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Traffic court is a municipality's specialized judicial process for handling traffic ticket cases. In the United States, a person who is given a citation by a police officer can either plead guilty and pay the indicated fine directly to the court house, by mail, or in some more urban municipalities, on the Internet. If the person wishes to plead not guilty or otherwise contest the charges, he or she is required to appear in court on the predetermined date on the citation, where they may make their case to the judge, or negotiate with the prosecutor before they are called to appear in front of the judge. The person may also request for Trial By Written Declaration in the following states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, and Wyoming. With Trial By Written Declaration, the person does not have to be present in the court room, he or she may just explain the reason to defense for the case. The Officer will also be required to turn in his or her declaration. The Judge will then make a decision based on the declarations and evidences from both sides. At the conclusion of the written trial the accused is allowed to request a new, in person, hearing if he is not satisfied with the outcome of the written trial by filing a Trial DeNovo.
More serious charges, such as DUI, or other instances wherein the person in question may be responsible for injuries to another, may require the person to appear in court regardless of their plea. Some municipalities process guilty pleas of this nature outside of the presence of an actual judge, whereas others may require them to appear in court. Often these charges are handled by the larger criminal court.
Each state handles traffic matters in its own way. In most of New York State, for example, traffic matters are heard in the court for the city, town, or village where the alleged violation happened. The town and village courts are known as Justice Courts. Each municipality has its own way of doing things. A similar process is followed in Tennessee, though many southern states have varying procedures for paying the fine as a form of pleading guilty. New York City traffic matters (and a few other locations) are heard in a special court called Traffic Violations Bureau, with a very different process. New Jersey handles traffic matters in the Municipal Court System, with the most serious cases heard in Superior Court. In Washington, D.C. traffic tickets are handled by the Department of Motor Vehicles. In California tickets are handled in Superior Court. Massachusetts tickets are heard in District Courts. In the City of Chicago, traffic tickets issued by Chicago Police Officers with no possibility of jail time are handled by the City's Law Department, frequently by law students. All other traffic violations (including those issued by state police) are dealt with by the Cook County State's Attorney.
- Park, Sean. "How Tennessee Handles Traffic Court". The Park Law Firm. Retrieved 15 July 2015.