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The Trouble With Tickets
I am not, technically, a lawyer, but I did watch numerous episodes of 'Perry Mason', and on one occasion, when I got a traffic ticket, I represented myself in court, successfully pleading nolo contendere (Latin, meaning "Can I pay by check?").
Dave Barry, "Courtroom Confessions"

A good bet in a Sitcom is that when a character gets ticketed by a cop for a traffic violation, he won't shrug, say "Ah well," and pay the fine. He will decide to take it to traffic court, fight in the name of the little guy, and do his best Perry Mason/Matt Murdock/ Phoenix Wright impersonation. He'll spend more money fighting the ticket than just paying it off and going about his business.

See also It's the Principle of the Thing.

Examples:

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    Film - Live Action 

  • In the film TRON, it's implied that Kevin Flynn has a few unpaid parking tickets when he is arrested after being zapped into the computer world; he thinks they are arresting him for not paying his fines.

    Live Action TV 
  • Subverted in the Small Wonder episode "Vicki for the Defense": Ted parks illegally in hope of teaching Jamie a lesson about not perverting justice, and doesn't resist arrest.
  • In an episode of Seinfeld, Newman gets ticketed for speeding. He makes up a story about having to save a friend from taking his own life because he couldn't become a banker, and tries to get Kramer to follow along with it.
  • In one episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Lois fights a traffic conviction in the face of clear video evidence against her, because she refuses to admit that she could be in the wrong. When she finally accepts the verdict, Hal and the boys find a tape shot from another angle that exonerates her, but destroy it since they're tired of her always being right.
    • Not only that, but they threaten the man who showed it to them to never mention it. Dewey saying in a low voice, "No one," acts as the stinger to the episode.
  • When Danny Tanner does this on Full House, he wins the case, but gets another ticket for where he parked during Court.
  • A sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus finds the defendant in a courtroom giving a stirring, impassioned, rather long-winded plea for his acquittal, only to have the judge chime in, "It's only a bloody parking offense".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Happens as a Funny Foreground Incident in the Musical Episode "Once More With Feeling" where a woman actually sings her excuses to avoid a ticket.
    I've been having a bad, bad day
    Come on won't you put that pad away
    I'm asking you please no
    It isn't right, it isn't fair
    There was no parking anywere
    I think that hydrant wasn't there
    Why can't you let it go?
    I think I've paid more than my share
    I'm just a poor girl don't you care?
    Hey I'm not wearing underwear.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon has to go to traffic court after he was caught running a red light by a camera in Penny's car. He ends up getting locked up for pissing off the judge.
  • Mister Rogers, of all people, went to court for a parking ticket (he didn't have change for the meter and by the time he returned with the money, he'd already been ticketed). He lost and had to pay the fine.
  • Parking Wars on A&E takes this trope into a Real Life setting. The reality series follows parking enforcement officers in various cities as they ticket illegally parked cars, as well as immobilize vehicles whose owners have unpaid traffic tickets. They also give screen time to the hapless drivers who try to fight the officers (sometimes physically) or desperately scramble to resolve the infractions and get their cars back.
  • One episode of Person of Interest featured a guy who once wrote a 78-page legal brief to get out of paying a ticket. In another episode, Reese gets ticketed for illegal parking. He makes a token effort to try to get the officer to let him off with a warning, and when it fails, he pays it out of Harold's petty cash. The bigger problem was that as the man in a suit, he stuck out quite significantly in the suburbs.
  • An episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has the entire gang show up to contest some parking tickets by telling an episode-long explanation for why they got the tickets. During the proceedings, Charlie makes another stab at acting like a lawyer and treats it like an important trial. In the end, their supposed defense has them admitting to a number of much worse crimes than the ticket they're fighting, so they simply pay the fine.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • Roger in FoxTrot gets a parking ticket. His wife wants to just pay the fine, but he wants to do a Perry Mason impression.

    Radio 
  • Adventures in Odyssey: Whit is perfectly willing to just pay the ticket, but Connie and Eugene insist on him fighting his speeding ticket and go overboard preparing an overzealous defense for his case, involving numerous forensic and character witnesses.

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in the Animaniacs episode "La-La-Law": Dr. Scratchansnif gets a parking ticket, and tries to simply pay it off, but the Warner siblings insist on barging into traffic court and acting as his lawyers, spoofing as many courtroom drama tropes as they can along the way.
  • In Thumb Fun, an old Looney Tunes short, Porky Pig is charged $2 for a minor traffic offense. He considers it no big deal. An outraged Daffy Duck goes into court to argue against the "injustice", and the judge promptly raises the fine to $50. (Keep in mind, that's 1950s money.)
  • In an early episode of The Simpsons, Homer is pulled over as he's speeding to get back home to Marge (after believing he only has a matter of hours to live.) He insists that the cops just give him a ticket so he can get going, but the cops decide that they don't want to give him a ticket and throw him into a jail cell instead. In another episode, Homer responds to Chief Wiggum's sarcastic question, "Where's the fire?" by pointing to a massive conflagration in a nearby police station. In addition to the speeding ticket, Homer also gets a fine for "pointing out police stupidity".

     Real Life 
  • A woman in Sussex, England, was given a parking ticket and a fine for parking in a disabled bay without a valid disabled badge - but she had used a badge. She challenged it. They rejected her challenge - but this time giving a different reason for why she received the ticket. After asking around, she worked out that her badge had been judged as invalid because the council stamp was faded - despite the fact that A) it had been faded when she got it and B) she had parked over a thousand times and never received a parking ticket for that reason. However, this trope was averted when the ticket was cancelled. She hadn't had to pay a penny, because she hadn't actually gone to court or paid the fine.
  • Diplomats are infamous for exploiting their diplomatic immunity to park wherever the hell they want. United Nations diplomats in NYC have racked up more than $17 million in unpaid parking violations.

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