How to Fight a Traffic Ticket in Court

••• Jeff Dean, Wikimedia Commons

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Although it doesn't always seem like it, it is possible to fight a traffic ticket successfully. The problem, of course, is that the entire system is set up to discourage people from contesting their traffic tickets. But, with the right moves, a little luck, and some upfront expenses, you can often get a traffic ticket downgraded in severity or completely expunged.

Note your court date and make sure that you attend your preliminary hearing. In virtually all jurisdictions the court date that is listed on your traffic ticket is the date of your preliminary hearing. You should attend this hearing if you hope to successfully fight your traffic ticket.

Show up to your preliminary hearing early and dressed appropriately. You should dress, at a bare minimum, in a business casual fashion. Make sure that you arrive at court nice and early, at least a half hour or so before the mandatory time listed on your traffic ticket.

Find the prosecutor assigned to your case and speak with him about it. Be polite and courteous, but explain any mitigating factors or defenses you have regarding your traffic ticket. Ask the prosecutor if there's any way that you could make a deal, before you enter court, to plead your ticket down to a lesser offense (preferably one that doesn't carry any points).

Be inside the court, seated, before your case is called. If you weren't able to come to an agreement with the prosecutor, make your arguments regarding your traffic ticket to the judge and assert yourself and your rationale. Argue strongly, but definitely refrain from antagonizing the judge or prosecutor in any manner.

Appeal your case if the traffic ticket is upheld by the judge at your preliminary hearing. Many people don't realize that they're entitled to appeal their case, come back to court, and have a formal hearing regarding their traffic ticket. Simply inform the judge or the prosecutor that you'd like to request a formal hearing on the matter and be sure to follow the same steps at your appeal for optimal results.


  • Even with perfect strategy it's sometimes impossible to successfully fight a traffic ticket in court. Even so, however, you stand a fair chance if you do everything right and, considering the costs that can result from a bad traffic ticket, the effort of fighting one is certainly worth the potential savings.


  • Remember, courtesy and polite behavior are much more apt to win over the hearts and minds of the judge and prosecutor than angry or overly emotional behavior. Endear yourself to both figures as much as possible to ensure the optimal outcome.


About the Author

A legal clerk and law school student at The Thomas M. Cooley School of Law who lives in southeastern Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree in English from Western Michigan University. Geoffrey has over a decade of experience working as a freelance writer and has completed hundreds of articles during that time.

Photo Credits

  • Jeff Dean, Wikimedia Commons