You have received an Arizona traffic ticket. Now what? People often want to know what options are available to them after receiving a traffic ticket. First, we need to be clear about the difference in Arizona between a criminal traffic and a civil traffic ticket. (see The Difference Between a Criminal Traffic and Civil Traffic Case in this blog) The options listed below apply to a civil traffic ticket. If you are not sure what kind of ticket you have please contact a lawyer.
If you have received an Arizona Traffic Ticket and Compliant alleging a civil violation, this means that the State of Arizona is alleging that you committed a civil traffic violation. The 'ticket' may also be referred to as a complaint, or citation. The violation may also be referred to as a charge. In Arizona you may have several options of how you may proceed.
Option #1: Requesting a Hearing
If you disagree with the charge(s) and wish to dispute the charge(s) on the citation you should plead not responsible. A plea of not responsible means that you deny that you committed the violation(s) listed on the citation and are requesting a civil traffic hearing. At this hearing the officer who issued the ticket will have to prove that you committed the violation. A civil traffic hearing is a trial held before a Judge or Hearing Officer who decides both the facts and the law of the case. At this hearing the issuing officer must prove the violation(s) listed on the citation against you by a preponderance of evidence. This means that the officer must prove that it is more likely than not that you committed the violation. If your citation lists more than one charge, you will need to enter a plea for each charge. You are not required to enter the same plea for all charges. In other words you may plead responsible to one violation and challenge other violations.
You may choose to hire and be represented by a lawyer at your hearing. You cannot be represented by someone who is not a licensed attorney in the State of Arizona. If you decide to have a lawyer represent you, you must notify the Court in writing at least 10 days prior to your hearing.
Option #2: Pleading Responsible
If you plead responsible and pay the fine, this means you agree that you committed the violation(s) listed in the citation. Being found responsible of certain violations will cause the State of Arizona Motor Vehicle Division to assess points to your Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) often also called your driving record. The Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) may suspend or revoke your privilege to drive depending on the number of points you accumulate. Your insurance company may also increase your insurance rates based upon findings of responsible.
Option #3: Traffic School
You may be eligible to attend Defensive Driving School (DDS) if you have not previously attended Defensive Driving School (DDS) within two years of the date of your current citation. Defensive Driving School (DDS) is different from Traffic Survival School (TSS) (see Defensive Driving School (DDS) vs. Traffic Survival School (TSS) in this blog).
Defensive Driving School (DDS) is an educational course that you must successfully complete and pass usually prior to your scheduled court date. Make sure to attend a course approved by your particular court. If you encounter difficulty in scheduling a course, contact the court as you may be able to request an extension. Why should you consider Defensive Driving School (DDS)? Once you provide the court with proof of completion of the course, the court will dismiss the citation resulting in no points being accessed to your driving record and no changes to your insurance rates. It is important to note that in Arizona, you will not be allowed to attend Defensive Driving School (DDS) to dismiss your citation if you have a commercial driver's license (CDL).