When a police officer gives a driver a ticket, whether the driver needs to go to court depends upon the offense. For payable offenses, the driver may admit guilt and pay the fine on the citation or ask for a hearing asking the court for a lower fine. Other violations require that the driver appear for trial. If the driver may be sentenced to prison, the driver will have to appear at trial. Any driver cited with an offense that may be punishable by prison time should consult an attorney. Read the Law: MD Code Transportation § 26-201, § 26-204
A change in the law effective January 1, 2011 makes it so that drivers charged with a payable offense do not automatically get a trial date. Drivers requesting a trial must send in the form requesting a trial within 30 days of receiving the citation. Read the Law: MD Code Transportation §26-201
When an officer issues a traffic citation, the driver has to sign an acknowledgment that he/she received the citation. This paper is only to show that the driver received the citation. The driver does not admit guilt by signing the acknowledgement. The driver may be arrested if he/she refuses to sign. Read the Law: MD Code Transportation § 26-203
For payable offenses, the driver may choose to pay the fine and plead guilty. The guilty plea will be entered on the driver’s record and the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) will assess points.
Drivers can also ask for a hearing to have the fine reduced for payable offenses. This hearing is not a trial. When asking for a hearing, drivers give up the right to have a trial and the officer who issued the citation will not be present. The hearing is just an opportunity for the driver to explain to the judge why he/she should receive a lower fine or probation before judgment (PBJ). The MVA will not charge points for a PBJ because it is not a conviction. There is a chance that the judge will charge the driver with a higher fine, not to exceed $500. Read the Law: MD Code Transportation § 26-204, § 27-101
Finally, drivers can go to trial. For non-payable offenses, like driving while impaired by alcohol or driving a vehicle without the owner’s consent, drivers will have to go to trial. The trial will be in a court in the county where the offense happened. Read the Law: MD Code Transportation §26-201, § 26-401