Driving a vehicle, whether on country back roads or the open highway, is a privilege. Unfortunately, many people forget that and try to skirt the rules of the road. This can have disastrous consequences, such as an accident that causes property damage, injuries or death. Even if you don’t cause a crash, you could still end up in trouble.
Drivers who flaunt traffic laws often find themselves facing flashing lights in their rearview mirror. That’s right, the telltale sign you are being pulled over. If you’ve been in this situation, you know the sinking feeling of getting pulled over for a traffic offense. Hopefully, you don’t face this situation again, but if you do, here are the steps to take after getting a traffic ticket.
Keep the Interaction Civil
It is essential to stay civil during your interaction with the police. Since tensions are pretty high during a traffic stop, this isn’t always easy. However, the following steps can help you avoid more trouble than you are already facing.
- Pull your vehicle to the side of the road or a safe parking lot
- Turn your radio off
- Remove any sunglasses
- Roll down your window and place your hands on the steering wheel
- Answer questions clearly
- Notify the officer before reaching for your ID or registration
Once you are given a traffic citation, you’ll need to follow the direction on it. This usually includes information about a court appearance or fine you must pay. You may also be instructed to notify your insurance carrier. Missing a fine due date can lead to late penalties or worse.
In some cases, such as if you are caught driving without a license or under the influence, you will not be allowed to continue driving. Instead, you will most likely be placed in the back of the police car and taken to a holding jail. You will go through arraignment and may be required to pay bail to secure your release.
Appear in Court
If your traffic citation requires a court appearance, then you must go. Start planning as soon as you know your court date to avoid conflicts. Get to the courthouse early on the provided date and be prepared to present your side of the story.
Most minor traffic tickets, such as speeding or running a red light, are heard in traffic court. However, if you are facing more serious charges, then it will likely go to a criminal court. This is typically when someone is seriously hurt or killed due to a traffic violation.
Pay Your Fine
If you decide to plead guilty and pay the fine, you can usually do that and avoid the hassle of going to court. Most states and municipalities have online ticket payment options to make this simple.
Paying your fine is simple, but it will leave a mark on your driving record and may cause your insurance rates to increase. If you disagree with the charge or ticket severity, it may be worth fighting or pleading down to a lower charge.
Attend a Driver Improvement Course
Some states, such as Florida, may require you to take a driver improvement course after certain moving violations. This can help reduce the cost of your fees and lower points on your license. It may also help keep insurance rates from skyrocketing after getting a ticket.
Consult an Attorney
Because there are so many variables associated with traffic tickets, it is a good idea to consult an attorney with any questions. This will give you a good idea of what to expect in traffic court and help you weigh the pros and cons of fighting the ticket. In addition, your lawyer fees will often be lower than the financial consequences of a major traffic violation.
Despite the awful feeling you experience while pulled over, it is important to handle the interaction calmly. Remember, you have options after getting a traffic ticket. In most cases, you can choose to pay the fine, contest the charges or take a driving course.