Pasadena, MD asked in Traffic Tickets for Maryland

Q: What does it mean in Maryland traffic court if they choose to increase your fine? Does this increase the points too?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: No, the violation charged on the citation fixes the points upon conviction, and the fine on the citation is merely a recommended pre-set fine the officers are required to put on the ticket in accordance with the District Court ticket manual; however, all traffic violations carry a fine range starting at zero and rising to some limit based on the seriousness of the violation. For most minor violations like speeding (those violations not carrying jail) the maximum fine is $500.00, and for most serious violations (mostly those carrying jail), the maximum is $1,000. There are many exceptions to these general ranges. When you request a trial or wiaver hearing, the amount of the fine on the ticket becomes irrelevant, as the judge now has the authority to imose whatever fine he/she thinks appropriate. In the vast majority of cases, the judge reduces the pre-set fine considerably. However, if the judge is granting an exceptional disposition, such as a "probation before judgment" on a 5 point speeding ticket which results in no conviction and no points, they sometimes make the defendant "pay" for that benefit by way of a higher fine than that imposed by the officer, so as to make some impression that driving 30 or more miles over the limit has some painful consequences and to act as a deterrent to driving so fast in the future. By law, the judge is also required to impose court costs and victim fund assessments, totaling $35 or so, but there is some discretion to waive those extra costs.

For speeding tickets, a judge has discretion to affect the points in one direction only: downward, not up. Points on speeding tickets are based on the mph over the limit, so a judge can "find" that you were driving only in the 1 or 2 point range rather than the charged higher point range, but the judge cannot convict you of driving in a higher point range than is charged on the citation. The citation is a "charging document" under the law, and the judge has no discretion to change what you're charged with so as to increase the points. That would require the issuance of a new charging document by the police officer or the prosecutor, and due process requires you receive advance notice of any such change (not on the trial date for a different charge).

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