You can fight this twice - first by a written trial by declaration. You submit a declaration laying out your side and why you weren't guilty. If the officer doesn't respond, you win. If you lose the trial by written declaration, you can then request a trial de novo (a traffic trial). If the officer is properly served and doesn't show, you win. If they do show, the worst that happens is you get the same fine.
The $20 jumps because of the "penalty assessments" they tack on. Essentially, they are taxes on any base fine. There are also mandatory court costs on top of that.
The good news for this violation is that it does not count as a "point" on your driving history, so it should not affect your insurance. Yes, you could do traffic school to get this dismissed, but you won't be eligible for traffic school for another 18 months, so if I were you, I'd "save" traffic school for in the event you get caught for a moving violation that really matters. I'd rather get a speeding ticket dismissed by way of traffic school than the cell phone ticket.
The above answer is for general information only and is based on the information you posted. Every case is fact dependent, so to get a thorough analysis of your situation, you will need to consult face to face with an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where the incident took place. Do not conclusively rely on any information posted online when deciding what to do about your case.
A cell phone ticket is a non point moving violation. Traffic school is not necessary. The fine is so high because of State penalty assessments.
Hiriing an attorney likely will be more expensive than paying the ticket. If you have the time, go to the first court appearance, plead not guilty, set a trial for about 2-3 months out, and if the officer doesn't show up for the trial date then the case will likely be dismissed.
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