Did you know that you now have to Request a Trial in Maryland if You Want to Fight Your Traffic Ticket or the Points From the Ticket?
If you ever received a traffic ticket, prior to January 1, 2011, for speeding or driving through a red light, you knew that, if you did nothing, you would get a trial date in the mail. If you waited six to eight weeks, you could count on receiving a Trial Notice arriving in your mail box, just like you could count on receiving that renewal notice from MVA asking for money to keep your license and the tags on your vehicle. As long as you didn’t move without notifying the Court, that Trial Notice was as guaranteed to arrive in your mailbox as Christmas catalogs.
Well, in a little known change in procedure, that all changed on January 1, 2011!! Effective January 1, 2011, if you receive a traffic citation for a non-jailable offense (in other words- if you can only receive points and a fine), you MUST NOW MAIL IN THE APPROPRIATE PART OF THE TICKET AND ASK FOR THE TRIAL DATE!! On the new computerized ticket forms, you will see a portion in the bottom right hand corner of the ticket that you must complete and send in to the address on the form, so that you can get your trial date. If you do nothing, then, after 30 days, your license will be suspended!! If you do not follow these procedures you could be driving on suspended license and not know it!
I was in Traffic Court the other day and could not help but notice that a number of defendants charged with driving on a suspended license, a serious moving violation that can result in jail time, were not aware that the District Court’s procedure had changed. These defendants were more than forty years old, had previous moving violations, and did not know that they now had to ask for a trial. As it has been a year and a half since the procedure was changed, this indicates that many drivers in Maryland are still not aware of the new rules.
There are a number of reasons why people are not aware. First of all, as mentioned above, there was not much publicity to the change in the rules. Secondly, when you look at the new computerized traffic tickets, the form is so cluttered with information and the print is so small, that you may not see the part in the bottom right hand corner of the ticket, that you are required to cut out, complete and then mail in to the address on the form. If you are like most people, you are so aggravated by getting the ticket, that you start to read the citation, get angry, throw the ticket in your glove compartment and then wait for your trial date. (If you are like most people, the whole reason you received the ticket was that you were distracted by some bad news that day or a family emergency. That is the reason you didn’t notice the light was red or that you were speeding. Because you day was bad enough before the officer pulled you over, you probably are not going to read the ticket with the same detail that you would read the menu to your favorite restaurant.)
So, before you are pulled over for driving on a suspended license and possibly spend a night in jail, take heed of the change in procedure.
The new traffic citation procedures require a person who receives a payable traffic citation to act within 30 days. A person has three options when confronted with a payable traffic citation:
(1) Paying the fine – Pleading “Guilty”
(1)If you choose to plead guilty, by paying the fine, note that the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) will assess the applicable points on your license.
Having points on your license could increase your insurance premiums. The number of points assessed is determined by the MVA, not by the District Court.
For a summary of points that can be assessed go to: http://www.dmv.org/md-maryland/point-system.php
(2) Requesting a Waiver Hearing to Plead “Guilty with an Explanation”
(2)If you choose to plead guilty and would like to request that your fine or points be reduced or waived or that you be given probation rather than a conviction, check the “Request Waiver Hearing” option box, sign, date and mail it to the address on the ticket.
The court will schedule a hearing date before a judge. This hearing is not a trial. The officer who ticketed you and any witnesses will not be present.
(3) Requesting a Trial Date and Appearing for Trial
(3)WITHIN 30 DAYS of receipt of your citation, check the “Request a Trial” option box for each charge, sign, date, and mail it.
(3)It may take several weeks for a trial date to be scheduled. If you do not receive a trial date within six weeks, contact the District Court in the county in which you received the ticket, check the Court’s website for further information, by going to
For more information, see the Court’s website- http://www.courts.state.md.us/district/selfhelp/traffic.html#newproc
If you do not respond WITHIN 30 DAYS to one of the three options, MVA will be notified and will suspend your license. Driving on a suspended license is a criminal offense for which you could be incarcerated.
You should read your summons to Appear/Notice to defendant (Traffic Ticket) very carefully.
To Access Your Citation Information Online
Information about your citation and its status can be found on the Judiciary’s online Case Search at http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/inquiry/inquiry-index.jsp
If you want to read the reasons for the change in procedure, see “New Law Restructures Requirements for Payable-Traffic Citations, Bryan Nichols, Maryland State Bar Bulletin, January, 2011, http://www.msba.org/departments/commpubl/publications/bar_bult/2011/january/new.asp.
While there may be some cost savings to the Courts and the Police, you won’t find these very reassuring when you are pulled over for driving on a suspended license. So, please be aware of the change and act within 30 days of receiving a ticket, or else you will be calling me about a more serious traffic offense.