Since, on the whole, the majority of the U.S. population will end up driving a car a few times every week, the odds are pretty good that eventually you’re going to be pulled over and given a traffic violation. It happens to the best of us (well, except for some senators and other highly ranked elected officials, but that’s a topic for another day). Maybe you were in a hurry to get to work so you were going a little fast, or you were going the speed of traffic and didn’t see the cop, or you were changing the stations on your radio so you accidentally blew through a stop sign. Whatever the traffic violation, you’re probably going to have the option of signing the affidavit written on the back of the ticket and sending in your cheque for the fine, or you can try and fight the traffic violation. More serious traffic violations, like D.W.I’s or vehicular manslaughter charges, require a court appearance, but most petty offenses can be taken care of by simply paying the standard fine unless you’re a repeat offender.
So, should you give in and send in your cheque? That depends a great deal on what sort of traffic violation you were given and what the circumstances of the violation were. It also pays off to take a look at the state statutes you were charged against. In particular, take a look at whether or not the traffic violation you were cited with fits under the heading of a “strict liability offense.” If it does, then you’re in luck. Often charges like inattentive driving fall into this category, but the specifics will vary from state to state. A strict liability offense classification means that the officer who cited you with the violation will have to prove in court that you committed the traffic violation in question. In the case of inattentive driving the officer will have a hard time proving his or her case unless you explicitly said that you were changing radio stations or doing something else besides concentrating on the road. These traffic violations are therefore fairly easy to fight.
Other violations, like speeding, aren’t so easy. In cases not classified as strict liability offenses a traffic judge is much more likely to take the word of a law enforcement officer over yours, so unless you were in some sort of an emergency situation or can prove conclusively that you didn’t violate the traffic law you may be better off paying the ticket.