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 20 days to answer by filing a plea of admitted, no contest, or denied. If you fail to return a copy of the Vermont violation complaint with your plea within 20 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

Admitted and No Contest

"No contest" means that you neither admit nor deny the allegation, but you believe that at a hearing the state could prove its case. "Admit" means that you agree that you have committed the alleged violation. In either case, 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 20 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 that 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 20 days to avoid extra fees.

If you are having difficulty deciding whether to contest the complaint, you may want to consult 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 schedule a hearing and mail you and the law enforcement officer a notice of hearing. The notice will state the date, time, and location for the hearing. The hearing takes place in the county where the ticket originated.

At the hearing, 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.

After receiving all the evidence, the judge will make a decision. The judge may be a lawyer appointed as a hearing officer, or a non-lawyer elected to be an assistant judge. The judge may tell you the decision immediately or mail a written decision on a later date. If the judge decides the case in your favor, there will be no fines or points assessed. If the judge decides against you, you will be responsible for an extra court fee. There may also be additional witness fees besides any fines and surcharges. The Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of Fish and Wildlife will also impose any applicable points on your driving or hunting license.

At the time of the hearing, you may ask the Judge to consider your ability to pay the penalty.

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 is on hold until a final determination. However, the imposition of any associated points is not on hold.

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 are unable to pay the filing fee, you may file an application to waive the fee:

The judge will determine if you meet the eligible 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.