Road Law

December 2018/January 2019

Jeff McConnell and James Mennella


Your traffic ticket and the court: a survival guide

When you receive a traffic ticket, there’s usually a date listed on the face of the ticket that says, “court date,” “due date,” or maybe “response date.” We get a lot of calls from drivers asking us if they really need to physically show up in court on the date listed on their ticket. We explain that the date on their ticket is usually a date when they may personally appear in court if they may want to, but there are usually other options in which they not have to physically appear on the listed date.

We hope the information below is helpful to you, and be sure to let us know if we can answer any other questions you have.

Q. I got a ticket in California, but I don’t usually run in California. The instructions on the ticket say that I can have something called a “trial by declaration.” Do I want to do this? Do I have to show up in Court to do this? What happens if the judge convicts me?

A. Yes, California does offer something called a “trial by declaration,” or TBD, that you can submit instead of appearing in court. Usually, in order to receive the TBD form, you will need to post your bail with the court (usually an amount equal to your fines and costs for your original charge).

Once the clerk receives the money and the request for the TBD, the instructions will be mailed to you with the due date for the return of the TBD form. Be sure to complete the form in detail and submit the same back to the court and wait for a decision to be mailed to you (be sure the address on your driver license is the same address you receive your mail). If you receive the court’s decision and it’s a conviction of your original charge, don’t panic. You have the right to request a brand-new trial within 20 days, i.e., “trial de novo,” where you can basically start all over, make a physical appearance in the subject court, and with luck have a better outcome.

Q. I got a speeding ticket in Texas, and the date on the ticket only gives me 10 days to appear in court. I don’t usually drive in Texas, and there’s no way I can be back in Texas in only 10 days. What can I do?

A. The 10-day deadline written on your ticket doesn’t mean that you always have to physically appear in court by said deadline. Usually, the 10-day deadline is the amount of time you have to enter your plea of not guilty or simply plead guilty and pay the ticket.

If you want to enter a plea of not guilty, the court may offer you a couple of different ways to do that. One option may be to mail/fax your plea of not guilty to the subject court with a copy of your ticket attached. Another option may be to simply call the subject court and enter your plea over the phone. So, to verify what options are available to you, you’ll need to call the subject court and speak with the court clerk. If the court clerk allows you to enter your plea of not guilty over the phone, be sure to ask for and write down your new trial date so that you can calendar the same. LL


Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; call 405-242-2030, fax 888-588-8983, or contact them via

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone’s legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.