I was cited for fare evasion on Caltrain. What are my options, and which ones are wise?
I bought a ticket by credit card from one of the electronic vending machines just before getting on the train on the Mountain View Caltrain station going to San Francisco. On the way back from SF, shortly before arriving at Mountain View, the conductor started checking tickets. I looked at mine and noticed to my dismay that, in my rush to get on the train that morning, I had inadvertently bought the one-way ticket instead of the day pass. When the conductor reached my row, I showed him my ticket, explained my mistake, and offered to make up the difference in fare (I had more than enough cash on me). He instead cited me for California PC 640(b)(1)
("Evasion of the payment of a fare of the system"). I received the citation in the mail today and the bail is set at $245. The maximum punishment is a fine of $250 and 48 hours of community service. I have the option to just forfeit the bail.
So, I have a few questions:
1. If I appear in court and tell my story, is there any chance that my fine will be reduced?
2. If so, should I request a court trial or just an arraignment?
3. Do I have anything to gain from pleading "not guilty"? I was not trying to evade the fare, and I was willing to pay when I realized my error.
Thanks in advance for any advice.