ex-policemen, who were looking to make a few extra dollars. Now, traffic school is offered with different themes. There are traffic schools with a comedy theme that will teach you everything you need to know, but in a humorous way. Should you decide to attend one of these schools, make sure that they are recognized by the court.

Benefits to traffic school are simply this:

· The Citation does not appear on your driving record
· Your insurance company is unaware of the citation
· Your employer will not find out
· The court dismisses the charge against you.

Going to Court
You have looked at all your options, and you have decided that you want your case to be heard. You want to defend yourself since you are not guilty, or you have decided that going to court is the best option for your case.

What does it mean to go to court? Well it means that either you, you and your attorney, or your attorney will have the chance to state the facts of your case, cross examine the officer who issued the citation, and present any other viable evidence you might have in front of a judge.

Should you decide to go to trial, you will need to familiarize yourself with courtroom procedures. How to cross examine witnesses, what you will need to take with you to trial, and most importantly, the facts of the case and how they will work in your favor. A good source of obtaining this type of information are movies (really!!). Some movies actually portray courtroom behavior as it really happens. Movies like "My Cousin Vinny", "Trial and Error" and "Liar Liar" give examples of 'real world' courtroom behavior.

The following chapters on the previous page go into detail of the information you should know if you decide to take your case to court. If you would like more details on traffic trials and how to prepare for them, you should Order Traffic Ticket Defense to help you compile the best possible defense you can for your case.

Fight the Ticket
The key here is to keep the objective in line. You should ask yourself, "what do you want to see done?"

Take this quick test to assess your true purpose in going forward. I want to fight this ticket because:

  • I want to prevent it from going on my record for insurance purposes.
    I cannot afford the fine.
    It's not fair! I didn't do it!
    It's not fair! I did it, but so did everybody else.
    I can't afford the points on my driver's license.
    Fighting the ticket makes me feel better
    The cop was a jerk and I want to embarrass him.
    None of the above, but I know that the cop screwed up and I can get off.

If you answered "yes" to any of these, then you have all the reason you need to fight your ticket!

Collect Information
When it comes to making the decision to either pay the fine you have been assessed, defend yourself in court, or plead to have your fine lowered in court, there are several things you will need to do and ask yourself to make an informed decision.

The list below is a sample of some things you should do should you decide to defend your citation in court.

Find out the ramifications of the citation/conviction on your job

Call your insurance agent to see how a ticket would affect your rates Contact the DMV to see what you record looks like and what the consequences of a new ticket would be

Find out the last time you went to traffic school and see if you are eligible to go again

Check out your upcoming work schedule in case you opt for traffic court If you have paperwork to get done, such as registering your vehicle, get it done before arraignment so it will be handled before trial

If you have an equipment violation, get it FIXED and signed off by the proper authorities

Depending on time, energy and money, you may want to review your case with an attorney to see if there are legal defenses available to you

You may want to go to court as a spectator to familiarize yourself with the procedure. It will make you feel more comfortable when you need to do it yourself. You may want to visit your local law library and look up exactly what you are cited for.

Rick Tollerance
One final point that must override all others is a personal one, risk tolerance. It doesn't matter how strong your case is, or how well you've come to understand the legal process. If you are the kind of person who hates confrontation, especially with the "system", think twice before you proceed. A court trial can be very intimidating and stressful even if you are not properly prepared.

So, think twice about your objective and how it will affect you personally, then make your decision

In Pro Per
An issue for consideration is who should handle the court proceeding. The first and most obvious option is you (pro per). The advantage of self-representation is that the price is right. Except for time and inconvenience, it doesn't cost you anything. The disadvantage is you may be getting what you pay for. In reality, I've seen many Pro Per (individual representing him/her self) do an excellent job in court. If you choose this option, keep reading the bullets on the previous page, and go to court prepared.

For more information on defending yourself in court, check the books written by Mark Sutherland.

Legal Plan
There are organizations that will represent you or hire a local attorney to represent you. They are not all the same, although all of them charge a fee. If you are interested in this type of service you may contact us and we can help.

These organizations are referred to as "pre-paid legal services". The advantage to this plan is that they have attorneys all across the nation so no matter where you've gotten the citation they can cover you, usually without your having to appear in court.

The disadvantage is that you usually have to be signed up prior to getting the ticket. So evaluate your risk factor versus the cost of the plan before you sign up.

This type of plan is especially beneficial to commercial drivers.

A Traffic Attorney
The third option is to retain an attorney yourself. This can be expensive, I know. The advantage of attorneys is that they are aware of courtroom procedure and local knowledge of what can be done and how. With an attorney, you have the option of not having to appear in court yourself.

In misdemeanor cases where jail time is a possibility, you should consult with an attorney to seek advice. The court will appoint an attorney to represent you if you qualify.

Always keep in mind that you can hire someone to do a job for you, but this is your ticket and only you know the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation. Therefore, you must be an active participant in the decision-making process. You are the one who bears the ultimate consequences of the results of your citation