What is a minor traffic offense?
A minor traffic offense is when you break a traffic law, but it is less serious than a Misdemeanor. Usually you will just get a ticket and will not be arrested. Minor traffic offenses include:
- Driving without insurance
- Broken tail light
- Cracked windshield
- Expired automobile registration
I just got a traffic ticket. What do I do?
Read the ticket carefully. See if you are must go to court or if you are can pay a fine by mail. If you must go to court, make note of the court location.
My ticket says I don't have to go to court and I can pay my fine by mail. What are my choices?
The ticket lists the choices on the back. Read them carefully. There are usually 3 options:
- Plead guilty and pay a fine
- Plead guilty and attend Traffic Safety School
- Request a trial court date
Going to court lets you argue your case. When requesting a court date, pay attention to the time-frame on the ticket.
I want to plead guilty and pay the fine
The offense will be listed as a conviction. Convictions go on your driving record. They may lead to suspension or revocation of driving privileges.
I want to plead guilty and attend Traffic Safety School
You must be eligible for Traffic Safety School. Those who went to Traffic Safety School in the past year may not be eligible.
If you are not eligible, pleading guilty will result in a conviction.
Many people are eligible and do attend Traffic Safety School. It does not show up as a conviction. It will be listed as a supervision.
I am not guilty and want to go to trial
You may check this option on your ticket and request a trial date. Court dates are assigned via mail within 21 days. Follow up with the court if you don’t receive a court date within 21 days. If you miss your court date, you may be convicted.
I requested a court date or my ticket says I must appear in court
The ticket lists the date, time and court location. Arrive at least 15 minutes before the time noted on your ticket.
Should I hire a lawyer for a traffic ticket?
Yes. It is best to have a lawyer. The traffic violation could have a negative effect on your driving privileges. This is especially true if you were in an accident or you are under 21 years old. The judge may refer you to a lawyer.
What should I bring to court?
Bring any documents that will help you defend yourself. These include proof of insurance, registration papers, and car repair receipts. Witnesses who can testify on your behalf should also come with you.
What happens when I get to court?
First, check in with the clerk. Cases are called in the order in which you checked in. However, cases with a party represented by a lawyer will be called first.
Who are all those people in the court room?
The judge sits directly behind the bench. The clerk sits to the Judge's left. Sheriffs are dressed in uniforms. There are also assistant state’s attorneys. They are the ones who try to prove the case against you. Sometimes the police officers who issued the traffic tickets are there.
What should I do when my name is called?
Respond by saying, "Here." Step up in front of the judge. Bring your documents. The assistant state’s attorney may want to see them when you step up.
Will the assistant state’s attorney have a copy of my driving record?
Yes. Usually, the clerk prints out driving records for everyone in court with a traffic ticket.
Will the judge make a decision right then?
Judges decide most minor traffic ticket cases that same day. The judge may decide that you should return to court. You or the assistant state’s attorney may also ask to return to court.
What if the judge tells me I have to return to court?
Write down the date and time you need to return to court. This is a "continuance" (a date to return to court). Bring a lawyer or any additional documents to help your case on that date. Continuances are also given if you need to clear something up with the Secretary of State’s office.
What if the judge finds me not guilty?
You are free to go. If you posted your driver’s license as bond you will get it back at this time. If you posted a cash bond, 90% of the bond will be returned by mail in 4 to 6 weeks. Leave the court room after your case is done. Be quiet and respectful while court is in session.
What if I’m found guilty?
The judge tells you if you need to pay any fines or go to Traffic Safety School. They also tell you if you have a supervision or a conviction. Do everything the judge orders.
What kind of sentence can I get?
You may have to pay a fine of up to $2,500. You may also be placed under court supervision, or be required to attend Traffic School.
Convictions for driving without insurance may have fines up to $1,000. For first-time violations within the last 5 years, the court considers orders of supervision. There may be a minimum fine of $55. This sentence requires drivers to get financial responsibility insurance (SR-22 insurance)..