How to Fight a Traffic Ticket in Missouri
In Missouri, a traffic ticket is issued in response to a violation of traffic laws codified under Title XIX, Chapter 300–307 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. Law enforcement officers are responsible for issuing traffic tickets while the local/county traffic courts hear all cases resulting from such events. Generally, a traffic ticket will inform the recipient of the alleged violation, time/date/place of violation, fine, penalty, plea options, and the court with jurisdiction. A ticketed person may either plead guilty to a violation and pay the fine or plead not guilty and fight the traffic ticket in court. In some counties, persons who pay tickets for moving violations also have the additional option of participating in a Driver Improvement Program (DIP) to offset or reduce points that may have been gained on the individual’s driving record if the ticket had only been paid. Failure to respond to a ticket within 30 days may result in additional fines, suspension of driving privileges, and the court issuing a warrant for a person’s arrest.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Is it Worth it To Fight a Traffic Ticket in Missouri?
The question of whether to fight a traffic ticket or not depends on the alleged offense. It may be prudent to fight a Missouri traffic ticket when the contesting party can offer reasonable evidence to prove the party’s innocence. Otherwise, the individual may face much higher fines or sentences for a guilty conviction than if the individual had just paid the ticket. The benefit of fighting a ticket in a Missouri court is that, if found not guilty, the case is dismissed. The defendant avoids driver license suspensions or revocations, additional court costs, and a term of imprisonment, among other penalties. It is advisable to consult a qualified attorney before deciding to fight a traffic ticket in any court.
Ways to Fight a Traffic Ticket in Missouri
A ticketed individual may contest or fight a traffic ticket in Missouri by appearing in court on the date and time indicated on the ticket. Information on the court where the plea hearing will be held is provided on the ticket as well. When an individual pleads not guilty in court, a trial date will be scheduled on the same day or at a later date. This trial may either be heard by a judge or jury per the defendant’s wishes. In Missouri traffic cases, there is no lawyer appointed by the court to represent the defendant. Rather, a defendant may hire an attorney and incur the associated attorney costs or self-represent (pro se). During the trial, the defendant or defendant’s attorney may present evidence, call witnesses, and even question the issuing officer. At the trial’s conclusion, a defendant may be found guilty or not guilty by a judge. Not only does a defendant who is found guilty face penalties such as having points added to the person’s driving record by the Missouri Department of Revenue, but also inflated auto insurance rates. In the event that the contesting party is not found guilty, all charges are dismissed by the court, and such a person is not liable to any ticket fines or driver record demerit points.
How to Fight a Traffic Ticket Without Going to Court
A court appearance is mandatory when wanting to contest a traffic ticket in Missouri. While some U.S states may allow trials by written declaration (contests made in writing) as a way of fighting these tickets without going to court, Missouri courts require a person’s physical presence on a specified court date, regardless of the offense’s severity. If the offender is 16 years or below, the ticketed party must appear with a parent or legal guardian. For certain offenses, however, an attorney may appear in place of a person. That is, the entire legal process will be handled by the attorney without the court requiring the offender’s appearance. Exempted offenses, where the offender must appear in person, include DWIs, traffic violations involving an accident or death, driving while suspended/revoked, exceeding posted speed limits by 20 miles or more, and subsequent convictions within 24 months of a prior offense.
How Do You Get a Traffic Ticket Reduced in Missouri?
Fine reductions or mitigations for traffic tickets issued in Missouri may be sought by visiting the courts listed on the tickets and speaking to the judge directly on/before the ticket is due. This applies to persons who want to plead guilty and cannot afford to pay the ticket fines and indigent or impoverished persons. Indigent persons may be required to submit certain financial documents or information, including a social security number, in order for the courts to determine a payment plan. Convicted individuals are granted new payment dates if unable to pay on the date the cases were disposed. Other than fines, individuals may avoid or reduce point assessments on their driving records by attending a Driver Improvement Program with the court’s permission. It is important to note that not all counties provide this option, and not everyone is eligible for it. For instance, persons with commercial driver licenses (CDLs) or permits or who were ticketed for a serious traffic offense are not eligible. More information on this program may be obtained from the applicable court.
Can you Get a Speeding Ticket Dismissed in Missouri?
A judge can dismiss traffic tickets issued for speeding offenses in Missouri upon finding of a defendant’s innocence. Other instances when dismissal may occur include when the prosecutor fails to appear to prosecute the case, when the issuing officer does not show up, or when the defendant agrees to and completes probation. The prosecutor also has the statutory right to order a case dismissal. In the State, speeding offenses may be reduced to non-point or non-moving speeding violations, for example, a parking violation, with an attorney’s help.
What Happens if You Plead Guilty to a Traffic Ticket in Missouri?
A guilty plea is equivalent to an admission of guilt in Missouri. As such, a person who pleads guilty by paying a traffic ticket is liable to certain penalties including ticket fines, points accumulation, increased auto insurance rates, license suspensions/revocations (depending on the seriousness of the offense), surcharges, community service, jail time, and the conviction remaining permanently on the person’s driving record.
How to Find a Traffic Ticket Attorney in Missouri
Legal representation is recommended when ticketed for severe traffic violations, challenging a traffic ticket, wanting to reduce traffic charges/penalties in Missouri, or just seeking help with the legal process in general. Attorneys can help reduce/avoid fines or points and negotiate plea bargains with prosecutors. The Missouri Bar (MoBar) may be contacted at (573) 636–3635 for references of attorneys qualified to handle Missouri traffic cases. In addition, the MoBar Lawyer Search can be used to find lawyers who are currently accepting new clients by city, county, or zip code. The Missouri judiciary lists more ways to find paid or free legal help in Missouri on its Finding and Hiring a Lawyer page.