When To Pay And When To Contest: The Easiest Ways To Deal With Your Traffic Ticket

After you get a traffic ticket, you have a choice: You can either contest the ticket in court or pay it (or go to traffic school, if you're eligible for that, but for the sake of simplicity, traffic school will be lumped in with paying the ticket here). Legends abound about how police never show up at traffic court hearings and so on, but those aren't really true, and you need to think carefully before you make your choice.

Pay When You Actually Did Mess Up

If you actually are guilty and did do the thing that got you the ticket, pay up. Contesting may not work out the way you think it will if the evidence really does show you're guilty. Yes, the idea of getting the ticket dismissed on a technicality is a tempting one, but you'd have to have a pretty good grasp of the technicality, even if you were working with a traffic ticket lawyer. If the lawyer isn't confident that there are any technicalities at play, pay up.

Contest When You Think Race, Gender, or Another Characteristic Was Involved

However, even if you did do whatever it was that led to the ticket, if you suspect that you would have gotten a lighter punishment (e.g., a warning instead of a ticket) if you had been a different gender, race, etc., talk to a traffic ticket lawyer immediately. You should not have to pay that ticket if others wouldn't get a ticket at all for doing the same things you did. The court needs to be aware if the police officer who gave you the ticket might have some biases.

Pay When Your Argument Is Stretching It

Sometimes it's a tossup; you didn't really break the law in your eyes and there's no real evidence, but you can't come up with a convincing argument. Speak with a lawyer and see what they say; if they say you're stretching it by contesting, then don't contest.

Contest When You Did It but Couldn't Avoid It Because of Extenuating Circumstances

A problem that drivers can face is basically being between a rock and a hard place; you have to do something illegal to prevent something worse from happening, or you were forced into an illegal situation by something you couldn't help. For example, maybe you had to swerve into a bike lane because another driver nearly hit you, and you found out there were cyclists close by that you could have put in danger. Maybe the police officer saw you swerve but didn't see the other driver; in that case, a traffic ticket lawyer can help you find evidence proving that you were forced into the maneuver.

It's generally a good idea to speak with a traffic lawyer about your options if your guilt isn't clear-cut. You may have more avenues than you thought.