When you get a ticket for speeding or other traffic violations, you have more than one option for handling the citation. Instead of trying to contest a ticket as an all-or-nothing attempt to avoid paying a fine, drivers often have the option of admitting fault in the hopes of reducing the amount of the fine.
Read the Ticket or Contact the Court
Your ticket should have instructions for admitting with explanation. If not, 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.
Writing 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.
Submit the Letter via Mail or Filing
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. You may also be able to file the letter with the clerk. The ticket will give you instructions, or you can contact the clerk to find out what to do. You'll get a written decision within a few weeks. Never pay a fine before your explanation has been ruled on. Doing so will almost always bar you from any fee reduction. Also make sure to submit the letter on time; failing to notify a court of intent to make an admission with an explanation within the required deadline 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.
Points to Consider when Dealing with a Traffic Citation
If you wish to deny responsibility, you risk paying the entire fine should the judge decide against you. Also, be aware that even if a fee reduction is successful, you will still receive points on your license (although you may receive fewer than you would have without the explanation). The only way to avoid points is to successfully contest a ticket.
Read More: What Is the Difference Between a Citation & a Traffic Ticket?
Most traffic tickets will have options listed on the ticket itself for either admitting and paying, contesting or admitting with explanation. If you admit with explanation, you may get a reduced fine and a reduced infraction. You can mark the ticket with your choice and, if you choose to admit with explanation, write a letter to the court accepting responsibility but explaining why it happened, in a polite and contrite manner.
- 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, Mich., 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.
A freelance writer since 2007, Jack Spencer focuses primarily on legal and scientific topics. He also runs a copyrighting firm specializing in small-business marketing and academic research. Spencer received his B.A. in political science from the University of California.