Criminal Law

Traffic Ticket Consequences

While you probably won't face jail for a garden-variety traffic violation, the consequences can be painful and expensive.

License Suspension

In most states, you can lose your driver's license for multiple violations in a short time period. You may face a real risk of losing your license for a single serious moving violation, such as drunk driving or hit-and-run.

While exact rules vary by state, most departments of motor vehicles have a point system, with a certain number of points given for each type of infraction. After you get so many points, you lose your license.

You do get the chance to explain the situation at a revocation hearing, before a motor vehicle department hearing examiner or officer suspends your license. You can offer information on any actions you've taken, such as alcohol treatment, and show how you won't make driving mistakes in the future.

If you need to be able to drive yourself to and from work, school or activities for your children, let the hearing examiner know. Often you can work out a restricted license arrangement so you can drive to meet these needs.

Vehicle Insurance Increases

Your car insurance can go up dramatically if you have multiple traffic violations. Depending on your age and driving record, you may want to fight a traffic infraction even if the chance for success is slim to avoid a premium hike.

How do you find out what the effect of your ticket may be on your insurance rates? You don't want to call your agent and alert your insurer you have a ticket, especially if you're going to fight it. You can have a friend call anonymously and ask for rate information based on the number of tickets you have and your age. You'll have an idea of the impact on your premium and decide how to handle it.

If you find your insurance rates are going up as a result of your ticket, you'll want to shop around and see if you can get a better rate from another insurance company.

Traffic School

In many states, you can go to a one- or two-day traffic school instead of having a ticket end up on your record. Of course, you have to pay for traffic school and put energy and time into attending. But it's a sure way to avoid paying higher insurance rates. Rules as to who is eligible for traffic school vary by state.

Usually, you won't be able to use traffic school to avoid a ticket if you've received another ticket recently or if your infraction was for a serious offense such as drunk driving or hit-and-run.


Even if you go to traffic school, you'll most likely still have to pay the fine listed on the face of the ticket, often disguised as "administrative court costs" or "processing fees."

If you decide to plead guilty to a traffic violation, be ready to pay the fine on the spot or make arrangements for regular payments over time. Otherwise, the judge could issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can I appeal a hearing officer's decision to suspend my license?
  • My license was suspended by mistake. Can you help me get my record corrected?
  • Can my insurance company raise rates on everyone in my household if one driver has a suspension?
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