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Traffic Tickets and Paying your Fine Online, Not Always a Smart Idea

Payment of a fine to a magisterial district court is often quicker and easier than sending in a check, however, be careful, unless you intend to "plead guilty" there's no box to check to plead "not guilty" when paying online.

Online payments to a magisterial district judge/court became an option just recently (within the last 5 years). Prior to that, a defendant had to sign the back of the citation and mark whether or not they wanted to "plead guilty" or "not guilty" and send in a check for the amount of the fines and costs. Simple enough, there's one line marked "guilty" and another marked "not guilty."

Nowadays, if you pay your total outstanding fine online and intend to still fight the charge, which most MDJ's will require you to do in PA, there's no box to mark "not guilty." Under the PA Motor Vehicle Code, if you pay the full fine and don't plead "not guilty", it's the equivalent of "pleading guilty." See 75 Pa.C.S.A. Section 6501(b).

Your best bet is to send in the payment if you do NOT want to plead guilty. By sending in the payment, you may clearly identify on the back of the citation that you wish to "plead not guilty." By doing so, you will have a hearing scheduled at which time you must appear. Again, by not appearing the judge will find you guilty. You may also have counsel appear in your absence and contest the charge. Usually, if the charge is contested an experienced traffic ticket attorney can get the points, suspension or fines reduced.

If you've been cited for a traffic citation, you should consult with an experienced traffic ticket lawyer first before deciding to plead guilty. There are a broad range of consequences for the entry of a guilty plea, depending on the charge, from a license suspension, a retest at PADOT or increased fines and insurance premiums. Do not go it alone. You may call Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC (717) 268-4287.