A Law Enforcement Officer ("LEO") will ask questions in the attempt to solicit admissions of guilt of the alleged traffic violation. Kindly provide identification, registration and insurance documents while declining to answer any of the LEO's other questions.
Notice to Appear
A LEO citing you for an alleged traffic violation will ask you to sign a "Notice to Appear". The date, time and location of the required court appearance is indicated on the Notice. Most courts allow defendants to request an extension, calendar the case and appear before the date on the Notice and/or participate in the process in person or by mail.
Generally, a defendant can plead guilty or no contest and request traffic school, plead guilty or no contest with an explanation in the hope of obtaining a fine reduction, or plead not guilty and require the prosecution to prove the violation beyond reasonable doubt.
A traffic infraction defendant is entitled to "discovery" similar to a criminal defendant which generally consists of the notes on the back of the Notice to Appear, radar/laser calibration records, traffic engineering surveys, if any, etc... The prosecution or LEO's failure to make discovery available may create legal arguments to assist the defense.
Trial by Declaration
A defendant may request a trial by declaration where the court makes a decision after considering the written statements of the LEO and defendant. A defendant may request a new trial (de novo) within a certain time if unsatisfied with the courts decision in the trial by declaration, or bypass the trial by declaration and simply request a court trial.
A defendant may testify in his or her own defense but cannot be required to do so. Witnesses may be called to testify and evidence may be properly admitted. If personally present, the LEO testifies under oath about the alleged traffic violation, traffic stop and any other relevant matters. The court then decides whether defendant is guilty or not.
Defendants who are convicted of traffic violations that result in "points" on driving and auto insurance records will generally seek to attend traffic school to avoid said result if they have not already attend for a conviction during the previous 18 months. However, the courts generally do not reduce fines if a defendant intends to attend traffic school.
A convicted defendant may appeal a traffic violation conviction if there are grounds to do so and if it is done in a timely manner. Due to the complexity of the appellate process, retaining legal counsel is advisable if not already done so to defend traffic infractions.