It's just a traffic ticket, no big deal, right? When no one gets hurt, that's the usual reaction to a minor traffic citation, such as speeding or rolling through a stop sign. As a general rule, you're right, too. A traffic ticket usually isn't a big deal, so long as you pay it.
Just ask Kenny Britt.
Like millions of other Americans, NFL star Kenny Britt was enjoying the long Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. Or so he thought.
Late in the evening on Friday, January 15, 2010, police officers noticed Britt's car stopped in the middle of a street. The officers investigated and soon discovered that he had three outstanding traffic warrants issued by two New Jersey cities. He owed a total of $865 in unpaid traffic tickets.
Just Another "Joe"
Kenny Britt's case shows us two important things. First, traffic tickets can be serious. If you get a ticket and don't pay it, or don't take it to court and "beat" it, a warrant for your arrest will be issued. Then what?
The exact same thing as what happened to Kenny Britt. If you're pulled over for whatever reason, the police will discover the arrest warrant and you will be handcuffed and arrested immediately.
And there's the second important lesson of Britt's arrest. Despite his celebrity or "star" status, he was arrested on the spot because of the traffic warrants. He was treated the same as you or I would be treated in the same circumstances.
Even though every now and again you may read or hear about a celebrity getting easy treatment from the police, it doesn't happen as often as you may think. For instance, several days after Britt's arrest, Vincent Jackson, another NFL star, was arrested for outstanding traffic tickets. It happened just hours before he played in an NFL playoff game.
Both Britt and Jackson got out of jail pretty quickly. They posted bail and were released within hours after their arrests. Nonetheless, being handcuffed and arrested can't be a pleasant experience.
Avoid the Problems
Staying out of jail over traffic tickets isn't complicated. The first thing to do: Drive safely! Obey the speed limits, traffic sign and lights, and the rules of the road for traffic safety.
If you get a traffic ticket, don't ignore it! It won’t go away on its own. Generally, you have two options:
Pay it. In most cities, counties, and states, the ticket the police officer gives you tells you exactly how much the fine is, where to pay it, and the date by which it has to be paid
Take it to court
. Usually, the ticket tells you the date and time when you can go to court and challenge or "contest" the ticket
The important thing to remember is this: You have to do something. If you don't pay it or have it thrown out by a judge, you may wind up in handcuffs and in jail. And a traffic ticket for $100 or so just isn't worth all that.
Questions For Your Attorney
- I got caught in a speed trap. What are my chances of beating it court?
- I know I have a few unpaid traffic and parking tickets. Can I just go to the courthouse and pay them, or will I get arrested right there on the spot?
- If I can't afford to pay all of my fines at once, can I work out a payment plan with the local court?