As an attempt to balance budgets, many states have begun to increase both their frequency of traffic fines and the amount of fines imposed, as shown by a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Despite protests by the public, and in some cases court officials, this unofficial policy continues. Instead of attempting to contest a ticket as an all-or-nothing attempt to avoid paying a fine, drivers often have the option of admitting fault and attempting to have the cost of a fine reduced.
Contact the clerk for the court designated on a traffic ticket and request information on contest options and proper filing instructions for a letter. Alternatively, attempt to find the information online via your state's judicial branch website, if available.
Write the letter. Accept fault for the ticket and express regret for committing a violation. Provide extenuating circumstances and evidence of good character. Evidence may include your reason for traveling so fast, such as rushing to pick up a sick child from school. Judges are given a lot of discretion to determine whether a reduction is warranted and will often take a drivers' manners and behavior into account along with other factual matters. Providing proof of a clean record can also encourage judges to be lenient to a first time violator.
File the letter with the court clerk. Some states allow drivers to mail a letter of explanation directly to the court. Others require a scheduled hearing with a judge or hearing officer, and you may be able to present the letter upon attendance. Await a final decision and pay the designated fine.
If you wish to deny responsibility, you risk paying the entire fine should the judge decide against you.
Never pay a fine before your explanation has been ruled on. Doing so will almost always bar you from any fee reduction.
Be aware of filing deadlines. Failing to notify a court of intent to make an admission with an explanation within the required time frame will eliminate any chance of a fee reduction. For example, Muskegon County, Michigan, requires letters to be mailed within 14 days from receipt of the citation.
Even if a fee reduction is successful, you will still receive points on your license. The only way to avoid points is to successfully contest a ticket.