A motorist who will be caught violating any traffic law will be issued a traffic ticket by the law enforcement officer who caught him/her. A traffic ticket is issued to cite either a moving violation or a non-moving violation.
A moving violation, which is violation of a traffic law by a vehicle that is in motion, includes, but is not limited to speeding, driving under the influence (DUI) of illegal drugs or alcohol, running a stop sign or red light, turning into the wrong lane, failure to use turn signals, and driving a car with burned-out headlights. A non-moving violation, on the other hand, is any type of traffic offense that involves a non-moving or stationary vehicle. Examples of non-moving violations include: parking in a no parking zone; parking in front of a fire hydrant or at an expired meter; parking without a permit at a spot reserved for handicapped individuals; staying too long in a parking area that has a time limit; broken or missing mirrors; and, excessive muffler noise.
A traffic ticket may serve as a notice to a driver or owner of a vehicle that a penalty, which may take the form of a fine or deduction of points, has been or will be made against him/her (failure to pay the fine may result to prosecution or to a civil recovery proceeding for the fine). In some states, however, a traffic ticket simply represents a citation and a summons to be present at traffic court; the determination of guilt is to be made in such court.
If the motorist wishes to contest a traffic infraction, a hearing can be set by the court upon proper request. The hearings are before a magistrate or judge depending on the state or city. Hearing dates can often be continued and witnesses or police officers can be subpoenaed. At any point, the motorists may retain an attorney to represent them in a traffic infraction. Retaining or consulting an attorney may be beneficial to the motorist because an attorney would better understand how to contest an infraction in any given state or municipality. Attorneys offer anywhere between full representation in court, taking a case from inception to disposal and potentially appeals, to low-cost online consultations explaining legal options, highlighting important defenses, describing court rules and recommending the best direction for the client.
A motorist, who is issued a traffic ticket, is usually given ten to fifteen days to mail to the court that has jurisdiction over the case his/her plea of guilty, not guilty or “nolo contendere,” which is a plea of no contest (this is neither a denial nor an admittance of a charge). Instead of making any plea, a motorist may also rather request either a mitigation hearing or a contested hearing. In a mitigation hearing, a ticketed driver admits to having committed the violation; what he/she wants, however, is to be given the chance to explain to the judge the circumstances that made him/her commit the violation. Though a judge may reduce the amount of fine, he/she will not dismiss the ticket. A driver who would want the ticket dismissed should rather request for a contested hearing.
Before paying any fine, making a plea, or requesting either for a mitigation or contested hearing, it may be wise for a ticketed driver to retain or consult a traffic attorney, who knows how to contest an infraction. Along this same line of thought, the law firm Truslow & Truslow says “If you have been cited for a traffic offense . . . before you ignore the ticket or pay the fine, be sure to consult with a law firm that understands how certain traffic offenses can impact your driving privileges, record, and insurance. The fact is you may not be guilty, or the circumstances may have been exaggerated or misunderstood by law enforcement.”