Traffic Tickets: How to Handle
Received a traffic ticket? Here is helpful information to guide you on how to handle your ticket:
First, determine what type of ticket you have received because some tickets, known as "penalty assessment" tickets, can be paid within the time on the ticket, with points reduced, without the necessity of a court appearance. (CRS 42-2-127). Read the traffic ticket carefully, and obey the time limits and payment instructions. Two points are reduced for a three point or four point offense, and a reduction of one point for two point offenses, per CRS 42-2-127 (5.5).
These points will be sent by the Court to the DMV, and will go on your driving record and potentially affect your insurance rates. You can go to court on these penalty assessment tickets, and sometimes the police officer does not appear, in which case the ticket is typically dismissed (unless the officer has requested a continuance because of a medical emergency or the like).
If the officer does show, most often you can "plea bargain" for a similar point reduction, but to a non-moving offense (Unsafe Vehicle; Obstructed Windows; Failure to Use Seatbelt, etc.), which should not affect your insurance rates when reported to the DMV.
Other tickets can be traffic infractions, which can be written into Municipal Court (City), or into County Court (State). These tickets require a court appearance. Typically, the police officer is not required to attend court on these tickets until the ticket is set for a trial. The date on the ticket is your "First Appearance." You must attend, or a default conviction will enter, and the conviction and points will go on your DMV record. Your license will be "Denied," which is a form of suspension, until the fine and court costs are paid. This can be very bad, particularly if you are stopped again later because your driver's license is not valid until the fine and costs are paid.
Traffic tickets that have an appearance in Municipal or County Courts will have a prosecutor appointed to the case; the City Attorney in Municipal Court, and the Deputy District Attorney in the County Court.
It is impossible for all these tickets to go to trial because of limited prosecution and Court resources, so negotiations (called "plea bargaining") occurs. Go to Court prepared with photos of the scene, witness statements (with name, address, telephone number, and a brief description of what the witness would testify about), proof of a driving class taken after the ticket was received, and anything else that might help get a better plea bargain offer. Hiring an attorney experienced with your type of ticket can be helpful, but often expensive.
Know how many points you have been convicted of in the last 2 years. Get a copy of your driving record to verify how many points you have to work with. Adults over 21 years of age can get up to 11 points in 12 months, and 17 points in 24 months before their license is suspended (CRS 42-2-127).
Minor drivers (18-21 years of age) can get 8 points within any 12 months, 11 points in any 24 months, and 13 total points while age 18-21 before their driver's license is suspended. Minor drivers under the age of 18 years can have 4 points in any 12 months, and 5 points from date of obtaining their license to age 18 before their driver's license is suspended.
Traffic ticket convictions for moving violations, and any suspension of driving privileges, will greatly increase your insurance rates.
Going to Court prepared to effectively plea bargain can save points, prevent license suspensions, and save considerable money on insurance rates, rather than just paying the ticket (unless it is a timely paid penalty assessment ticket).
Of course, it is much less expensive, time consuming, and safer for everyone to follow all traffic rules and laws, and avoid the hassle and consequences of a traffic ticket!