I have heard about something called “deferral.” Is this a good way to fight my ticket?
A “deferral” is not really a way to fight your ticket. Instead, it is a way to keep your driving record clean. However, the first step in a deferral is to admit that you committed the traffic infraction.
How does it work?
One deferral is allowed every seven years for a non-moving violation (i.e. defective tail light) and one deferral is allowed every seven years for a moving violation (i.e. speeding). This law grants the judge/commissioner the ability to grant a deferral, but does not compel him/her to do so. There are also not set criteria for getting a deferral – it is up to the individual judge/commissioner. But, this is where your driving record can be useful. Most judges will grant a deferral if: 1) you have a driving record that he/she feels is deserving of a deferral; 2) you pay a fee (usually $100-200) which sometimes may be higher than the fine on your original ticket; 3) you do not commit another infraction for a set period (normally 6-12 months); and 4) you are not a commercial driver. If you comply with the judge’s/commissioner’s conditions, the traffic infraction will not appear on your record. But, if you get a second infraction within the specified time period, or fail to make your payment on time, the infraction will appear on your record AND you will have to pay the full fine for the ticket.
If I don’t want a deferral and I want to fight my ticket in court without a lawyer, what should I do?
Be prepared. If you have witnesses, bring them to court with you. A letter or statement from a witness will not be allowed in court. Generally, you must present live witnesses. Bring with you all documents, photographs or other evidence that you intend to use in your argument. Show up to court early and dressed appropriately. Check in with the clerk or bailiff to let the court know you have arrived and sit quietly until your case is called. Sometimes, it can take up to three hours before your case is heard. Don’t be nervous! Even if this is your first time speaking in front of people or in a courtroom, be calm. The judge/commissioner knows this can be a nervous ordeal for many. Most will try to be relatively informal and relaxed. If you need an interpreter, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. You should request an interpreter at the time you requested a hearing. If you forgot to do this, ask to reschedule the hearing to another time when an interpreter can be available. Or, you can bring a friend with you to help translate.