A civil violation complaint includes traffic violations, municipal ordinance violations, and fish and wildlife violations.

Responding to a Civil Violation Complaint

Before you answer a complaint, please read all the information the complaint ticket issued by the law enforcement officer.

If you are served with a civil violation complaint, you have 21 days to answer by filing a plea of admitted, no contest, or denied.

If you do not return a copy of the Vermont violation complaint with your plea within 21 days, the court will assess the waiver fine and an extra assessment fee for failure to answer. Depending on the violation, the Department of Motor Vehicles or Fish and Wildlife Department may issue points and license suspensions.

Types of Pleas

No Contest

No contest means you do not admit or deny the allegation, but you believe the state could prove its case at a hearing. You waive your right to appear in court and pay the waiver amount. Deliver your signed plea and payment by mail or in person to the Vermont Judicial Bureau within 21 days to avoid extra fees.

 

Admitted

Admit means you agree you have committed the alleged violation. You waive your right to appear in court and pay the waiver amount. Deliver your signed plea and payment by mail or in person to the Vermont Judicial Bureau within 21 days to avoid extra fees.

 

Denied

If you deny the alleged violation, your case will go to a hearing before a judge. The state or municipality has the burden of proving its allegations by clear and convincing evidence.

Clear and convincing evidence means they must prove it is substantially more likely than not that their claims are true. The state or municipality's burden of proof in a civil violation case is lower than the burden in a criminal case, but higher than in an ordinary civil case.

If you contest the complaint, your plea must state "denied" and include your signature. Deliver your plea by mail or in person to the Vermont Judicial Bureau within 21 days to avoid extra fees.

 

If you are having trouble deciding whether to contest the complaint, you may want to talk to an attorney. See the Finding Legal Help web page for information about the ways to get the help of an attorney. 

Attorney Representation

You may represent yourself at Judicial Bureau proceedings or you may hire an attorney at your own expense. The Judicial Bureau will not appoint an attorney to represent you.

Communicating with the Prosecutor (Prior to Court)

The law enforcement officer who issued the violation complaint is the prosecutor. You and the law enforcement officer may communicate about the case at any time. If you received a civil violation complaint for operating without liability insurance and you have proof of insurance, you may want to provide your proof to the law enforcement officer before going to court. The name of the officer and their department is on the violation complaint ticket.

At Trial

If you deny the violation, the Judicial Bureau will schedule a hearing and will mail you and the law enforcement officer a notice of hearing.

Judicial Bureau hearings are held remotely. That means everybody participates by video or phone, including the judge, attorneys, and the law enforcement officer. The notice will state the date and time of the hearing and will tell you how to join the hearing. See the Participating in Remote Hearings web page for more information about remote hearings.

It is possible to ask for an in-person hearing if you have special circumstances. A request to have an in-person hearing must be made in writing.  File with the court Judicial Bureau Motion Form #500-00422 and state the information and facts to support the request:

A judge will review your request. If the motion is granted, the in-person hearing will take place in a courthouse in the county where the ticket was issued.

 

Asking to Reschedule

If you cannot make your hearing date for any reason, you must let the Judicial Bureau know right away. You can ask for a new court date by filing a written Motion to Continue. You can find that form at the bottom of the page. Remember, if you do not appear for your scheduled hearing, a default judgment can be entered against you and you will lose your case.

 

At the Hearing

At the hearing you can contest the violation or, if you choose to pay the ticket, you can give the judge information to consider to possibly reduce the penalty.

If you contest the ticket, the law enforcement officer will testify about the case, and then you may testify. You and the law enforcement officer may bring witnesses and exhibits. See the Going to Court web page for information about how to get ready for your hearing.

 

Judge's Decision

After receiving all the evidence, the judge will make a decision. The judge may tell you the decision immediately, or may mail a written decision later.

  • If the judge decides the case in your favor, there will be no penalties or points assessed.
  • If the judge decides against you, you will have to pay any fines and surcharges, as well as an extra court fee. You may also have to pay witness fees. You may ask the judge to consider your ability to pay the penalty. The Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of Fish and Wildlife will also impose any applicable points on your driving or hunting license.

 

Current Contact Information

Make sure the court has your current contact information so you don’t miss any notices. Use the Notice of Name Change or Change of Address form at the bottom of the page to update your information.

Attendance

If the law enforcement officer appears at the court-scheduled hearing and you do not, the judicial officer may enter a default judgment for the state. An assessment of the fine, court cost, and points will appear on the civil violation complaint. The Judicial Bureau will mail you a notice stating the deadline for paying the fine. If you do not pay the fine on time, the Judicial Bureau will assess an extra late fee for failure to pay. Depending on the violation, either the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Fish and Wildlife Department will be notified of your non-compliance of the court's order. The Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles may suspend your privilege to drive a motor vehicle in Vermont or the Fish and Wildlife Department may suspend your hunting and fishing privileges. If you fail to appear for a scheduled hearing at the Judicial Bureau there are no arrest warrants issued.

Appeals of Judicial Bureau Decisions

If you appeal a Judicial Bureau decision, your appeal goes to the Vermont Superior Court, Criminal Division. The proceeding before the criminal division will be on the record (meaning that neither party may present new evidence) or, if you choose, de novo (where evidence is again presented for the court to consider). If you wish a trial by jury, you must make your request in writing. While an appeal is pending the penalty fee and any associated points will be on hold until final determination.

If you wish to appeal a decision, please submit your request in writing to the Vermont Judicial Bureau:

Along with the written appeal, you must submit a non-refundable filing fee. If you can't afford the filing fees, you can ask the court to consider waiving them. See the Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs web page for more information and forms. The judge will determine if you meet the requirements to have the fee waived. The appeal deadline is 30 days from the judgment date.

If you have further questions, please contact the Judicial Bureau.