How Traffic Courts Are Operating During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Dealing with a traffic ticket during the COVID-19 court shutdowns.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, courts have taken dramatic steps to help stop the spread of the virus. The court system is a crucial component of government. So, a complete shutdown of the courts isn’t likely to happen. But public health concerns related to COVID-19 have forced courts to close courthouses and put a halt to many types of court proceedings.

In general, courts are now conducting only essential business. In other words, cases that require immediate attention—like domestic violence restraining orders and bail hearings—are getting it. But courts are putting less-pressing matters on the backburner. Traffic tickets are, of course, in the latter category. In most areas, traffic courts are closed. However, if you have a pending traffic ticket or get one while this emergency is going on, it’s important to know what your options are.

What Traffic Court Closures Mean for Those With Pending Tickets

In most—if not all—areas, you can still pay a traffic ticket online or by mail. If you’re not planning to fight your ticket, using one of these options is probably the way to go. And if you’re eligible for traffic school, many jurisdictions have online courses that satisfy the requirement.

However, in some situations, going to traffic court is necessary. An in-person appearance in traffic court might be necessary to contest a ticket at trial, to ask for a reduction of a fine, to request traffic school, or for certain more serious traffic violations.

Most traffic courts have postponed all existing court dates and aren’t setting any new dates until the courtrooms reopen. The details of how the rescheduling is going to work vary by jurisdiction. So it’s a good idea to check your local traffic court’s website for more specific information. Some courts are also accepting general and case-specific questions by email.

Changes to Traffic Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers, as with all emergency responders, have their hands full dealing with the current situation. So, as the result of prioritization, unofficially, there might be less strict enforcement of minor traffic offenses than would normally be the case.

Also, some state and local governments are making temporary official changes to traffic enforcement policy. For example, some cities have relaxed parking enforcement for the time being. And in a number of states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has issued advisements to law enforcement to use discretion or be lenient with the enforcement of administrative violations like expired licenses, expired registrations, and the like.

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