Traffic Tickets, Fines, and Points

Nobody likes to get a traffic ticket, but they do happen from time to time. A traffic ticket is the general term used to describe an official "notice to appear" or summons issued by a law enforcement officer for a violation of a traffic law. A traffic citation can be issued for violations that take place while a vehicle is in motion or when a vehicle is parked.

Highway Traffic School is dedicated to help you get your traffic ticket dismissed, so you can keep your driving record clean.

Being Pulled Over

If a police officer pulls you over, it is best to remain calm, be honest, and cooperate with the officer. Your cooperation and attitude can make a difference in whether the officer issues you a citation. The officer will ask you for three documents:

  • Driver’s license
  • Registration
  • Proof of Insurance

Be sure to have these documents ready when the officer asks for them. The officer may be more likely to issue you a citation if he or she has to stand there and wait for you to find these items.

If the officer does issue you a traffic ticket, calmly accept and sign the citation. By signing the ticket, you are simply promising to appear in court at a later date. Since the officer is charging you with a violation of the law, he or she could arrest you instead. But, to make the court process more efficient, the courts allow officer to release you if you sign the promise to appear. You have the right to refuse to sign the citation, but you will leave the officer with no choice but to place you under arrest and take you to jail.

Types of Traffic Tickets

There are essentially two types of traffic tickets: moving violations and non-moving violations. Moving violations are typically more serious offenses and may result in larger fines or points being assessed against your driving record. Moving violations can include:

Non-moving violations are generally those infractions that are correctable, such as illegal vehicle modifications and faulty equipment, or involve parking regulations. Examples of non-moving violations:

  • Window tint
  • Expired registration
  • Broken tail light
  • Parking on a red curb

Consequences of a Traffic Ticket

Traffic citation fines and penalties vary by state (and sometimes county). The severity of violation will also likely play into the amount of the fine and other penalties. For speeding violations, the fine is usually based on how many miles per hour over the speed limit the offender was driving. Also, if the violation is a non-moving or correctable violation, the court may dismiss the violation upon proof of correction.

Each state has a point system to keep track of your driving behavior. Each time you are convicted or forfeit bail for a moving traffic violation, points are assessed against your permanent driving record. The amount of time the violation stays on your driving record will depend on the nature of the violation and the state where you are located. Too many points on your driving record can result in a suspension of your driver’s license.

Your driving record, including points and violations, are visible to law enforcement, insurance companies, and others who show legal cause or permission to view your record. For example, a prospective employer conducting a background check, may have visibility to your driving record. Too many violations or points on your driving record can increase your insurance premiums or disqualify you from a job. If traffic school is an option, attending may prevent the violation and point from being reported on your driving record.

If you issued a traffic citation for a serious violation, were involved in an injury or fatality traffic collision, or have other points already on your driving record, you may want to speak with an attorney before your court date. The attorney can provide you legal advice and advise you of your best options to protect your driving privilege.

Fighting a Traffic Ticket

Fighting a traffic ticket in court can seem intimidating. After all, it's part of the officer's job to testify in court, but most people don’t get that experience. In deciding whether or not to fight your traffic citation, you should consider:

  • The fines and points if you are found guilty
  • Any defenses, justifications, or mitigating circumstances the court would consider for dismissal
  • The impact on your automobile insurance
  • The energy, time, and cost involved in contesting the violation

Remember, if you simply pay the fine on a moving violation, you are essentially admitting that you are guilty of the violation and points may be added to your driving record. If you are eligible, an online traffic school, defensive driving, or driver improvement course may prevent a point from being added to your driving record, which could save you hundreds of dollars in higher automobile insurance premiums. If you were ticketed for a non-moving violation, it may be worthwhile to just pay the fine and move on with your life.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

Automobile insurance is a necessity and is typically required by law. With today’s technologies, most states require that the insurance company notify the Department of Motor Vehicles electronically with insurance policy details, cancellations, non-renewals, and new policies. If the Department of Motor Vehicles does not receive your automobile insurance policy information, or receives a notice of cancellation, the state could take action against your vehicle’s registration or your driver’s license. In some cases, failure to maintain proper automobile insurance could result in:

  • Having your driver’s license suspended
  • Having your vehicle registration suspended

If you are stopped by the police or involved in a collision, the officer may issue you a traffic citation for failing to provide proof of insurance. The penalties for driving without proper insurance vary from state to state, but are generally a hefty fine if you don’t actually have automobile insurance. In the event that you just forgot to put the current insurance card with your vehicle, the court may dismiss the violation or reduce the fine upon showing proof that the vehicle was covered at the time of the ticket. For those who did not have insurance when they were ticketed, promptly obtaining insurance for the vehicle may result in a dismissal, reduction in the fine, or a deferred sentence.

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