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FAQs about Traffic Cases (Minor Offenses)

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I just got a traffic citation, what do I do now?

You have 3 options:

  1. Plead "No Contest" and pay the listed fine within 30 days. The citation has instructions and explains what rights you are giving up by doing so. Read about your legal rights and plea options. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo
  2. Plead "Not Guilty" and ask for a trial. Keep the court updated of your address and phone number. Read about your legal rights and plea options. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo
  3. Do nothing. If you do not respond within 30 days, you will receive a warning notice giving you 15 additional days to respond. If you do not respond after those 15 days, the court will enter default judgment against you. Default judgment means that the court will impose the maximum fine permitted and driver’s license points will be assessed. The court will also add court and collection costs and a surcharge. The total due will be deducted from your PFD if you apply for one.

NOTE: Some offenses require mandatory arraignment. If this box is checked, you need to come to court in person (or arrange to call by telephone) to enter your plea. If you do not appear, the court may enter a default judgment against you.

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What if I want to enter a "No Contest" plea, but I need more time to pay the ticket?

Before your trial date, you can enter a "No Contest" plea and file a request to extend the fine due date to pay the ticket by filing a Request to Extend Fine Due Date, TR-218. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo

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If I say "Not Guilty" and ask for a trial, is there a filing fee to fight a traffic citation?

No. There is no fee to file a traffic case in court.

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What if I can't make my court date?

  1. If you live far from the courthouse or have a good reason that you can't come to court in person, you can file a Request to Participate by Telephone, TR-525. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo It is best to arrange your telephonic appearance well in advance of the scheduled court date. To appear telephonically you will call the number provided for the local court, at or before the scheduled time. Be aware that you may be calling into a conference line along with other people. Please be in a quiet place and do not speak unless it is during your case and you are responding to or asking a question, or testifying. If you appear by phone but want to present physical evidence (documents, photos, etc.), mail your evidence to court several days before the trial. Make sure to include your case number on any evidence that you mail in so the clerk is able to put it in your file for the trial. Find the court's address.
  2. You can request a new date by filing Defendant's Request to Reschedule Hearing, TR-200. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo Do this at least 1 week in advance. You will probably have to waive your right to a speedy trial, that means you may not have your trial within 120 days from the date you initially requested a trial. If you have an unusual or restrictive schedule, it helps to include times when you will be available for the new trial date. In an emergency, call the court and you may still get a continuance.

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How do I show proof I fixed my "correctable" citation and get it dismissed?

For any citation saying "correctable" next to the charge, bring the proof of the correction (documents and/or the vehicle itself) to the appropriate agency (either the Police Department or Alaska State Troopers) within 30 days.

For "No Proof of Insurance" violations ONLY, you can show proof of correction to the court clerk where the citation was filed at any time before trial. The court clerk will only dismiss the citation if you show proof that you had insurance in effect at the time of the stop. The clerk will not dismiss the citation if you show proof that you got insurance after the police stopped you.

In some locations, the court clerk can dismiss the citation for not having a valid driver’s license if you show proof your license was in effect at the time of the stop. Ask at your local court if you can correct that violation by showing the court clerk your license.

You can also bring this information to trial and the court or the police officer might dismiss it there. If you do not correct the problem before trial, it is unlikely the court will give you more time without a good reason.

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Can I get the citation dismissed if I complete a defensive driving course?

No, you cannot have the citation dismissed by completing a defensive driving course. You can check with the DMV to see if taking a defensive driving course might help to reduce the number of points assigned to your driver's license.

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Can I negotiate to get the citation dismissed?

In some locations, you can talk to the prosecutor ahead of time to try to reach a deal. You must do this before trial. In most places the police officer will not negotiate but in a few locations, the officer may negotiate a deal right before the trial. The court does not negotiate deals for you.

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If I agree that I did the traffic violation, is there any reason to come to court?

You have a right to make the police officer prove the case. You are presumed innocent and don't have to present any evidence yourself, although you can if you want to. Sometimes, the police officer will not have enough evidence to convince the court, or the court will allow the officer to amend the citation in certain situations, even if you say nothing. If the officer does not show up at the trial, the case will be dismissed.

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Can I say anything to influence the court's decision about my fine?

Cases that list a specific fine amount

Depending on the offense, there may be a statute or city ordinance that prohibits a judicial officer from reducing the fine amount so you will have to pay the set fine. You can ask either the prosecutor or the judicial officer if your municipality prohibits the judge from reducing the fine. If the fine cannot be reduced, the court will not order probation or community work service either.

The court DOES have authority to set the date that you must pay the fine if you need more time to pay.

Cases that do NOT list a specific fine amount

In cases that do NOT list a fine amount on the citation, the court may have the authority to lower the fine for good reason, but only if you appear at the trial (or by phone if you have permission).

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Can I say anything to change how many points go on my license?

No. The law requires DMV automatically to apply the points, and the court has no authority to adjust them. Read more about driver's license points and how to reduce the number of points on your license.

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Is driving through a red light because of a slippery road a defense?

No. For the most part, slippery roads are not a defense to traffic citations. The law expects drivers to keep their vehicles under control at all times. Most traffic infractions are held to a "strict liability" standard, which means you are responsible regardless of whether you meant to do it.

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If I decide to go to trial, can I bring witnesses?

Yes, but their testimony must be relevant and satisfy the rules of evidence. The court is only interested in what happened on that day, not your character or how you normally drive (the court does not look at your record, good or bad). Also, a witness can only testify about what the witness saw first-hand, not what somebody else said happened. The police officer must follow these rules too.

Showing up with an affidavit or a written statement from the witness is not a substitute for the witness testifying in court. In other words, the witness must testify in person or by phone.

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Will I get to cross-examine the police officer?

Yes. But this means asking questions, not arguing with the officer. If you don't want to ask questions, that's fine as it is not required. You would cross-examine if you think your questions will cause the officer to provide answers that will help you. You get your turn to tell your side of the story AFTER the officer gives his or her own statement.

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Can I get a copy of the police officer's video or other evidence ahead of time?

Yes. This is called discovery and you have a right to review anything the officer will show or use at trial, including the police report. You must request this information from the law enforcement agency that wrote the citation before the trial. You may have to pay a small fee for paper copies or a DVD.

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Will the court appoint me a lawyer?

No. You have the right to hire a lawyer to represent you, but no right to a free lawyer.

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Will my case be the only one set for that time block in court?

No, the court sets multiple cases on the calendar for the same time blocks. You may have to wait until your case is called.

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If I need a language interpreter should I bring my own?

No, the court will provide a language interpreter for you. It is helpful if you tell the court clerk before the trial that you will need an interpreter and what language you speak.

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What if I was under the age of 18 at the time of the offense or the time of court hearing?

You must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or legal custodian at any court appearance until your reach the age of 18.

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What else should I know about traffic violations and the trial?

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Can I appeal the court's decision?

Yes. You have the right to appeal to the Superior Court, but there may be additional fees. You will also have to file a brief, which is a document that explains what errors you believe the trial court made in your case. To be successful, you must show that the court made a mistake about the law or misunderstood the evidence. The fact that the court didn't believe you is not usually enough to overturn the decision. You have 30 days to start your appeal from the date the court found you guilty. Read more about filing an appeal to Superior Court. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo

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Is there anything I can do to fight the charge if the court entered a default judgment?

If the default judgment was within the last 2 years, you can ask the court to "set it aside", which means to undo the judgment by filing a Motion to Vacate (Cancel) Default Judgment, TR-420. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo

There are two types of requests:

Make sure to fill out the "Certificate of Mailing" section below the signature area showing the date that you provided a copy of the Motion to the agency that wrote the citation (or to the city/borough prosecutor’s office if one is involved) by checking the correct box, and signing it.

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28 March 2017
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