Tennessee Court Records

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What Are Tennessee Traffic Court Records?

Tennessee traffic court records are the legal documents and case files created, from the proceedings of the traffic courts in the state of Tennessee. These include records related to moving violations & non-moving under the motor vehicle code, within the state of Tennessee.

Are Tennessee Traffic Court Records Public Records?

Tennessee traffic court records are classified public records in accordance with the state’s Open Records Act. The only exceptions are records that have been restricted from public access by a judge or the law.

Which Courts in Tennessee have jurisdiction to hear traffic violation matters?

In Tennessee, traffic cases are assigned for hearing in the municipal district or county where the violation was alleged to have occurred, and are heard by the requisite municipal or county courts.

What information is required to obtain Tennessee Traffic Court Records?

Traffic court records may be available online, on each county court’s website or third-party websites. In all jurisdictions, the public may gain access to physical court records by approaching the custodian of all such records, the court clerk’s office. To view or obtain physical traffic court records from any court, the applicant may visit the court clerk’s office where the case was filed and the records were created. The applicant may be able to look through the records free of charge if they do not request a copy. Copying of court records attracts fees.

How Do I Find Tennessee Traffic Court Records?

Any person interested in obtaining traffic court records must provide necessary information such as the first and last name of the person whose traffic court records are requested. Depending on the type of record required, whether an abbreviated or a complete abstract, the interested person may be required to provide valid identification for verification of their identity. Payment of court fees, if and where applicable, is also a prerequisite for obtaining court records in Tennessee.

Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:

  • The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name

Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

Are all Traffic Violations handled the same way, in Tennessee?

While the fines and penalties differ for Tennessee traffic violations and these are typically indicated on the ticket, the process for handling a citation is executed in the same manner, regardless of the type or severity of the citation. So while the penalties associated with not wearing a seatbelt will most likely be less than the penalties for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), the process for responding to both citations, and the subsequent processes, will be the same.

Can Tennessee Traffic Records be sealed or expunged?

In the state of Tennessee moving traffic violations are not eligible to be expunged from your record, unless you were not convicted of the charge or had it dismissed.

How does one end up in a Tennessee Traffic court?

You end up in a Tennessee state traffic court if after receiving a traffic ticket (summons or citations) from a ticketing officer; he indicates on the ticket that a court appearance is mandatory. This usually occurs when the offense is considered more serious than a minor traffic violation.

You can also end up in traffic court if the ticketing officer indicates no court appearance is required on the ticket but you choose to contest the ticket by pleading not guilty and requesting a trial. A court appearance will be required to enter the plea as it must be done before the judge.

Getting a Traffic Ticket in Tennessee.

A traffic ticket in Tennessee can either be a citation or a summons and are issued based on the type and location of the violation. A Tennessee Uniform Citation Ticket is usually a computer-generated long-form issued for traffic violations, by law enforcement officers. This is basically a ticket issued for non-moving violations such as parking violations and must be paid within 15 days of issuance or the violator must appear on the scheduled court appearance date.

A Tennessee Uniform Summons ticket is usually a computer-generated long-form issued for traffic violations by law enforcement officers. This is basically a ticket issued mainly for moving violations, and action must be taken within 10 days of the court appearance date or the violator must appear on the scheduled date.

Tennessee traffic tickets come with financial repercussions. These could come to include penalty fines and court fees. The offender is also facing the possibility of points being added on their driving record, which can lead to suspension or revocation of your license by the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). Fines vary by the violation (determined by presiding laws and statutes) and sometimes by the court, so a fine for speeding above the designated limit will differ from a fine for a DUI. The ticket may also include information on contesting the charge.

Apart from fines, based on the nature of the cited violation and the outcome, additional penalties can also be incurred. The offender's license type and driving record history may also affect these penalties. A specific number of penalty points, based on the violation, will be added to the record of a convicted driver. Accumulation of a certain number of points over any period, usually up to 12 points within 12 months will result in a suspension of your license.

Traffic violations are classified as moving and non-moving violations. Moving violations are traffic laws violated by a vehicle in motion, while Non-moving violations tend to relate to parking or faulty violations. Non-moving violations also can occur when the car is moving but are differentiated by the treatment of the courts and Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security (DSHS) as non-moving violations are not reported to the Driver's Services Division and will not appear on your driving record.

What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in Tennessee?

Irrespective of the traffic ticket you receive in Tennessee, you are required to respond and either

  • Pay Ticket.
  • Contest Ticket

A court appearance is mandatory only if indicated on the ticket.

If you choose to pay your ticket then you are essentially pleading GUILTY to the charge and you have consented to accept responsibility for the violation and agreed to all associated penalties, including all fines, fees, and surcharges arising from this plea. You have also consented to waive your right to challenge the ticket in court. It will appear as a conviction on your record and points will be added on your driving record.

If a court appearance is not required, the ticket can be paid in person at the office of the court clerk, via mail and online. If you choose to do this, the ticket number, your driver’s license and proof of insurance will be required. Different courts may require different forms of payment, so verify with the particular court before proceeding to make the payment.

If a court appearance is mandatory, the first appearance (arraignment) will be where you will enter your GUILTY plea before the judge and acquiesce to pay off your fines and associated charges. Your ticket cannot be paid off beforehand if a court appearance is required. This will be seen as a conviction and will result in points being added to your driving record.

Citations should be paid within 15 days of issuance of the ticket, and summons should be paid within 10 days of the court appearance date. If you choose to plead NOT GUILTY, then you are exercising your right to face a judge and contest your ticket.

You can choose to appear in court on the due date indicated on your ticket to inform the judge of your plea and have a hearing (arraignment). It is then most likely a future date will be set for your trial. It is preferable to some courts that you send a notification of your intention to contest the ticket before your court date. The court clerk will then either schedule a new date for your hearing or tell you to appear on the set date.

You will have to prepare your defense and should consider professional representation. On completion of the trial, if you are found NOT GUILTY by the court, then all charges will be dropped and there will be no fines, penalties or points added to your driving record. However, you will be liable for court costs.

On completion of the trial, if you are found GUILTY you will be instructed on your penalties by the court and these could include fines and other penalties (depending on the severity of the charge) and points will be added to your driving record. You will also be liable for court costs.

If you are unable to make the court appearance date, then you must inform the court and reschedule the date, as a failure to appear on a court appearance date without notice will result in a default verdict being reached, of which you are liable.

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