Traffic Ticket Guide


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Traffic tickets and violations are issued when you break traffic laws. Most drivers will at least get pulled over and receive a minor traffic ticket at least once in their lifetime.

There are a wide variety of reasons why you can receive traffic tickets ranging from minor equipment issues (fix-it tickets) to serious traffic crimes. 

In general you’ll have these 3 options for pleading to the ticket:

  • Guilty.
  • No contest.
  • Not guilty.

Depending on how you respond, you’ll need to:

  • Pay the fine.
  • Complete a defensive driving course.
  • Appear in traffic court.

This page will provide an overview of traffic tickets and your options for fighting, paying, and dismissing them.

Types of Traffic Tickets & Violations

Traffic tickets fall into different categories depending on the severity of the violation and whether or not the vehicle was moving. 

Depending on the type of traffic ticket, you may face the penalties such as:

  • Fines.
  • Traffic school.
  • Driving record points. 
  • Suspended license. 
  • Criminal charges.

Moving Violations vs. Non-Moving Violations (or Parking Tickets)

Another main distinction between traffic violations is moving violations and non-moving violations.

Moving violations apply to any time that a vehicle is in motion. Common types of moving violations include:

  • Speeding.
  • Running a red light or stop sign. 
  • Illegal turns.

Moving violations can range in severity from minor to major. Certain types of moving violations carry criminal penalties and are classified as misdemeanors or felonies.

Non-moving violations are less serious and deal with infractions when the car is not moving or when the vehicle fails to meet equipment requirements. Common non-moving violations include:

  • Parking violations.
  • Fix-it tickets for broken lights or signals. 
  • Driving with expired registration.

In some places, failing to respond to non-moving violations or getting too many can result in:

  • Suspended registration.
  • Suspended license.
  • Having your vehicle towed or booted.

Minor Traffic Violations (Traffic Infractions)

Minor traffic violations are associated with less serious violations.

Minor infractions do not carry any criminal charges. 

When you get pulled over for a minor traffic violation, the officer will typically hand you a “notice to appear” ticket and let you go.

You’ll need to refer to the instructions and information on this ticket to pay or fight it.

Major Traffic Violations (Traffic Misdemeanors and Felonies)

Major traffic violations carry criminal charges. This means you can face jail time, fines, and other criminal punishments.

These types of violations can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies, and include things like:

  • DUI.
  • Driving with a suspended license.
  • Excess speeding.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Hit and run.
  • Vehicular homicide.

In these instances, the driver will typically be arrested and taken into custody.

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Traffic Ticket Fines and Penalties

Fines and penalties for traffic tickets will vary depending on the type of violation and the place where it occurred. 

In general, you can expect the following fines and penalties for minor traffic infractions:

  • Fines up to a few hundred dollars.
  • Traffic school requirements. 
  • Points on your driving record.
  • Increased insurance rates.

For more serious traffic violations, misdemeanors, and felonies, you may face:

  • Fines up to thousands of dollars.
  • Having your vehicle impounded.
  • Jail or prison time.
  • Suspended license. 
  • Revocation of your driving privileges. 
  • Points on your driving records. 
  • Increased insurance rates.

In many states, if you accumulate too many points on your driving record for multiple minor traffic violations, your driver’s license will be suspended.

How to Pay a Traffic Ticket

If you decide to pay your traffic ticket, you’ll need to do so before the due date indicated on the citation. 

Your methods for paying the ticket will vary depending on where you received it, but typically include:

  • Online ticket payment.
  • By mail.
  • In person at the traffic court.

Please refer to your ticket for more information on how to pay and your specific fines.

If you’ve received an equipment or “fix-it” ticket, you’ll need to also provide proof that you’ve fixed the issue you were cited for. 

If you’ve pled guilty to the traffic ticket or have not taken steps to dismiss the ticket, you will likely receive points on your driving record and your car insurance rates will increase.

What Happens if you Lost your Traffic Ticket?

If you lose your traffic ticket, you should contact the traffic court where you received it as soon as possible.

Depending on where you received the ticket, you may be able to use an online ticket look up to find your citation number and information. 

How to Dismiss a Ticket

In some cases, the traffic court may give you the option of completing traffic school or a defensive driving course in order to either:

  • Reduce your fine. 
  • Dismiss the ticket.
  • Avoid adding points to your driving records. 

To dismiss a ticket by taking a traffic school course, you’ll need to be approved by the traffic court. 

Once approved, the traffic court will give you options for completing the course. 

In most states, defensive driving can be taken online. 

Once you’ve completed the program, you’ll need to submit the complete certificate to the traffic court by the date specified. 

How Long is Traffic School for a Ticket?

A traffic school course to dismiss a ticket typically takes 6 to 8 hours to complete. 

How to Fight a Traffic Ticket

If you choose to plead not guilty and fight your traffic ticket, you’ll typically need to:

  • Appear in court.
  • Choose a trial by written declaration.
  • Choose to represent yourself or hire a traffic ticket attorney.

Your traffic ticket should include instructions on how to submit a not guilty plea and when you must submit it by. 

In most cases, you will have to pay the ticket fine when you plead not guilty. If you are found not guilty, the fine will be returned to you. 

For legal advice on how to fight your ticket, it is best to consult with an experienced traffic ticket lawyer in your area.

What Happens if you Fail to Appear in Court for a Traffic Ticket?

If you miss your court date for a traffic ticket, you will receive a failure to appear violation. 

A failure to appear can result in:

  • Criminal charges. 
  • A warrant for your arrest.
  • Additional fines. 

Traffic Tickets & Car Insurance 

If you get a traffic ticket and do not take steps to dismiss it, it will appear on your driving record. 

When you get points and violations added to your driving record insurance companies will increase the premium rates they’ll charge you. 

Even just one speeding ticket can increase your insurance rates significantly. 

If you’ve recently received a ticket and your insurance rates have gone up, it’s a good idea to compare quotes to see if you can save money by switching to another provider. 

Your other option is to take a defensive driving course to either dismiss the tickets or reduce your points. 

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