Most of us will, at one time or another, be introduced to the court via a traffic summons. The majority of traffic summonses can be paid without making a court appearance. The cost of the most commonly issued violations is listed on the back of the summons. If it is not, it will be necessary to call the court. The court staff will be able to tell you the cost of the summons or if a court appearance is necessary. Sometimes, an apparently minor violation will require a personal appearance in court. The reason for this is that there is no specific cost listed on the Statewide Violations Schedule and the penalty may vary from first, second, third, etc. offense.
Traffic violations that carry penalties of greater consequence (such as driving while impaired [DWI] or driving while suspended) are never payable without a court appearance. The initial court appearance, called an arraignment, is basically an informative session. The judge will advise the accused person of his/her rights under the law and the possible penalties if a guilty finding is entered. After being fully informed, the defendant may enter a plea, that is, "guilty," "not guilty" or "guilty with an explanation." If a guilty plea or guilty with an explanation is entered by the accused, the case will be disposed and penalties assessed. If the defendant pleads not guilty or wishes to consult an attorney, the matter will be scheduled for trial at a later date.