Traffic tickets in Tennessee always have certain consequences. However, when you get a traffic ticket, you will always have few options to decide. Below is some basic information to help you understand Tennessee traffic ticket procedures so that you can make the best decision possible in your situation.

What to Do If You Get a Traffic Ticket in Tennessee

After you get a ticket in Tennessee, you must take action quickly. You will have only a certain number of days to either pay or fight your ticket. To determine the deadline, examine your ticket. The date may be listed as "appearance date," "due date" or "compliance date." If you don't take action by this date, the court will issue a default judgment. In some cases, the court may even issue a warrant for your arrest and/or suspend your driver's license.

Is A Court Appearance Required?

Some traffic tickets in Tennessee may require a court appearance. If your citation requires you to appear in court, it will be indicated on the ticket itself. If you find such an indication, you must report to the court on the specified date. If you fail to appear, you may face more serious charges. If for some reason you cannot attend your court date, call the court listed on the ticket to reschedule.

If you do appear in court, you must decide whether to plead guilty, no contest or not guilty. If your ticket doesn't require a court appearance, however, you can plead guilty or no contest and simply pay the fine by mail. After you have paid your fine, you won't have to worry about the ticket any more.

Your Options

You always have options if you receive a traffic ticket in Tennessee. Consider the following scenarios before you make a decision.

Option 1 - Pay Your Ticket

If your ticket doesn't require you to appear in court and you don't feel like fighting the charges, you can pay your fine and move on with your life. In Tennessee, you may have one of three payment options: online, by mail or in person. Options vary by court, so check with the court listed on your ticket for more information. If an online payment option is available, the ticket may include the web address you must visit in order to pay.

If you choose to pay your ticket, make sure that you do so by the compliance date. Otherwise, you may face a larger fine or other more serious penalties.

Option 2 - Plead Not Guilty and Request Trial

If you disagree with the charges against you and you would like to fight them in court, you can plead "not guilty" to your traffic violation. To enter a "not guilty" plea in Tennessee, you must either notify the court by mail or in person. Some courts require a court appearance, so consult the court listed on your citation for more information. Make sure that you enter your plea before the deadline listed on your ticket.

After you plead "not guilty," the court will schedule a hearing. At the hearing, you will be able to present your case to the judge in hopes of reducing or eliminating your charges. If the judge decides that you are innocent, he will eliminate your fine and the violation won't appear on your driving record, but you will still owe court costs. If the judge finds you guilty, you must pay your fine, along with any court fees associated with the hearing. Depending on the violation, the court may also add points to your license or even suspend it.

Option 3 - Appeal Your Case

If you disagree with the judge's decision on your case, you can submit a request for an appeal. If you choose to appeal the judge's decision, consider hiring an experience attorney to help you.

Option 4 - Take an Online Defensive Driving Course

Tennessee courts sometimes allow drivers to eliminate their fines by enrolling in an approved online defensive driving course. If you enroll in a course and receive permission from the court, the court won't add any points to your driver's license, either. Most courses run from four to eight hours, depending on the county. However, not all drivers will qualify for this course. Before you enroll, you must apply with the court. The court will decide whether to allow enrollment based on your past driving record.

After you complete your course, make sure that the court receives a copy of your certificate. Without this certificate, you won't get credit for the course. Some driving courses may submit the certificate for you, while others may require you to deliver it yourself.