Traffic Infraction Court Trials
You have been cited with an infraction and your case has been scheduled for a court trial. An infraction is a civil offense and is not a criminal matter. Because no jail penalty can be imposed, you are not entitled to a trial by jury.
Although you have the right to employ an attorney if you so choose, this information is designed to inform you of the procedures you will be expected to follow if you choose to represent yourself.
Parties Involved in Court Trials
All court trials are prosecuted by an attorney from the County or City Prosecutor’s office. Most court trials will involve yourself, the Prosecutor, the officer who wrote the citation, the judge, and the judge’s clerk. You must bring to court any witnesses you think have information relevant to your case.
All penalties (fines and costs) for infractions are set by the Idaho Supreme Court. The magistrate judge who will hear your case does not have the authority to increase, decrease, or suspend that penalty. Remember, a judge cannot change the amount of the penalty.
Alternatives and Consequences
If the court finds that you committed the offense you have been charged with, or if you enter an admission, or if you fail to appear in court at the time, date, and place set forth in your citation or any subsequent notice from the court, judgment will be entered against you for the amount of the penalty for that particular offense.
If you change your plea and intend to pay your citation, please notify the court, in writing, at least one (1) week prior to your court trial date. Thank you.
If you admit to the offense charged or the court enters judgment against you after the trial, you must pay the full penalty immediately. If you need time to pay, you must contact the Clerk of Court located in the courthouse and he or she can discuss a payment agreement with you.
If you fail to pay the judgment or fail to pay as required in your payment agreement with the Clerk of Court, a default judgment will be entered against you and the Idaho Department of Transportation will suspend your driver’s license for ninety (90) days, but your license will not be reinstated until the penalty and a reinstatement fee has been paid in full.
If you request and are scheduled for a court trial, you still have the right to change your mind and pay the penalty. You may have your case closed simply by mailing in the required amount or paying it at the courthouse before your scheduled trial date.
You have the right to contest the charges filed against you by asserting any defense which you believe is a legal defense.
The following are examples, however, of what is NOT considered to be a legal defense and thus does not constitute an excuse:
- The citing officer was rude or disrespectful.
- Others were driving faster than you were.
- You admit speeding, but not as fast as the officer alleged.
- Clerical or grammatical errors on the citation.
- You cannot pay the fine right now and need some time.
Again, these are NOT considered to be defenses against infraction citations.
As your case is called you should step forward and sit at the table labeled “Defendant” or some other place as instructed by the presiding judge. If you are not present in the courtroom at the time your case is called, default judgment will be entered against you.
All parties are encouraged to keep their testimony brief and to the point. Parties should not argue or interrupt. The judge cannot give legal advice to either party and will not tell you what questions you should ask or what testimony you should present.
The officer who wrote the citation will present the State’s evidence first. After he is finished, the judge will allow you to question the officer. Your questions must be limited to the facts of the case. You will not be allowed to argue with the officer. You will then present your evidence. At this point you may testify, if you so desire, or call witnesses in your own behalf. When you have completed your evidence, the judge may allow the officer to “rebut” your evidence by offering further testimony.
After hearing all the evidence the judge will generally make a decision immediately. The judge does have the right, however, to take the matter under advisement and later issue a written decision.
If the judge finds beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense, you will be required to pay the fixed penalties. If the judge finds in your favor, the citation will be dismissed and your case will be closed.
If judgment is entered against you, you have the right to appeal that decision to the District Court. You have forty-two (42) days to file this appeal and you must comply with all requirements set forth by the Idaho Supreme Court rules in filing and completing your appeal.
Infraction court trials were designed to give people the opportunity to present to an impartial judge their defenses to infraction charges.
You should remember the following points:
- If you have a complaint about the way the citing officer treated you, the courtroom is not the place to lodge that complaint. You should contact that officer’s superiors for this purpose.
- The judges are not responsible for assessing “points” against your driving records, nor do they control the costs of insurance for any individual.
- If you have any questions, the court clerks may give out information about how the court system works but neither they, nor the judges, are authorized to offer legal advice. If you are uncertain about your rights, you should seek the advice of an attorney.