Receiving the Citation
When a police officer issues a driver a ticket for a traffic citation, whether the driver needs to go to court depends upon the offense. For payable offenses, the driver may admit guilt and pay the full amount of the fine on the citation, request a hearing asking the court for a lower fine or no sanction, or request a trial date at the date and time established by the court.
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 notice of 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, if the driver chooses to pay the fine and plead guilty, the guilty plea will be entered on the driver’s record and the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) may assess points. Drivers can also ask for a hearing to have the fine reduced or for the Judge to decrease or eliminate any points 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), but the driver doesn’t dispute the truth of the facts. 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.
Drivers charged with a payable offense (the offense is not punishable by incarceration) 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
Requirement to Appear in Court
More serious violations such as driving while under the influence of a substance or driving a vehicle without an owner’s consent require that the driver appear before a Judge and the citation will provide notification to the driver that he is summonsed to appear at Circuit or District Court in the county where the alleged crime occurred. If the driver is charged with a violation that might include prison time, the driver is required to appear in court. Sometimes the driver does not have to appear in person and may be able to request that an attorney appear on his or her behalf. Any driver cited with an offense that may be punishable by prison time should consult an attorney.