We receive a lot of phone calls about infractions. We take the calls, dispense plenty of very solid, free advice, and send these people on their way with a tool chest full of methods for representing themselves.
So, as part of our never-ending search for ways to help you avoid hiring a lawyer, here are step-by-step instructions for defending your Connecticut speeding ticket by yourself.
Please note two caveats.
The first is that these instructions are for infractions, not violations. This means that your ticket is printed in the color, "red", and you are permitted to plead by mail. It likewise means that you have not been summoned to court, which is what a ticket printed in "black" would do when it is handed to you by a police officer.
The second is that these instructions are not intended for people who want to contest their speeding ticket and defend it in a trial. You may very well be not guilty of speeding, but if you want to go to a trial over your ticket, you should consult an attorney first.
With those two caveats, here are your step-by-step instructions for defending your Connecticut (infraction) speeding ticket
1. Immediately after receiving your ticket, check the "not guilty" box on the reverse of your ticket, sign in the blank where indicate adjacent to the box and mail your ticket to the Centralized Infractions Bureau in the envelope provided to you by police.
- When mailing, we recommend sending the ticket certified mail, return receipt requested.
- There is also an option to plead online. Go ahead and plead that way if you prefer. However, we're "belt and suspenders" type of people here, so I still would recommend pleading by certified mail, return receipt requested also. There's something very reassuring about having paper proof of delivery right in your hand.
2. You will receive an acknowledgment of your plea from the Centralized Infractions Bureau in the mail. Be patient. It may be several weeks before this arrives in your mail. This first notice is not a court date assignment.
- There will also be a form that permits you to provide a statement. If you feel compelled to say anything at all on this form and mail it back to Centralized Infractions, be sure to keep it only to a general expression of concern about what the consequences of a conviction may be.
- Don't state anything about the evidence, what you believe to be the facts, your speed when you were first observed by police, etc. This may sound dramatic, but anything that you say can and will be used against you. So, my best advice is to remain silent.
3. The next notification that you will receive will be an assignment of your court date. Once again, it may take several more weeks to receive this notice, so don't become frantic in the meantime. The notice will inform you of the date and time of your court appearance and the address of the court where you are supposed to report.
4. Do everything in your power to "dress up" for your court date. This means that you should dress as though you're going on a job interview for an important corporate position, i.e., jacket, (or suit), tie, dress pants and dress shoes for men and the equivalent conservative attire for women.
5. On the date of your court appearance, you should be at the court house fifteen minutes before it opens. As each court house has different procedures for reporting on motor vehicle infractions, inquire with a court marshal or the clerk's office as to how and where to sign in.
6. Your goal should be to obtain an agreement by the State's Attorney's office to stop the prosecution of your case, without actually going to trial. This will require you to be very humble, very respectful, patient, honest and as brief as possible. The conversation may start with "what would you like to do about your ticket Mr. or Ms. __________"?
- Your answer, again very humbly, should be in the form of a question: you'd like to know if there is an alternative to pleading guilty and a fine.
- This would be a good moment to explain your concern about either present or future points against your license and insurance costs.
7. Once you've asked the question in step 6, be quiet. It's OK to be quiet. Wait for the answer from the State's Attorney or investigator, or intern, or whomever it may be working on the infractions docket that day, to respond. If you have little or no record of moving violations, the response may be to offer an alternative penalty such as a contribution to the Connecticut Criminal Victim's Fund, or to complete a Driving Retraining Class. It may be both or some other alternative. The point here is to wait for an offer.
8. If you don't receive a prompt offer as an alternative to a guilty plea and a fine, then very, very humbly, ask whether you can take a driver retraining class or perform community service or any other option.
- Do not lead with charitable contribution offer.
- Wait for the response. In many courts in Connecticut, especially if you have no recent moving violation history, State's Attorney's offices do offer alternatives to guilty pleas and convictions.
9. If you have negotiated a conclusion that doesn't require a guilty plea, make sure to comply with the conditions that have been negotiated as immediately as possible. If you need another court date by which to complete your conditions, then ask for a date that will give you plenty of time to do so.
10. Obtain a copy of the disposition of your case from the clerk's office; this may be simply a certified copy of the "docket sheet" noting the entry of a "nolle prosequi" which means the State has ceased the prosecution. Please be aware, though that a "nolle prosequi" can be reopened within thirteen months at the State's discretion, especially if you receive another moving violation during that period.
11. Take half of the money that it might have cost you to hire an attorney and put it into a savings account.