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CONTESTING A MARYLAND CITATION

In Maryland traffic tickets or citations are contested in Maryland District Courts not at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). A citation is a form, entitled Maryland Uniform Complaint and Citation, which may be issued by a police officer if you violate certain motor vehicle traffic laws. Maryland Rules require the officer to serve the citation upon the defendant at the time of its issuance. The driver is required to sign an acknowledgment that he/she received the citation. This signature is only to show that the driver received the citation and it is not an admission of guilt. The driver may be arrested if he/she refuses to sign.

Citations allow for a prepayment and/or forfeiture of the preset fine. Most traffic offenses in Maryland carry criminal sanctions, i.e., fines, probation, and/or jail, as well as administrative sanctions, i.e., imposition of points and/or suspension or revocation of driving licenses or (for out of state residents) driving privileges.

There are two types of traffic violations in Maryland, "payable" and “must appear". You have a payable violation when the officer checks the second box under “Notice to Appear” on your handwritten citation or the "Payable Fine" box on the electronic version. “Must appear” violations are major or jailable motor vehicle citations and “payable” violations are minor motor vehicle citations that are not punishable by jail time. 

Most of the “payable” or minor offenses carry a maximum fine of $500. The citations for minor violations allow for a prepayment off the preset fine. You have three options if you receive a payable traffic citation; (1) pay the fine, (2) plead “guilty with an explanation” and appear for a waiver hearing or (3) request a trial date and appear for trial. If you choose not to pay the fine, you must request either a waiver hearing or a trial, at which you will be required to appear in person to dispose of your case. If you do not respond WITHIN 30 DAYS to one of the three options, MVA will be notified and may take action to suspend your license. Failure to both pay and attend court results in a suspension of the driver’s license or privilege to drive. Drivers are allowed to post the collateral after missing a court date and may request a new trial date. Posting the collateral results in withdrawal of the suspension. Forfeiture of collateral results in a conviction and the imposition of points if the offense carries points. A driving while suspended conviction for failing to pay a ticket or appear in court is subject to a 60-day jail term and a $500 fine.

If you choose to pay the fine on your citation, the charge will become part of your driving record. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) may assess points on your license.

Major motor vehicle offenses may not be prepaid. The alleged offender must appear in court. Most major offenses carry either two months or one year in jail, a $500 or $1,000 fine, and 8 or 12 points. Such violations include driving while suspended or revoked, hit and run, fleeing and eluding, driving without insurance and driving while under the influence of alcohol. In Maryland the accused has a statutory right to a jury trial for any offense in which the penalty exceeds 90 days imprisonment. A probation before judgments protects a defendant from the assessment of points and suspension, or revocation of the driver's license or privilege as a result of the violation

Most traffic offenses are subject to a one-year statute of limitations. The only exceptions are automobile manslaughter, homicide while under the influence of alcohol, and homicide while impaired by alcohol. Those offenses carry a three-year statute of limitations.

Information about your citation and its status can be found on the Judiciary’s online Case Search at: http://www.courts.state.md.us/courts/courtrecords.html

If you are convicted of a vehicle-related law violation in Maryland, the Maryland District Court will notify the MVA of the conviction. The MVA then applies the appropriate points to your driver record. Points are assessed as of the date of the violation. Assessed points are retained for a period of two years from the date of violation. The MVA can take action for points accumulated within any two-year period. Accordingly, any accumulation of points within a two-year period of time, whether the points are current or not, may be the basis for a suspension or revocation under the point system. However, the assessment of points is not automatic. If a suspension or revocation would adversely affect the licensee’s employment or opportunity for employment, an administrative law judge may modify, cancel, or not order the suspension or revocation. Having points on your license could increase your insurance premiums and have other collateral consequences for persons who drive for a living. The number of points assessed is determined by the MVA, not by the District Court. 

Generally, the MVA may not suspend a license for more than one year, although a license may be suspended indefinitely for an individual who cannot drive safely because of a physical or mental condition.

The MVA maintains a number of types of driving records. The complete driving record (also known as a litigation record) contains every entry placed on the public portion of the driver’s record for as long as they have been licensed in Maryland or, if a non- resident, since the first traffic violation that has been noted on the record. The MVA also maintains what is known as a probation before judgment (PBJ) record. Under Maryland Code Annotated, Criminal Procedure § 6-220 (2008), a judge may suspend a judgment of guilt and place an offender on probation subject to appropriate conditions. The violation is placed on a PBJ record and is not accessible to anyone but the licensee, the attorney for the licensee, the police, the state’s attorney, and the court. If the offender satisfies the conditions of probation, he or she never receives the conviction or points and no entry is ever made on the complete driving record. Specifically, insurance companies and rideshare companies have no access to the PBJ record. If your PBJ record is being used by unauthorized persons there may be something you can do about it.

Sean Riley represents people in all major and minor traffic cases including license suspension and revocation hearings in Maryland.