Consequences of Getting a Traffic Violation Ticket

What Are the Negatives?

By , Attorney

Traffic laws are similar regardless of what state you live in. All states have speed limits, laws requiring drivers to stop at red lights, seatbelt requirements, and the like. But the penalties for a traffic ticket are location- and offense-specific. In other words, the consequences of a traffic violation conviction depend on the particular violation you were cited for and where the violation occurred.

Traffic Offense Classifications

In most states, minor traffic violations (like speeding and stop sign tickets) are infractions or civil offenses (states also use names like "summary offense" and many others)—the least serious type of offense. Typically, the defining characteristic of an infraction or civil offense is that they can't result in jail time. However, in some states, even traffic tickets are misdemeanors, which generally do carry possible jail time.

Depending on where you live, traffic offenses might or might not be considered crimes. But generally, infractions and misdemeanors qualify as crimes but civil offenses are non-criminal.

The most serious types of driving-related offenses—such as DUIs, reckless driving, and vehicular homicide—are almost always misdemeanors or felonies.

Traffic Ticket Consequences and Penalties

Specific consequences of traffic violations vary by state and municipality. But in most instances, a traffic ticket conviction can lead to fines and traffic violation demerit points. And, in some circumstances, a minor traffic violation can result in jail time, license suspension, or other consequences.

Traffic Ticket Fines

Many states have standard fine schedules for traffic violations, which is basically a list of fine amounts that correspond to common traffic violations. Offenders who opt to admit their violation just pay the schedule fine amount.

Fines amounts vary quite a bit. But most traffic ticket fines (once various fees are added in) will cost the driver between $100 and $500.

Traffic Violation Points

Most states have traffic violation point systems. In these states, most traffic violation convictions will result in a certain number of points going on the driver's record. The number of points usually depends on the severity of the offense. Drivers who accumulate too many points within a certain period of time will face consequences such as license suspension and having to take a driver's education course.

License Suspension

For traffic tickets, it's most common for license suspension to result from the accumulation of demerit points. But, under the laws of some states, judges are sometimes allowed to order suspension in traffic cases where they think it's appropriate.

Insurance Rate Increases

In many instances, a traffic violation conviction will result in an insurance rate increase. The amount of increase typically depends on the seriousness of the traffic offense.

Jail Time for Traffic Tickets

It's uncommon for a minor traffic ticket to result in jail time. But for more serious traffic violations and in states where all traffic violations are misdemeanors, jail time is a possibility.

Traffic School

Many states have a traffic school option for eligible drivers. By doing traffic school, a driver can avoid some of the normal consequences of a traffic ticket. For example, the driver might be able to prevent his or her insurance rates from going up.

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