How to Respond to a Pennsylvania Traffic Citation
Traffic citations are one of those annoying things you just need to deal with. If you are guilty of the offense, pay your fine. However, if you want to fight your ticket, then you should enter a not guilty plea and prepare for your trial. Remember to hire a traffic ticket attorney if you feel overwhelmed or are unsure about how to prepare for your trial.
Method One of Three:
Paying Your Traffic Fine Edit
Ask if you can pay in installments. Most courts will let you pay in monthly installments if you can’t afford to pay your entire ticket all at once. To set up an installment plan, stop into traffic court and appear before the judge. Take your citation with you. 
- The citation will tell you which court you should appear at.
Pay in person. You can stop into the court and pay using a money order, personal check, debit card, or credit card. Look at your ticket to see where you must go to pay.  Make sure to get a receipt for your payment.
Pay by mail instead. Stopping into court might be inconvenient. In that situation, you can pay by mail. You’ll need to check the “guilty” box on the ticket. Read the instructions carefully. 
- You can pay through the mail using a check or money order.
Pay online if that is an option. Some courts might let you pay online. This can be particularly convenient if you want to pay using a debit or credit card but don’t want to stop into the court. Check the court’s website to see if online payment is an option. 
Method Two of Three:
Pleading Not Guilty Edit
Read the code sections you were cited for violating. Before deciding to fight your ticket, you should realistically assess whether you in fact broke the law. Look at your ticket to see what section of the Pennsylvania legal code you allegedly violated. You can read the law online.
- Look to see if the law has any vague terms you can argue about. For example, you might have been cited for reckless driving.  The term “reckless” is open to interpretation. You can argue that your behavior—whatever it was—doesn’t rise to the level of recklessness.
Enter a not guilty plea. Contact the appropriate court to check how you can enter your plea. Generally, you need to stop into the court in person to enter a not guilty plea, but some courts will let you enter the plea by mail, phone, or online. 
- Avoid delay. You only get 10 days to enter your not guilty plea. If you miss the deadline, then you’ll be guilty.
Post collateral with the court. You’ll need to pay the traffic ticket fine and any court costs upfront. If you win at trial, the ticket fine will be refunded to you.  However, you won’t get the court costs back.
Attend a pretrial conference, if necessary. In some courts, you need to attend a conference where you’ll discuss possibly pleading guilty to the traffic charge. In exchange, the prosecutor will offer reduced penalties. You don’t have to accept any plea deal, though you should consider it. 
- If you can’t reach an agreement, then the judge will set a date for your trial.
Hire a lawyer, if necessary. A traffic ticket lawyer can be a big help. They will know what evidence to collect to bolster your case, and they understand the trial process. However, it might not make financial sense to hire a traffic attorney, especially if the fine is low.
- To find an attorney, contact the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s lawyer referral service at 800-692-7375, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. 
- Also check if you can hire the lawyer for an hour of advice. They might be willing to walk you through the process of going to trial.
Method Three of Three:
Fighting the Ticket at Your Trial Edit
Gather evidence. You’ll need to present proof that you aren’t guilty of the traffic violation. The evidence you use will depend on the circumstances. Consider the following:
- If you were stopped for speeding, you can make several arguments. For example, you might claim the cop pulled over the wrong car.
- You might also argue that the technology used to clock you is error-prone. Look at your ticket and see if VASCAR technology was used. This technology is often wrong. 
Find witnesses. You can also have people testify on your behalf at trial. Get their names and telephone numbers, so you can notify them of the trial date. For example, try to identify any of the following, who will make great witnesses:
- If someone was in the car with you, they can testify about what you did. For example, they can testify you weren’t speeding.
- Another person on the road or on the sidewalk can testify as to how you were driving. A witness like this, who doesn’t know you, is often very persuasive.
Make an opening statement . If you have a lawyer, they will handle everything for you at trial, including the opening statement. Otherwise, you’ll want to preview for the judge what the evidence will be. A good opening statement shouldn’t be any longer than necessary.
- Avoid making arguments. Instead, you should simply lay out a roadmap of what the evidence will be.
- Use the phrase, “As the evidence will show….” For example, “As the evidence will show, I was going only 44 miles per hour. You’ll hear from Alice Joyce, who was a passenger in the car. She will testify that she bent forward to change the radio station and saw the speedometer right before I was pulled over.”
Cross-examine witnesses. The prosecutor should put on witnesses first. Typically, they will call the officer who pulled you over. You will have a chance to cross-examine them.  Consider what you hope to achieve with cross-examination:
- You might want to ask the cop a series of questions about your car. For example, have them explain the make, model, year, and color. You can also ask the cop what the weather was like or what you were wearing. If the officer makes a mistake, then you can argue later that they couldn’t really see that you were speeding.
- You can also challenge how the cop measured your speed. For example, ask when was the last time they calibrated their speed gun. VASCAR technology should be calibrated every 60 days. 
Present your own case. You get to go second. Call any of your witnesses and ask them questions. You may also testify on your own behalf. If you have a lawyer, they will ask you questions. However, if you are representing yourself, then you will need to give your testimony in the form of a speech.
Make a closing argument . This is your chance to pull together all of the evidence and explain to the judge how it supports your case. The prosecutor should go first, and you’ll go second. 
- Remember to explain away any negative information that came out. For example, you might have admitted to the cop that you were speeding. On the witness stand, you might have clarified that you misspoke because you were nervous.
Receive the verdict. The judge should deliver the verdict soon after all evidence has been submitted. If you win, the collateral you posted will be returned to you and your driving record will not be affected.
- If you lose, you can appeal to the Court of Common Pleas.  Ask the court clerk how to appeal.