What Happens After You Get a Traffic Ticket?


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After you get a traffic ticket, you want to know what happens next and what you can do about it. For most people, it simply means paying the ticket and going to traffic school to remove any points on your driving record. It’s expensive, but a fairly simple situation to take care of.

The way people sometimes run into more serious legal problems is when they don’t pay the citation or contact the court to dispute the ticket. When someone ignores a traffic ticket, it does not go away. It remains in effect and can cause you to lose your license, pay additional fines or even be arrested!

What is a traffic ticket?

A traffic ticket is a notice issued by a law enforcement officer to a driver, motorist or other road user, accusing his/her of a violation of traffic laws.

How do you get a traffic ticket?

A law enforcement officer can give you a traffic ticket for violating traffic laws such as speeding, running a red light or a stop sign, changing lanes without your indicators on or driving with an expired registration.

Does signing a ticket mean I admit I am guilty?

No, signing a traffic ticket does not mean you are admitting guilt of any traffic violation. When you sign a ticket or a citation you are just agreeing to pay the ticket or appear in court, if you decide to dispute it. If you refuse to sign the ticket, an officer can arrest you on the spot.

Do I have to appear in court?

Typically when you receive a citation for a moving violation, you do not need to appear in court, unless you plan on fighting the ticket. You may also need to appear if you received a speeding ticket for going over 30 miles of the posted speed limit, reckless driving and if your ticket involves a traffic accident where there’s an allegation of serious bodily injury or a fatality has occurred.

Should I hire an attorney to represent me?

If you plan to dispute your ticket or would like certain arrangements, such as avoiding traffic school, it’s usually best to hire a local traffic ticket attorney. A traffic ticket attorney can also help protect your rights if the traffic ticket is due to a criminal violation such as driving with a suspended license.

Can I go to traffic school?

You can attend traffic school if this is your first traffic ticket. Attending driving school and receiving a certificate of completion will reduce the points on your driver’s record. This in turn will reduce the cost of your auto insurance. You can also attend traffic school if you have not enrolled and received traffic school training within a certain timeframe.

Some states such as California will allow you to attend traffic school once every 18 months. Other states such as Texas, allows eligible drivers to attend traffic school every 12 months. Contact your local department of motor vehicle for specific timelines and eligibility policies to remove points from your driving record.

Do I have to pay an out of state ticket?

Yes. Regardless of where you live, by signing a traffic ticket you have agreed to pay the citation or appear in court. If you fail to do either, a warrant for your arrest may be issued by the court in the jurisdiction where the ticket was issued. For example, if you received a traffic ticket while visiting Los Angeles, but live in Florida, the traffic court judge in Los Angeles can issue a bench warrant for your arrest. This will also lead to additional bench warrant charges.

In instances where you live out of town and want to fight your traffic ticket, you can request a telephonic court appearance by contacting the court listed on your traffic citation.

What happens if I don’t pay my ticket?

If you do not pay your traffic ticket, one or more the following actions can be taken by the traffic court:

• The court can request that the department of vehicles suspend your driver’s license.
• Traffic school attendance may be denied.
• A warrant for your arrest may be issued.
• Additional fines may be imposed.

Are payment options available?

Most courts offer a monthly payment agreement that allows you pay the ticket fine over several months. Some traffic courts charge an installment fee if you want to pay your ticket in monthly installments. It is important to make the payment by the due date or additional fees such as a bench warrant fee can be added and you can be arrested. Additionally, the ticket fee may be sent to collections and placed on your credit report.

As you can see, it is important to take care of a traffic ticket without delay. Attending traffic school and/or making payment arrangements can help you resolve the ticket so that it does not lead to more financial loss or other inconveniences.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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