We all lead busy lives, and when we receive a traffic ticket it can be tempting to just pay it off so we don’t have to deal with it anymore. However, the penalties for simply accepting and paying a driving ticket go beyond the money out of your pocket. So, it’s vital that you take your traffic tickets seriously, and carefully consider the best course of action.
Consequences of a Traffic Ticket
There are three main consequences to accepting a traffic ticket and paying the fine without fighting it:
- the fine itself,
- receiving points on your driver’s license,
- and an increase in insurance premiums.
Without fighting the ticket at all, you are essentially guaranteed all three of these will work against you as much as they can. Fighting your traffic ticket may result in a reduction in the fine, skipping going to traffic school (which does cost more money), removing points from your license, and preventing increase in your insurance premium.
In California, receiving 4 points on your license within one year – even a simple speeding ticket adds a point to your license if you do not contest it – can result in a suspension of your driver’s license for up to six months. Receiving 6 points over two years or 8 points over three years has the same effect. If this happens, it is vital that you request a DMV hearing to try and keep your license.
The effect on your insurance from a violation is not minor. A single reckless driving ticket can increase your premiums by 22%, meaning hundreds of dollars more out of your pocket each year. Speeding from just 1mph to 14mph over the limit can mean an 11% increase. Multiple tickets can have a crippling effect.
Admitting Fault or Defending Yourself
Once you are pulled over, you have a choice to make. Sometimes, depending on the traffic officer who stopped you, admitting fault, saying the violation was a mistake, and showing genuine regret can work to your favor. A sympathetic officer may let you off with a warning instead of a ticket, or he/she may reduce the fine you have to pay. This is more likely when the offense is minor.
Even if you receive the ticket, make sure you show up on your court date. A judge can be equally swayed by admitting fault. While you are likely to have to pay the full fine after admitting guilt, the judge may be willing to reduce the ticket so it will not be reflected on your insurance rates, and he/she may let you participate in traffic school so the point is not placed on your record. However, keep in mind that you are still admitting that you are guilty, and if the officer and the judge are not sympathetic, you may not receive any leniency at all.
So, if you decide to fight the ticket, try and record as many details as possible about the scene when you are pulled over. Ask the officer where he was positioned or where he started following you when he noticed the violation, and what he used to determine it. Check the ticket for inaccuracies that could work against you as soon as you receive it (such as saying traffic was heavy when it was not). Devices like radar guns require proper calibration and use in ideal circumstances for an accurate reading; user error and using the gun from an obstructed location can be very effective defenses once you’re in the court.