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The following article was written by Brad Richardson, who wrote it on behalf of Cain and Herren ALC, a Maui law firm with an office in Wailuku Hawaii.  Their firm is known as “The Attorneys With Heart.”

When you’re on vacation, it’s easy to forget that the real world is still operating. Some people get carried away and spend all day tanning on the beach. Some people drink too much and some people eat too much. And others may just end up driving too fast.

It’s always a hassle to receive a speeding ticket in a state other than your home state. But the stakes get even higher if you’re on vacation in Hawaii — an entire plane ride away from home. Since tickets take time to be processed, you’ll more than likely already be home by the time everything goes through. But you don’t need to book another plane ticket just to take care of that traffic citation. You have options — even if you’re pleading not guilty to the violation—but there’s a few things you need to know in order to deal with that ticket the right way.

Essentially, you have three options:

  1. You can plead guilty to the ticket and pay your fine.
  2. You can plead not guilty and try to have the fine lifted.
  3. Or, you can plead guilty but explain extenuating circumstances.

Note that these three options apply to typical traffic citations only. This includes minor speeding tickets, other minor traffic violations, and parking tickets. These three options do not apply to more severe traffic offenses. More severe offenses include, among other things, any violation that caused or had the potential to cause serious harm to others. These more serious offenses are much more likely to require a court appearance. Read through your entire traffic citation. Look for any clause or section that requires your appearance in court. If you find this clause, and fail to appear in court, the state of Hawaii may issue a warrant for your arrest. This, of course, can lead to much more legal trouble down the line.

That being said, if your traffic citation is typical and minor, you can safely stay at home without worrying about arrest. Here are your three options for dealing with a minor traffic citation in Hawaii.

Pleading Guilty

If you choose to plead guilty, then the solution is fairly simple: you have to pay the ticket. Many who live in Hawaii may choose to pay the ticket in person at the court. Since you do not live in Hawaii and paying the ticket in person is not an option for you, there are several other options available.

Your citation should have a preprinted envelope with it, which you can use to pay the citation by mail. The court will not accept a cash payment sent by mail. You can also pay your ticket over the phone or online, although these two options are only available within 21 days of the citation date. If you pay online or over the phone, you must also pay the full amount of the citation. To pay online or over the phone, you must have your citation number, license plate number, and either a MasterCard or Visa prepared.

Do not pay your ticket over the phone or online if you plan to explain extenuating circumstances to the court.

Note also that you cannot pay your citation online until it has been entered into the system. If you try to pay online and your ticket has not yet been entered, check back daily until the ticket appears. It may take 13 days or more for the ticket to be entered into the online system. Keep in mind that if it takes 13 days for your ticket to be entered into the system, this will leave you only eight remaining days to pay the fine. For more information on these options, visit the Hawaii State Judiciary website.

Denying the Citation

It is possible that you did not break the traffic code and that your citation was issued to you incorrectly. If this is the case and you choose to deny the citation, you must use the preprinted envelope provided by the court. However, this time you will include in the envelope either a written statement or a request for trial. If you will be unable to return to Hawaii for a trial, it is best to submit a written statement.

The statement should be direct, concise, and accurate. Type or legibly write the circumstances leading up to the incorrectly issued traffic citation. Explain the situation as fully as you can. In addition to the written portion of your statement, you may also include any necessary photos or other evidence. Your statement serves as your appeal to the court that you did not break a traffic law. Note that you should not claim this unless you truly did not break the law. Lying to the court, or to police, is a crime.

Your written statement must be returned to the court within 21 days of the citation date. The judge will decide your case and mail the decision to you. If you do not agree with the decision, you will have 30 days to request a new trial.

Explaining Extenuating Circumstances

You may also choose to plead guilty but explain extenuating circumstances. This applies if you were, in fact, breaking the traffic laws, but you believe you had a good reason for doing so. If you choose this option, you must include your written statement in the pre-printed envelope. The statement should clearly explain why you violated the traffic laws. You may explain, for instance, that a relative had been injured and you were rushing to see them. However, be sure that everything you include in your statement is absolutely true. Making up a story may seem like an easy way to get out of a ticket in the short term, but it can cause much more hassle than it’s worth. Lying to the court is a crime, and can earn you a criminal conviction. Criminal convictions can mean jail time, something you don’t want to risk for a simple traffic citation.

You again have 21 days to submit this statement, starting from the citation date. The judge will review the case and mail the decision to you. If the judge rules against you, you will not be able to appeal the decision. This is because you admitted that the citation was accurate and true, even if there were unusual circumstances.

Keep in mind that legal issues, including speeding tickets, are best resolved early on. The longer you wait to address your ticket, the more likely you are to be charged extra fees. In addition, some tickets may include clauses that further penalize late fees. In some cases, an unpaid speeding ticket can even lead to arrest warrants. Keep on top of the citation, and the issue will soon be resolved.

Need a lawyer pronto?  Click the button below to upload your case details and have those sent to lawyers in Hawaii, including Cairn and Herren ALC.  The service is free to use, with no obligation.  And it is easy and should not take more than 3-4 min to go through.