If a police officer pulls you over and gives you a ticket or you otherwise receive a traffic citation, you might need to appear in traffic court. If this is your first time attending traffic court, you may wonder what to expect. Some people just want to get a traffic court proceeding over with, while others want to contest their traffic ticket and intend to fight the charge as best they can.
The North Carolina Judicial Branch website explains that if you are going to traffic court, you may have to wait as long as several hours before your case comes up. The court may hear other traffic cases ahead of you, or if you live in a smaller county, you may attend a court that hears traffic cases along with misdemeanor cases. Court practices vary by county. Some counties will put you in the front of the line if you show up early, while others hear cases by case number.
You also want to attend court at the scheduled court date. Should you fail to appear, the court may sanction you in various ways. Following 20 days after the failed appearance, the court will issue a Failure to Appear (FTA) against you, which may result in a final FTA fee on top of your traffic fine. Some FTAs may actually lead to a warrant for your arrest. However, if you do miss your court date, you could possibly reschedule a new court date and a judge might strike the FTA.
Generally, it does not take a full trial to resolve a traffic case. Many people plead guilty and pay their fines, or they may talk with a prosecutor about possibly reducing their charge. If you want to try to get your charge dismissed, you have the option of bringing an attorney along to speak for you. In the event you do want a full trial, you retain the right to request one.
Keep in mind that you cannot discuss your case with a judge unless yourself, your attorney, and the prosecutor are present. If you want to make a case before a judge, you will have to do so in a trial setting. Also, if you choose to have an attorney present, the prosecutor cannot talk to you unless your attorney is with you. Also remember that prosecutors may use what you say against you in court.