Going to Court
New procedures now allow you to appear in court virtually rather than in person for any criminal or civil arraignment or initial appearance. The bottom of your citation tells you the court name and address, as well as the scheduled date and time for your hearing.
If you wish to appear in person, simply check in at the court window about 15 minutes before your scheduled time. This lets the judge and clerks know you are there so you are not marked as a no-show and be in default.
If you wish to appear virtually, let the court know one to three days prior to your scheduled date. Send the court an email from our Court Locations page. Staff will then provide you with log-in instructions.
Civil and Criminal Traffic, Misdemeanors
In general, city police officers will cite into the municipal (city) court. Tickets from state, county, or some tribal law enforcement will go to justice court. However, this may vary depending on the officer.
Citations may be either civil or criminal. Your ticket will have a box with a check which lets you know which type it is. Civil citations may be handled without seeing a judge if you wish to simply pay the fine. Criminal traffic and other misdemeanor offenses require that you see a judge- however that can be done either virtually or in person.
The bottom of the citation tells you which specific court will handle your case. Contact a court clerk if you have questions.
Important: do not ignore your citation. The court will have to issue a default judgment and you will face additional fees. Failure to respond to a criminal citation may result in suspension of your driver license and a warrant for your arrest.
Use the Court Locations page to call or email your court.
Criminal Traffic Violations
If any offense on your citation/ticket is listed as a criminal violation, you must appear before a judge at the date and time specified on your ticket. See the first section above if you want that appearance to be virtual rather than in person.
In addition, juveniles (those under 18 at the time of the offense) who receive a criminal citation must appear with a parent or guardian.
When you see the judge, you have three options:
- Plead guilty
- Plead not guilty
- Plead no contest
If you choose to plead guilty, you are admitting that you committed the infraction for which you were ticketed.
- Points on your driving record
- A fine
- Suspension or restriction of your driving privileges
- Jail (for some violations)
- Community service
- Court-ordered education classes
This means that you are denying responsibility for the charge(s) against you. The judge will give you a trial or pre-trial date. If you choose this route, you have rights as a defendant. The trial will be in person.
See the section below on your rights as criminal traffic defendant.
With this option you are neither admitting nor denying the charges against you and are telling the court that you do not intend to contest the charges. The penalty may be the same as a guilty plea. The judge may consider your explanation before imposing a fine or penalty.
Certain courts do allow defendants in some criminal traffic cases to enter a plea by mail or email. If you want or need to use this option, you must contact the specific justice court that has your case as soon as possible after receiving your ticket.
As a criminal traffic or misdemeanor defendant, state law gives you the following rights:
- The right to a trial before a justice of the peace, and in some cases before a jury.
- The right to have an attorney represent you at all stages of the case. If you are unable to pay for an attorney the court may appoint one for you, depending on the charge. You will have to provide evidence that you are indigent or are unable to afford an attorney. The court may require that you contribute a reasonable amount towards attorney fees.
- The right to confront witnesses and cross-examine them as to the truthfulness of their testimony.
- The right to have the court issue subpoenas at no cost to you to compel the attendance of witnesses.
- The right to remain silent and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The right to appeal if your plea was not guilty or no contest. There is no right to appeal a guilty plea.
Civil Traffic Violations
If you have received a civil traffic citation, you may respond in one of the following ways:
You may request a hearing by mail or by appearing on your scheduled court date.
Important: If you request a hearing you give up any option of attending a defensive driving school diversion program.
You may post a deposit in the amount of the civil penalty prior to your court date. The deposit ensures you will not be charged collection fees should you fail to appear.
The court will subpoena the officer who issued the citation to appear at the hearing. See the section below on your rights in contesting a civil traffic violation.
You may pay the civil penalty in person, online, by phone, or by mail.
To learn the amount, the officer should have given you a "bond envelope" with your citation. If you do not have it, you may download the Court Citation Information Guide from our web site.
You may also determine the amount by visiting our payment page.
Pay online: visit the payment page and choose "Pay Now". You will enter your driver's license number and name as it appears on your complaint/ticket and follow the online instructions.
Pay by mail: visit the payment page and choose "Pay Now". You will enter your driver's license number and name as it appears on your complaint/ticket and follow the online instructions. Then use the Court Citation Information Guide which has the payment form and further instructions.
Pay in person without seeing the judge: appear on or before your scheduled court date and make the payment at the court window. The clerk will take your payment and issue a receipt.
Pay in person and see the judge: appear on your scheduled court date either in person or virtually and admit the violation with an explanation to the judge. He/she will consider the explanation in determining the civil penalty. Then you will pay that penalty at the court window or by phone where the clerk will issue/email a receipt.
Important: all civil penalties are due in full on or before the scheduled appearance date.
If you do not pay your penalty in full on or before the scheduled court date, you must request a time payment plan and prove you are unable to pay in full. The Court will review your financial information to determine your eligibility for an installment plan. There is a $20.00 application fee.
If your hearing date and time passes and you have not made arrangements to pay, the court must add a $30 default fee.
As a civil traffic defendant, state law gives you the following rights:
- The right to have a civil traffic hearing before a justice of the peace or a hearing officer.
- The right to be represented by counsel at the hearing. If you choose to hire an attorney you must notify the court in writing at least 10 calendar days prior to the hearing date, otherwise you waive your right to representation. The court does not appoint attorneys for civil traffic violations.
- The right to question witnesses testifying against you and cross-examine them as to the truthfulness of their testimony.
- The right to present evidence on your behalf.
- The right to have subpoenas issued by the court at no cost to you to compel the attendance of witnesses.
- The right to appeal the outcome of the civil traffic hearing. However, if you fail to appear, you waive the right to appeal the judgment.
Defensive Driving School
Defensive Driving School (DDS) is an alternative to paying the civil citation. Choose to attend DDS or pay the ticket; you will not do both.
Some schools offer classes in person and some are online. Ensure that the school you choose is state-certified or your attendance will not be valid.
- If you are eligible and choose to attend defensive driving school you will not have to make a court appearance as long as you attend before your scheduled court date. Usually traffic schools require that you attend at least one week ahead of time.
- Attending defensive driving school eliminates the need to pay the citation. Do not pay the ticket online, in person, or by mail.
- You can register over the phone or online and make arrangements to attend class at any state-certified school.
- The violation will be dismissed after successfully completing the class and the court receives proof.
- The violation will not be reported to MVD or recorded on your driving record.
You may be eligible if:
- You were cited for a civil traffic moving that did not result in the serious injury or death of any person. Violations marked by a * on the bond envelope are all eligible violations.
- You have not attended a defensive driving diversion class in Arizona in the past one year for a violation that occurred within the 12-month period before your current violation.
There are two other circumstances where you may be eligible for DDS, but both require permission from the judge first. Call the court which has the ticket to confirm eligibility and procedures:
- Defendants under the age of 18 may enroll in DDS, but only after appearing before the judge with a parent or guardian. Some courts allow this appearance to be virtual.
- Some justice courts will allow defensive driving school for criminal traffic speed violations of ARS 28-701.02A1, A2, A3.
If you were cited with more than one civil violation you can only go to DDS for one of them. For the other violations you will be required to enter a plea and either pay the penalty or request a hearing.
If you deny responsibility and request a hearing, you automatically waive the option of attending driving school for that charge.
Important to consider before opting for driving school: a violation of ARS 28-702.01A carries no points and is not reportable to MVD. The civil penalty is $73.25 not including fees.
You should complete defensive driving school prior to your scheduled court date and ensure the court receives proof of completion. Extensions may be granted with a timely and valid request. To send in proof of completion or to request an extension, contact the appropriate court from our Locations page.
Residents of other states must register for out-of-state attendance through a state-certified school.
To locate and register for a defensive driving school, visit https://www.azcourts.gov/drive/Defensive-Driving-Schools.
You may also find one on your own as long as it is state-certified.
If you received the ticket in Arizona but do not live in the state, you must register for out-of-state attendance through a state-certified school.
If you are under the age of 18, you must appear with a parent or guardian and receive permission from the judge first.
Payments and Acceptance Policies
You must be prepared to pay all fines in full on or before the date of your hearing. If you cannot pay your fine in full, you should ask the court for a payment plan and be prepared to show proof that you cannot make the full payment. There is a $20 fee for the application.
The Justice Courts accept as payment: personal checks, money orders, cash, VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, or other financial institution-generated fund transfer instruments, and other forms or means of payment mandated by the supreme court.
A receipt shall be provided for every payment made in person to the court.
The receipt provided by the court is proof of payment.
Returned checks will be subject to a $25 fee.
Failure To Appear
Failure to appear or pay will result in serious consequences.
If you do not show up for your scheduled court date, this results in an admission of responsibility and a judgment against you. You might not be able to renew your vehicle's registration until you pay the fine/penalty or contact the court and begin payment arrangements, including a $20.00 time payment fee and a default or warrant fee.
Any right to appeal you might have had will be waived if you fail to appear.