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How Do I Fight My Traffic Ticket in Court?

For many Maryland residents, their most common interaction with the legal system comes in the form of a traffic ticket. Most people simply pay the fine and do not give the ticket a second thought. But what if you want to fight the ticket? What are your options? Can you actually demand a trial over a traffic violation?

You absolutely have the right to contest a ticket and even demand a trial. While a traffic violation is not a felony, it is still treated as an infraction under Maryland law. By paying the fine you are essentially pleading “guilty” to committing the underlying traffic offense.

Basically, you have two options other than simply paying the fine. The first is to ask for what is known as a “waiver hearing.” This is basically where you plead “guilty with an explanation.” You will appear in court and explain your actions in the hopes of convincing the judge to reduce or waive your fine, or to enter judgment for probation as opposed to a conviction. The hearing itself is not a trial. No witnesses will be called to testify.

Of course, the judge may deny leniency. In some cases, the judge may even impose a higher fine than what was on your ticket. However, the maximum fine for a traffic violation cannot exceed $500. You also have the right to appeal the judge’s decision if you are dissatisfied.

Your second option for contesting a ticket is to request a trial date. This means that you will appear in court, as well as the police officer who issued your ticket. Both you and the state will present testimony and other evidence, just as with any other criminal trial. The judge will then make a final decision. As with the waiver hearing, you can appeal the outcome if you lose. (Waiver hearings and trials are handled by the District Court, while appeals are heard by the Circuit Court.)

What if I Decide to Just Pay the Fine?

As noted above, if you do wish to plead “guilty,” you can simply pay the full amount of the fine. You do not have to go to court unless your citation says “must appear,” which usually only applies to infractions involving drunk driving or driving with a suspended license. If you are just paying a routine traffic fine, you can do so online or by mail. If you have a significant amount of outstanding traffic fines–at least $150–you can also request a payment plan from the court. Again, this can be done without having to make a personal appearance in court.

Whatever you decide to do in paying or contesting a traffic ticket, time is of the essence. You typically have just 30 days from when you receive a citation to act. If you fail to take any action within the 30-day period, your driver’s license can be suspended. And driving with a suspended license is itself a separate criminal offense that may lead to jail time.

Contact Calvert County, Maryland, Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301) 705-5137.