Criminal Traffic Court ----- What can I expect?

I got a letter in the mail today saying I have a mandatory court appearance scheduled for January regarding my recent “out tail lamp on commercial vehicle”…I’m not kidding…

I’ve never gone to court in my life, and I am nervous, what can I expect?

I’ve gone to traffic court a couple of times. It’s pretty simple; you sit and wait your turn, watching others go ahead of you to plead their case before the judge decides. Eventually they will call your name, the judge will clarify what the issue is, then ask for your story, he/she may ask a few questions of you, then make his/her decision. It’s usually pretty quick because they aren’t complicated issues and the stakes aren’t high, you’re talking about how much of a low fee you have to pay.

After everything is done you go to a clerk to pay off whatever it’s expected you owe. The first time I went to court it was to plead down the cost of expired tabs (a computer glitch caused the reminders to not go out on time) and I got most of the fine waived. The second time I was charged for driving without insurance because the slip of paper with my info fell out of my wallet, I got the entire thing dismissed just by showing I had insurance at the time.

Your jurisdiction may work differently but where I went to court was easy and even kind of entertaining watching everyone else go ahead of me.

Take proof you have had the problem fixed, say you are sorry, and the judge will probably waive a portion of the fine.

The last time I was in Traffic Court I pled “Guilty with an explanation.” The judge asked for my explanation and I replied “Because I’m a dumb-ass, your Honor.” He laughed, asked how much I had in my wallet, then had me pay $35 of a $250 fine.

Call up to make sure there isn’t an alternative–just sending in payment for a fine for example. This seems like such a minor thing I am surprised they want you to appear in court.

Since the OP involves a real life legal matter, let’s go over to IMHO rather than General Questions. Moved.

samclem, moderator.

Why is such a meager infraction considered “criminal”?

Aye. I thought traffic violations were “civil” offenses.

Knowing what state or province or country the OP’s court is in might improve the advice. Just sayin’.

This post is unclear. You got a letter. Did someone driving your vehicle actually get pulled over by the police and receive a citation?

If not it may be a scam.

Given you’re a long time LEO who presumably knows a bit about criminal law, are summary offenses not considered criminal in WI?

Within each state all the courts follow basically the same procedures. However there is enough wiggle room in there that each court is going to be run a little different. It’s not really possible to say exactly what is going to happen where you are going to be. I could walk you through pretty much minute to minute what happens in my court but that might not help you.

Don’t do this! Pay by mail means you are paying the maximum fine. Just showing up in court will usually get you a lighter payment.

Time is money. Say it takes two or three hours out of your life for going back and forth, waiting…

It depends on where you are and what the violation is. The violation described in the OP would be a minor equipment violation in my court. It’s already at the lowest fine you can get. Coming in to pay would just be a waste of time.

No. They are forfeitures. By
statute (939.12) forfeitures are not crimes.

Hell, first offense DUI isn’t a crime here. It’s a traffic citation.

In some states, the officer writing the ticket needs to also attend court to act as the prosecution. If they don’t show the case is dismissed.

I am in Wisconsin, but the crime happened in Minnesota

“The crime”? Hey, take it easy on yourself Mister Busted Taillight!

Were you in Minnesota when the alleged violation took place? Is there a phone number of the court that you can call to confirm the citation?

I have a buddy currently doing time at the Minnesota Correctional Facility – Oak Park Heights.

He has offered to “show you the ropes” but only if you have “really soft skin” (whatever that means).

ETA: “whatever that means” refers to showing you the ropes. Of course I know what really soft skin means.