Speeding ticket due tomorrow
June 20, 2011 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Speeding ticket now due.

I realize there are several posts on this subject, but my scenario is a little different. So last month I got a speeding ticket (75 in a 60 zone) in a county an hour away. Nice, polite cop who cut 3 miles off the speed and saved (he said) me $50. Because I am easily distracted and stupidly busy, I promptly blew off paying it and now my court date is tomorrow at 8:45 a.m. I intended to pay it online, but now I can't make the system work. Can I just show up at 8:30 a.m. and pay the ticket? I have no interest in trying to fight it--I know I was speeding. Is there a chance of getting an extension on this thing? The courthouse doesn't open until 8:30 a.m , otherwise I would just call and ask. I see my only solution to drive there and pay. Ideas?

Other than this, my driving record is clean. Please don't judge. I probably need Adderall or something. I am so scattered so often.
posted by Prairie to Law & Government (13 answers total)
Yes, just show up and pay it. You'll be fine.
posted by grouse at 9:13 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you able to pay this ticket at a police station or can it only be done at the courthouse? In any event a "court date" is not something I would miss, regardless.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:14 PM on June 20, 2011

I would show up, pay it, *and* go to court (Generally you have pay the fine up front, regardless of if you're contesting it or not. Or at least that's the way it's done in my state, CA.)

If you have to go all the way there anyway, you might as well take the time to go to court. If the cop doesn't show it's dismissed, you get your money back, and no ticket on your record.

If he does show, just plead ignorance, say that since you put off paying it until the last minute, you thought you were obligated to show up in court, and can you please have traffic school to keep it off of your record. You'll be no worse off than if you didn't go to court.

I think the potential upside, since you have to go there anyway, is well worth the extra time to wait for your turn in front of the judge.
posted by zen_spider at 9:27 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Call the clerk at the courthouse first thing tomorrow morning. In my county they are open by 8am. If you can get someone on the phone to accept a payment via credit card, they will consider the matter closed and you don't have to bother showing up.
posted by babby╩╝); Drop table users; -- at 10:10 PM on June 20, 2011

I was in a similar situation to you and had to show up at court, I was pleased to find out they offered almost everyone who showed up traffic court, which ended up saving me a good bit of money on insurance. I was out of the courtroom by 8:45.

There's a chance you could pay over the phone that morning, but not necessarily. I'd try to read the website of the court you're summoned to. If it sounds like they don't do that, I'd go ahead and make plans to be there tomorrow.
posted by skewed at 10:21 PM on June 20, 2011

Yeah, just show up. Give the judge a chance to offer you a cookie (traffic school, dismissal 'cause of no cop, discount on the fine for pleading guilty... all these things routinely happen.), and if s/he doesn't, just be like "guilty, I'll pay."
posted by paultopia at 10:48 PM on June 20, 2011

Don't pay! Why do you want to give your money away without a fight?
posted by Kilovolt at 11:03 PM on June 20, 2011

If you have to go then just go to court. You are allowed to go to court and plead guilty so it's not like you have to lie and say you were innocent.

The officer will be called first if they aren't already on the stand. If they aren't then your case will be dismissed and when your name is called you'll just have to say "not guilty" or "present."

If the cop is there then say:
"Guilty with explanation honor"
Then say something about how you were inadvertently speeding. If your driving record is clean then go online and print off a copy to bring with you. (I know in a few states this is an option, only costs $9 in MD)
Say that your driving record is clean and present it to give some credibility that you aren't a reckless moron.
Apologize for speeding and ask if there is anyway you could please get probation before judgement.

From my experience in court:
A. You'll get PBJ
B. The judge will say no but give you an option to go to traffic school to get the points off your license. The fine will be reduced but with court costs thrown in it will end up costing about the same.
C. The judge will just say you're guilty, maybe reduce the fine.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:44 PM on June 20, 2011

Don't pay! Why do you want to give your money away without a fight?

Um, because of some very bad experiences with the inherent power of a courtroom when I was 19 years old?
posted by Prairie at 4:09 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

This actual mechanics of a court appearance will vary by state. Most state laws, however, provide at least one formal and specifically spelled-out appointment for the accused to appear and respond. In some jurisdictions, where traffic offenses fall under the criminal codes, this is an arraignment where the defendant is merely expected to enter a plea (as in, pay the fine, ask for a trial, or other resolutions provided by law). In other jurisdictions, where traffic offenses fall under civil penalties, the rules are often looser and the court might expect to have the matter resolved in its entirety at the first setting.

What they all have in common: the matter gets more serious (potentially higher fines, additional infractions for "failure to appear," arrest warrants) if the accused doesn't appear for a court date.
posted by GPF at 4:32 AM on June 21, 2011

Yeah, it is different from state to state. Here in IL, the mechanics are:

1- plead guilty, pay it ahead of time, the assigned judge signs off on it ahead of time and it never gets to court.

2- go to court, you name is called, and you enter a plea. If you plead not-guilty, your case is assigned a trial date. (Which CAN be right after everyone else has entered their initial plea, or the following month.)

2b- Or you plead guilty and request supervision, which means you pay the fine, and if you don't get any more tickets for the duration of the supervision, there is no conviction entered in your record.

3- On that date (or time), an actual trial is held. My memory of the law (here) is that THE officer doesn't necessarily have to be there, but AN officer from that jurisdiction needs to be, and they will affirm that the facts on the ticket are true. If you want to ask questions about facts that aren't on the ticket, I believe the state will either ask for a continuance or drop the charges. (Or they will ask for the continuance and the judge will say "should have thought about that ahead of time, case dismissed.)

Another practical issue is that depending on how computerized everything is or isn't, your case file might already be in the courtroom, in which case the clerk can't do anything about it the day of the court date. In that case, you'd go up to the prosecutor before the session and tell them you want to plead guilty and pay, and they will tell you what to do.
posted by gjc at 5:02 AM on June 21, 2011

Um, because of some very bad experiences with the inherent power of a courtroom when I was 19 years old?

I'm sorry that you had a scarring experience in a courtroom. But this is traffic court -- it is an entirely different beast. Best to think about it as a revenue-earning machine for the county than a place where justice is exacted. Try to negotiate, stay respectful and don't be an ass, and you will be absolutely fine.
posted by thejoshu at 5:33 AM on June 21, 2011

While attempting to get it dismissed is in theory, the "best" thing, the time you'll spend attempting to do so simply isn't worth it for such a small ticket. If you've got a clean driving record, a single speeding ticket won't bump your insurance rates. I've had three in the past few years that never even appeared. You'd be surprised how often these types of traffic tickets DON'T get reported to the national driving record database.

tl;dr, Call or show up and pay the ticket, and be done with it for good.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2011

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