You just received a traffic ticket and as you’re pulling away from the traffic stop, you’re now wondering, “What do I do now?” Here’s what happens from the time you receive a ticket to the time you receive an acquittal.
- Know what kind of ticket you received. Class C misdemeanors are the most common traffic ticket handed out, but there are some exceptions to the rules, so it is important to know which type of ticket you received. Make sure to thoroughly read the back of the ticket.
- A traffic ticket is an allegation that a traffic offense occurred. You will be taking care of your ticket in the local city municipal court or one of the numerous JP courts throughout Texas. If you are not going to claim guilt and just pay the fine, you must make a plea of not guilty or nolo contendere (a plea by which a defendant in a criminal prosecution accepts conviction as though a guilty plea had been entered but does not admit guilt). Regardless, you must file a plea by the date on the back of your ticket (usually 10 – 20 days) To file a plea you must either do so in person (with or without an attorney) or by mailing it to the court (postmarked by the appearance date). Regardless of your plea, it is strongly suggested you make copies of your ticket and if mailing it in send it certified mail. If this sounds a little taxing, that’s what the court is hoping, that you’re too lazy to argue and that you’ll just pay the fine and move on.
- Entering Your Plea: You can plead guilty, nolo contendere (no contest), or not guilty. If you do not enter a plea, the court will enter a guilty plea for you and you will just wind up paying the ticket.
- Guilty: Pay your fine and move on – just be aware that you will get points on your driving record and should you get another infraction it could cause you to lose your driving privilege for a period of time. Plus, your insurance will rise because now you are considered a high-risk driver. So by paying the fine, you could end up with a much larger bill than you thought.
- Not Guilty: The court will set a court date to give you the opportunity to tell the judge why you should not have to pay the fine.
- Nolo Contendere (or no contest): Like stated above, this option is not an admittance of guilt but you accept the conviction. This option gives you the right to ask for either deferred adjudication or to take defensive driving.
- Deferred Adjudication: This is not an admittance of guilt but a payout of the fine over 4-6 months, usually with a couple of hundred dollars tacked on to the original fine amount. Hey, the court isn’t a bank so if you choose this option you may find out that $225 ticket just became $400! The infraction doesn’t go on your driving record and your insurance company won’t find out about it. But during the payout period, if you get another ticket you lose the deferment and you wind up with both tickets on your record and some very hefty fines – somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000, plus your insurance company finds out and that will increase your insurance because now you’re in the high-risk category.
- Attorney: Same as not guilty – but know this, an attorney is a friend of the court (it is their place of work after all) so they work to keep it off your record and still make money for the court. So in all likelihood you will also be given the option of deferred adjudication or defensive driving as well as paying the attorney’s fees. Plus most times, you still have to meet the attorney at the court so you lose work time.
- Defensive Driving: Luckily, there is another other option in the State of Texas—you can request to take a driving safety course. You pay a court fee, usually around $110, plus the cost of the course…and that’s it! No heavy fine, no points on your driving record and no black mark on your insurance record, and you have 90 days to get it done.
- We can help you if you decide to take a driving safety course! To be eligible for this option, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must not have completed a driving safety course in the previous 12 months (if you have, ask the judge anyway, they may allow you to take it again – all they can do is say no) or be in the process of taking one;
- If you got a speeding ticket, you must not have been driving more than 24 miles over the posted speed limit;
- You must be at least 17 years of age;
- Your driver’s license cannot have been a commercial driver’s license (CDL), or you cannot have been the holder of a CDL at the time of the offense;
- You must present proof of insurance.
If you satisfy all of the conditions to take a driving safety course, Comedy Defensive Driving offers an online course you can complete at your convenience!