A traffic ticket is a citation alleging that an error was made in the way you drove, whether you had a driver’s license, the condition of your vehicle, or whether your vehicle was current with its registration and insurance. Traffic tickets are not criminal cases.
When you received the citation, you were given an envelope with information on it, and a copy of the traffic citation with a court date in the lower left hand corner. You have options about how to proceed on your citation.
A. Plea of Responsible
Payment by mail
If you believe that you are responsible, inspect the envelope. You may admit responsibility and send in the fine amount by mail. You may not have to come to court. Please note the court enhancement fee must be included in your payment. If your payment does not include that fee, your check will be returned and the ticket recorded as “unpaid.” If you were cited for a “moving” violation, such as speeding, turning, causing an accident, etc, the Motor Vehicle Division will assess ‘points” against your driving record. Speeding tickets carry 3 points, most others carry 2. The MOVED may suspend your license if you accumulate more that 8 points in one year. Further, your insurance carrier may raise your insurance premium because of points.
A fine for a first offense is $955 and MVD will suspend your driver's license. If the vehicle was insured at the day and time of the ticket, if you provide proof at the court date, the violation will be dismissed. If the vehicle was not insured at the time YOU MUST APPEAR IN COURT. If you bring into court proof that you have purchased a 6 month policy of new insurance, and a copy of your driving record from MVD showing that you have not had a previous insurance ticket in the last 24 months, or only one insurance ticket within 36 months, the fine can be greatly reduced and you could avoid the suspension.
There is no such thing as a “fix it ticket”. If you were cited for an equipment violation, the ticket will not automatically be dismissed if you fixed the equipment problem.
If you were cited for an unregistered vehicle or an expired registration, the fine is very high. However, if you get the vehicle registered after the traffic stop, you must come to court and show the judge. That fine will be greatly reduced upon showing of current registration.
Sometimes, persons are cited for not having the registration card in the vehicle. Even though the vehicle is currently registered, the police will issue a citation if you are unable to show the officer the registration card. This ticket will not be automatically dismissed by showing the card to the judge or mailing in a copy of the registration card.
Taking the Defensive Driving Class
Under certain circumstances, you may have the ticket dismissed by attending the Defensive Driving School. If you have not attended in the last two years, have a valid license from Arizona, a driving permit, or a valid license from another state or another country, and if no one was seriously hurt in an accident, you may attend the class. Classes are required to be a minimum of 4 hours and not longer than 4 and ½ hours. The school will give you the cost of the class. The school does not take payments. If you complete the class, the school will notify the court and you will not have to return to court. Once the class is completed, the entire ticket is dismissed, so there are no “points” assessed against your driving record. You will have six weeks to attend the class, but there are no extensions given after that. Finally, if you have a Commercial Driver’s License, the class is unavailable to you even if you received the citation while off the job in your personal vehicle.
B. Plea of Responsible with an Explanation
This type of plea cannot be handled through the mail. If you believe that you are responsible for the citation, but you want the Judge to hear your explanation, please appear in court and the Judge will listen to what you have to say.
C. Plea of Not Responsible
If you do not believe that you are responsible for the citation, you may request a hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to have both sides appear so that the judge or hearing officer can hear both sides of the case. The police officer must prove the case by a legal standard called “a preponderance of the evidence.’ That means the State must prove that it is more probable than not that you are responsible as cited. A civil traffic hearing is a relatively informal procedure. The complex rules of evidence that apply in criminal cases do not apply in traffic cases, and a prosecutor is usually not present. The hearing is governed by the Rules of Procedure for Civil Traffic Cases.
You may request a hearing by mail using the envelope, or you may come in to court and get a hearing date. At the hearing, you will have the chance to question the officer about the citation and bring in your own witnesses, charts, diagrams, or any other evidence that you believe will help your case. You may hire an attorney to help you at the hearing. If you request a hearing, the Defensive Driving Class is no longer available to you for that citation, and if you are found to be responsible, the fine may be different from the standard fine listed on the envelope that you were given by the police officer. Payment is due on the day it is assessed. If you need time to pay, a $20.00 time payment fee will be added pursuant to State law.
D. The AppealFollowing a trial, you have the right to appeal a final judgment of this Court to the Superior Court. The Notice of Appeal must be filed within 14 calendar days of the judgment against you. The Judge in your case will advise you of your appeal rights following sentencing in your case. If you decide to appeal, you will receive information on how to file the necessary papers to “perfect” your appeal. You will also receive information about the fees for a copy of a recording of your trial.
In ruling on your appeal, the Superior Court will review the issues of law arising from your trial or hearing. Your appeal will not result in a retrial of the facts and you will not be allowed to present new evidence or testimony on appeal.
YOU MUST CHOOSE ANY OF THE OPTIONS LISTED ABOVE
Failure to exercise one the above options, or failure to appear at a hearing will result in a default judgment entering against you. The default judgment will include a fine, court enhancement fee, a default fee of $100.00, a time payment fee, and the default will be reported to the MVD which will suspend your license until the judgment is paid to the court and a re-instatement fee is paid to the MVD.