Traffic Tickets FAQ

What is a traffic ticket?

A traffic ticket is a citation or summons issued to a violator of one or more traffic violations (motor vehicle laws).  The citation or summons, issued by a police officer or other authorized representative of the government, is an order to appear in court before a judge (or magistrate). After being issued the citation or summons, the person accused of violating the law can remain free pending his/her need to appear in court.

Is signing the ticket an admission of guilt?

No, it's just your acknowledgment of receipt of the notice to appear.  Because you are actually being charged with a violation of law, the officer could take you into custody if you refuse to sign the ticket. By signing the traffic ticket, you avoid being taken into custody and are actually released on your own recognizance pending the court date.  It's in your best interest to sign the ticket, so you remain free and retain your right to show up at the court hearing to dispute it or otherwise resolve the matter.

What is the Effect of a Traffic Ticket on Your Car Insurance Rates?

The bad news is that even one traffic ticket can raise your insurance rates. Typically, when you plead guilty or are found guilty of a traffic offense points will be assessed on your license and those points may legitimately be considered by car insurance companies when they are calculating your annual premiums. However, the good news is that car insurance companies may not hold that ticket against you forever. Different states have different laws concerning how long a ticket may be considered when calculating car insurance rates. While the time frame varies from state to state, you should expect the ticket to affect your rates for at least several years. Some states will allow you to take driver education classes in order to remove the points from license and therefore not incur as large an increase in your car insurance premiums.

I Didn't Mean To Speed, Can I Still Get A Ticket?

Yes, a speeding ticket does not take into account the reason for speeding.  This is called a strict-liability offense.  The police only have to prove that you were speeding, nothing else. 

What Is The Point System?

What happens when you are caught speeding one too many times?  You might have your licensed revoked by your state DMV if you have too many points on your license.  When you receive a ticket for a traffic offense and are found guilty or plead guilty you are assigned a certain amount of points on your license.  The points for each violation vary from state to state, but generally the points per violation run between 2 and 6 points.  For a minor violation, say failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, you might only receive 2 points, but for fleeing a police officer you might get 6 points. 

In many states certain points or violations may be forgiven over time, additionally, in many states you can avoid points on your license by going to traffic school.  The procedure to apply for traffic school or to fight a traffic ticket vary and you should consult with an attorney to fight your ticket and avoid points on your license and a potential suspension of your license. 

I Forgot My License At Home, Am I In Trouble?

You should carry your license with you whenever you are operating a motor vehicle.  In some states you may be able to avoid a conviction if you bring your license to court and show that it was valid on the date you were stopped (i.e. it was not expired or suspended).

What is an illegal U-Turn?

Sometimes you drive right by the store you were looking for and decide to make a quick U-turn.  Suddenly you see the flashing red and blue lights in your rear-view mirror and the officer tells you that you made an illegal u-turn.  Generally, a police officer can give you a ticket when you make an illegal or unsafe u-turn.  While some crossroads will state that U-turns are prohibited, others won’t, and a police officer will have to determine if it is reasonably safe for you to make a u-turn based on the weather, traffic, and the driver’s ability to see oncoming traffic. 

Some states even make it illegal for you to make a u-turn near a turn that limits your visibility to a few hundred feet or if you are on or near the top of a hill.  While making a u-turn at an intersection with a clear No U-turn sign is an easy way to earn yourself a traffic ticket, often times an illegal u-turn will be more complicated and you may need an attorney who is skilled in traffic law to help you. 

Can I be cited for Boating Under the Influence?

Few things beat the open waters with a cold beer in your hands with friends.  However, sometimes the partying can go too far and someone might drink too much.  Every state has a law against Boating Under the Influence which makes it illegal to operate a boat or personal watercraft, like a jetski, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  If you are stopped for Boating Under the Influence you could incur heavy monetary fines, increased insurance rates, and even jail time.  Both federal and state officers can pull you over if they think you may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Police officers can even create checkpoints on the water to check each driver, some states will allow officers to come onto your boat or personal watercraft while other states will require probable cause in order to board your vessel.  If you are given a breathalyzer test and you are above the legal limit, which is usually .08 or .1 percent, then you are likely to be found guilty of Boating Under The Influence.  

Do I Have To Go To Court To Pay My Fine?

No, in most states you can mail your fine directly to the court house.  Some states even allow you to make a payment online.  However, you can always pay your fine at the court house.

What is Traffic Court?

Traffic court is a type of court that mainly handles traffic laws such as traffic citations and tickets.  A traffic court can be completely separate from other types of courts.  The traffic court will have a judge ruling over the proceedings. 

What Do Traffic Violation Attorneys Do?

The right to drive is a privilege, which is mainly governed by the individual states.  Traffic violation attorneys deal with a mix of regulations and criminal offenses typically based on violations of state statutes and county, city or other local ordinances relating to the operation of vehicles.  However, federal laws may apply as well, depending on the nature of the violation.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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