Minor Criminal and Civil Traffic Violations
What to do if you receive a traffic violation for a civil or minor criminal traffic violation.
The traffic complaint you received includes a court date and time. By that time, you will need to decide how you want to plead to your violation(s). You may enter three possible pleas:
- Responsible/Guilty - This plea means that you committed the violation stated on the complaint. The word "responsible" is used with civil traffic violations, while the word "guilty" is used with criminal violations.
- Admit and Explain/No Contest - This plea means that you do not wish to contest the charge(s) against you. You are allowing a Hearing Officer or Judge to enter a ruling of responsible/guilty against you without you admitting your responsibility/guilt.
- Not Responsible/Not Guilty - This plea means that you deny that you committed the violation stated on the complaint and that the state must prove its charges against you at a trial or hearing. If you received a complaint with more than one charge, you will need to enter a plea for each charge. You are not required to enter the same plea for all charges.
Options once you have decided upon your plea
- If your plea is "Responsible/Guilty" or "Admit and Explain/No Contest," you may pay the amount of the sanction/fine by mail or in person on or before your court date, unless otherwise stated on the information envelope given to you by the Police Officer, or appear in court on your assigned court date to see a Hearing Officer or Judge and enter your plea.
- If your plea is "Not Responsible/Not Guilty" you may request, by mail or FAX, that the complaint be set for a hearing/trial. You also may have the option of attending a Defensive Driving Program and receiving a dismissal of one violation. See "Defensive Driving Program" for details.
If you request a trial or hearing
- If your traffic charge is marked as a criminal violation, you are entitled to a trial. If your traffic charge is marked as a civil violation, you are entitled to a hearing. Your trial or hearing will be scheduled about four weeks from your first court date.
- You may be represented by an attorney or you may present your own case at your trial or hearing. If you decide to have an attorney represent you, you must notify the court, in writing, at least 10 days prior to your hearing. You cannot be represented by someone who is not an attorney.
What happens at a minor criminal traffic trial?
- The state is represented by a Prosecutor who must prove the charges against you, as stated on the complaint, beyond a reasonable doubt. The state presents its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you. You will be allowed to hear all the testimony against you and, if you wish, after each witness has testified, you will have a turn to ask questions of the witness.
- After the state has presented its case, you may present your case. You may call other witnesses to testify for you who know something about the incident. You may testify on your own behalf, but you are not required to do so. If you do not testify, your silence cannot be used against you.
What happens at a hearing?
- Preparing for your Civil Traffic Hearing
- Hearings are similar to trials, but no Prosecutor is present to represent the state. Instead a Hearing Officer or Judge will question you, the Police Officer and other witnesses to find out what happened.
- To find you responsible, the Hearing Officer or Judge must listen to the facts presented at your hearing and decide whether it is more probable than not that you committed the traffic violations alleged on your complaint.
- In a civil traffic hearing, the burden of proof required for a Hearing Officer or Judge to make a finding of responsible is less than at a criminal trial.
- The Hearing Officer's or Judge's ruling will be based upon the testimony and facts presented at your trial or hearing.
If you are found "Responsible/Guilty," the Hearing Officer or Judge will state your penalty. This penalty may be different from the amount listed on the Fine Schedule given to you by the Police Officer.