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Traffic Tickets

Driving eventually becomes second nature for many people, but the road has complicated rules. Getting a traffic ticket serves as an unfortunate reminder of these rules. Mistakes can happen whether you're a new or experienced driver.

FindLaw's Traffic Tickets guide explains how traffic offenses and tickets work in every state. Here, you'll find basics about traffic cases, from getting pulled over to how to fight a traffic ticket. You can also learn about vehicle rules and driver's license laws.

What Is a Traffic Ticket?

Law enforcement issues a ticket, or traffic citation, when you break state or local traffic laws. Tickets for violating these laws can involve either driving errors or a motor vehicle itself.

There are generally two types of tickets:

Tickets are different in every state. For example, one state might give you a ticket for turning right on a red light, even though it's legal in a different state. The penalties also vary by location.

Is a Traffic Violation a Crime?

Only some traffic violations rise to the level of a criminal offense. But every ticket is worth your attention.

Most traffic tickets are issued for minor offenses, called infractions. These offenses are typically fixable car problems and driving mistakes. Civil infractions are not crimes, so they often have lower penalties and a simpler legal process.

But some tickets carry serious misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. They are more common for violations that threaten injury to people or property. Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is an example of a criminal traffic offense. These tickets sometimes lead to the driver's arrest.

Your Driver's License Could Be at Risk

Getting a traffic ticket can be a bigger deal than some drivers realize. Too many tickets or major offenses might mean losing your driving privileges.

A first-time infraction might lead to a simple fine, but other traffic violations can involve:

Failing to pay or fight your ticket by the deadline can lead to additional penalties. Do not ignore a traffic ticket, even if it only carries a small fine.

Fighting a Traffic Ticket

Successfully fighting a ticket involves showing up for your court date. Some tickets require you to appear in traffic court. A court appearance may be optional for other tickets, but you must usually schedule one to fight the ticket.

Your defense strategy depends on the unique facts of your case. For example, if a no-turn sign was hidden behind a bush, you couldn't see it while driving. Paying a ticket for a rule you didn't know about would be unfair, so the court might dismiss the ticket.

Another possible defense is public safety. A traffic violation might have been necessary to avoid hurting someone in an accident.

Avoid a Ticket by Proving Your Case

You can dispute the police officer's statements by bringing contrary evidence, such as:

  • Road diagrams
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Photographs of your vehicle or the road conditions

Effective evidence shows that the officer made an error or that you had a justifiable reason for the violation. A traffic law attorney can help you navigate the court system and find evidence to challenge a ticket.

How to Pay Tickets

Most tickets require you to pay a fine. Paying the fine is often quick and easy, though it means you admit guilt for the traffic violation. You should carefully consider whether to pay or challenge the ticket.

Payment options depend on where you got the ticket. States commonly accept credit cards, checks, and money orders.

Your state might let you see your case information and pay your ticket through self-help online services using your citation number. Federal tickets for traffic violations on federal property also allow online payment. In some states, you may need to visit or send payment to the clerk's office in the jurisdiction where you got the ticket.

Can't Pay the Traffic Ticket?

Traffic tickets can be hard to pay for drivers under financial strain. Courts may be willing to work out a payment plan or alternative options to help you comply with the law. You must still pay or work out an agreement before the ticket's due date.

To learn more about traffic tickets and the court process, read the articles linked below.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex traffic tickets usually require a lawyer
  • Experienced lawyers can seek to reduce or eliminate penalties
  • A lawyer can help you keep your license

Get tailored legal advice and ask a lawyer questions. Many traffic ticket attorneys offer free consultations.


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