Last time on the blog, we looked at the ways the legal system works to protect law-abiding drivers by applying the “rules of the road” across the board–and addressing violations to those rules as they occur. As we discussed, most traffic violations–both “moving” and “non-moving” ones–are treated as “infractions” by courts, meaning that they are administratively processed and don’t go through the same steps that, say, criminal proceedings do. Because they are mostly considered relatively mundane in comparison to other violations of the law, traffic tickets are mostly paid and forgotten by the large majority of motorists. In fact, only 5% of traffic tickets are ever contested. So what does it mean to “fight” these tickets? Is it worthwhile to take the time and effort to contest the fine? Let’s examine this more closely.
First, a note about contesting tickets in general: of course, the rules and regulations of the American legal system is there to protect regular citizens from being unfairly punished or targeted, and to provide recourse to those who find themselves in legal trouble. This is an absolutely fundamental part of our laws, and an important part of our society in general. But because of its freedoms, the legal system is also subject to abuse in the form of frivolous actions and overuse. All this is to say that while it is absolutely everyone’s right to contest a traffic ticket, there are pros and cons involved, and it should be done when there is justification, not just for its own sake!
Should you decide you want to contest a ticket, keep in mind some of the limitations: for instance, there is no guarantee that the charges, fines or points that come with your citation will be dropped; it’s possible that the judge that hears your case will still rule against you. You will also be responsible for taking the time to appear in court in person, or paying a lawyer if you wish to be represented by one. Court and legal fees may apply as well. Still, there are benefits if the case is a strong one: the negative ramifications of the ticket–such as the aforementioned points or charges, as well as possible higher insurance premiums and other effects–may be dropped altogether, and the slate wiped clean.
In this case–particularly if the case against you is unfair–you will want to go ahead and make your case in front of a judge. If you’re aware of rules of the court as well as the details of the incident for which you were issued a violation, you should have no trouble explaining it to the court without having to resort to any “legalese” or tricks of any kind. After all, this is what the court system is for–to give everyone his or her day to be looked at objectively in the eyes of the law. Even in the case of a guilty verdict, it may be possible to request a different form of punishment than the kind you would have normally been forced to undergo, and this can sometimes alleviate some of the effects of the ticket. All in all, if you believe it truly to be the way to go from an ethical and practical standpoint, it can be very useful to “fight” a traffic ticket.