Traffic court trial

You can challenge (contest) your traffic ticket by asking for a trial. This means that you plead not guilty and ask a judge to decide if you are guilty or not. You must ask for a trial by the due date on your ticket or Notice sent by the court.

This page has general information about traffic ticket trials. 

The court handling your ticket can give you more details, like how to ask for a trial. That information should be on the Notice you got from the court or you can usually find it on their website.

How to ask for a court trial 

Get instructions from your Notice or the court

The court handling your ticket usually has specific instructions on how to ask for a court trial. You often have different options for how to do this. For example, you may be able to schedule a trial online, by phone, or in-person with the traffic clerk or judge.

If you go to court to ask for a trial, you will not have the trial that day. The clerk will schedule a trial for a later date.

My notice or the court website says arraignment. What's that?
You can ask for a trial date at an arraignment. An arraignment is a court date where a judge tells you what you are charged with and what your rights are. The judge will then ask you how you plea. If you say not guilty, the judge will set a trial date.

The arraignment is not a trial.

Depending on how you ask for your trial date, you may need to pay your fine (bail) upfront

You can always go to court to ask for a trial without having to pay your fine (called bail) upfront. It's possible if you instead schedule a trial online that the court will ask you to pay your fine upfront to reserve the trial date. If the judge decides you are not guilty after the trial, this will be refunded. 

You can usually find out more of this information on the Notice you got from the court or the court's website. 

Traffic court trial basics

To have a trial you must say (called plead) you are not guilty. If you plead "not guilty" the government must prove you are guilty at a trial. If you want, you can hire a lawyer to represent you at the trial.

There are no juries in a traffic ticket trial. A judge or commissioner (an official who works for the court) decides if you're guilty or not. 

In a traffic ticket trial, you and the officer that wrote the ticket both get a chance to explain what happened. You can have witnesses come to trial and bring in any other evidence, like pictures or a recording.

If the judge decides you are guilty, they will set the fine.  If you can't afford to pay the fine, you can give proof that you can't afford it. The judge may be able to lower the fine, give you more time to pay, or let you do community service instead. If you're eligible, you can also ask for traffic school.

Get general information and tips for your day in court.