Traffic Tickets

Traffic tickets issued for violations of traffic laws are costly mistakes. Know the rules of the road in the state in which you drive, understand the penalties associated with tickets, and find out what you need to do to pay or contest a ticket.

What is a Traffic Ticket?

Traffic tickets are citations given for minor violations of traffic laws. They are considered infractions, less serious incidents than misdemeanors or felonies. You may get a ticket for a moving or a non-moving violation, such as parking illegally.

Depending on the violation, a ticket may result in points on your driver’s license. Tickets also carry fines, which vary by the type of infraction. Traffic laws and resulting penalties are set at the state level. You may face higher fines in one state than in another.

Examples of Traffic Violations

The rules of the road vary by state and municipality, but there are many common traffic laws you can be ticketed for in most or all states:

  • Driving over the speed limit or driving too slowly
  • Violating right-of-way rules
  • Texting or otherwise using a cell phone
  • Other types of distracted driving
  • Violating lane change or U-turn rules
  • Following too closely behind other vehicles
  • Going through a red light or ignoring a stop sign
  • Operating a vehicle without a license

More serious driving violations, such as driving under the influence and reckless driving, can lead to criminal charges rather than tickets.

What Information is on Traffic Tickets?

The paper ticket a police officer gives you is important because it provides the information you need to pay the fine or contest the ticket. If you lose your ticket, contact the police department that issued it.

Traffic tickets include information about your vehicle, a description of the violation, the time and place it occurred, and the identity of the ticketing officer. It also has information about what to do next. For instance, you may need to call the court.

What Are the Consequences of Getting a Ticket?

Failing to obey traffic laws can be dangerous. You could cause an accident, damaging property, hurting others, or even causing a fatality. In light of these possibilities, a traffic ticket isn’t such a bad outcome, but it will have consequences:

  • Fines. A traffic ticket is a financial penalty. You will be charged for breaking traffic laws. Fines for tickets can be up to $400. The amount depends on the laws broken and the jurisdiction.
  • Suspended license. You may also lose your license for getting a ticket. Every state is different, but generally, if you get too many tickets and rack up enough points on your license, it will be suspended. Drivers under the age of 18 can lose their license after just one offense.
  • Increased insurance rates. When you get points on your license from traffic violations, your insurance company may consider you a riskier driver. One minor ticket may not impact the premium, but two or more violations will likely raise your rate.
  • Traffic school. In some states, traffic school is an option, an alternative to paying a fine and getting points on your license. Most programs take an entire day, although some can be completed online.

Can I Go to Jail for Traffic Tickets?

Police issue tickets for infractions, which are minor offenses with no jail time. You can go to jail for more serious violations that lead to criminal charges. You can be arrested if you ignore a ticket, fail to pay tickets or continue driving on a suspended license. A judge can issue a warrant for your arrest.

This is a pressing social problem, as it penalizes the poor who may not be able to pay tickets.[1] If you cannot afford to pay a fine for a traffic ticket, go to court to ask the judge for alternatives. They may reduce the fine, set up a payment plan, or allow you to do community service.

What Can I Do if I Get a Traffic Ticket?

Of course, paying the ticket is often the easiest option, but it’s not the only one. If you want to save money, or if you believe you received the ticket in error, you probably have some other choices.

These options vary depending on the state in which you got the ticket but are generally available:

  1. Go to traffic school
    Many states offer an alternative to paying a traffic ticket. You can attend a traffic school or driving safety class instead. The idea is that the lesson will help you become a better driver and reduce tickets in the future. You will likely have to pay for traffic school, but it may be less than a ticket. It will also keep the violation off your record, which keeps your insurance premium lower.
  2. Contest the ticket
    Another option is to go to traffic court to dispute the ticket. Traffic courts are typically only available during normal business hours, so you may have to take time from work to see a judge. A few states allow you to contest a ticket in writing instead of going to court. To win in traffic court, you either need to convince the judge you should not have received the ticket or hope that the ticketing officer doesn’t show.
  3. Hire a traffic tickets lawyer
    If you hire a lawyer to represent you, you can avoid going to court. This is a good option if you cannot afford to take time off work. As compared to representing yourself, an attorney experienced in fighting traffic tickets will have a better chance of having the ticket rescinded.

Getting a traffic ticket can ruin your day, but you have options. If an officer pulls you over, remain calm. Don’t try to bribe the officer or get angry. You will only make the situation worse. Take the ticket and decide if you want to pay or contest it. A traffic tickets lawyer can help you.

  1. Leonard, G. (2019, October 17). A Traffic Ticket Shouldn’t Lead to Debt or Jail. Here’s How to Fix the System. Detroit Free Press.
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