The Most Important Thing to Know About Traffic Citations in South Carolina

Thomas Jeter • March 17, 2016

The Most Important Thing to Know About Traffic Citations in South Carolina

It’s almost as much a guarantee as the proverbial death and taxes: at some point, just about everyone will receive a ticket for a traffic violation. In South Carolina, there’s one very important fact that most people, residents and visitors alike, simply don’t know. It’s a fact with potentially serious implications, particularly concerning how to proceed when one receives a ticket. In South Carolina, traffic citations are defined under the penal code, making them criminal offenses. That means they’re subject to the rules and principles governing criminal proceedings.

Don’t Rush to Plead Guilty

The biggest implication of the criminal nature of a traffic infraction is that paying the fine in order to avoid the hassle and inconvenience of going to court is the same as pleading guilty as charged. The case is settled and goes on a driver’s record. However, there are benefits to the classification of violations as criminal, as well. Perhaps the most notable is that a driver who receives a citation for speeding, for instance, has the legal right to enter a plea of not guilty. This places the burden on the state to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of the charges brought against him or her.

Judgment by Peers, Not Judges

The second potentially valuable implication of the statutorily criminal nature of traffic offenses is that a defendant has the right to demand a trial by a jury of his or her peers. While having a jury is no guarantee of a not guilty verdict, jurors tend not to be members of groups predisposed to clear and strict interpretations of law such as attorneys, law enforcement officers, and judges. Their relative lack of legal sophistication may cause them to be more likely to consider evidence and arguments of benefit to a defendant. Having the shared experience of being pulled over and possibly ticketed themselves may also cause some jurors to be more sympathetic to the defendant’s position.

Seek Knowledgeable Advice

When a person is pulled over for speeding, rolling through a stop sign, or any other alleged traffic violation, the initial impulse to simply pay and get it over with can be strong, but costly. It could often be much better to plead not guilty and take one’s day in court. Any motorists who have received citations and who may be wondering how to proceed should consider reaching out to the attorneys at the office of Nosal & Jeter, LLP to help determine the course of action that may best fit their situation. Most of the time our firm can fight your traffic citation without you ever having to appear in court.