Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

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In deciding what to do about a traffic ticket, you need to consider such things as:

  • the potential punishment that you face for the charged violation of law;
  • any possible defenses, justifications or mitigating circumstance;
  • the impact that the violation of law will have upon your privilege to drive;
  • whether a plea of guilty, or a finding of guilty, will impact any claims persons injured may have against you, or claims you may have against other parties;
  • the impact that the violation of law will have upon your automobile insurance;
  • the amount of energy, time and cost involved in contesting the charged violation;
  • the desirability, and cost, to retain an attorney to defend you and protect your rights;

A good course of action is to be polite and cooperate with the police officer who issues the traffic ticket. You may speak with the officer concerning the issuance of the traffic ticket (attempt to “talk your way out of it”), but bear in mind that any statement you give to the police officer can be used against you in a court of law. You will often be asked to sign the traffic ticket, which does not create any presumption that you are guilty.

As soon as you can, write notes about the circumstances that lead up to the issuance of the traffic ticket while the events are still fresh in your mind. Include the time, the weather, the exact location, what the officer said to you, and what you said to the officer (even if you said some things you shouldn’t have). Then begin to gather all the required information. You may want to ask an attorney for some advice, but if it is an ordinary ticket, and there are unlikely to be serious consequences, it often makes sense to pay the ticket and get on with your life.

If you learn that the proposed fine is affordable, the admission of guilt is not likely to be used in a lawsuit against you, and the impact upon your driving privilege inconsequential, you might decide to enter your guilty plea, pay the fine and continue your life. On the other hand, after weighing the consequences of an admission of guilt or a no contest plea or a finding of guilt after a trial with the cost and possibility of successfully defending against the charge, you might want to prepare to contest the traffic ticket in court. This decision must be based upon a careful analysis of the relevant facts and law governing the particular traffic ticket.