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What to do after receiving a traffic ticket

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CarInsurance.com

What to do after receiving a traffic ticket

You tried to reason with the law enforcement officer but you still received your speeding ticket. You might feel like ripping up the ticket or throwing it in the trash but realistically you cannot do that. Instead you need to take care of the ticket so that your driver's license is not suspended for not taking care of this moving violation citation.

After you have calmed down and returned home from your drive, in which you received your ticket, you can start to take care of your citation. You will want to weigh your options and decide on what you want to do. The first two options that typically come to mind first are to plead guilty and pay the fine or contest the ticket in court and thus set up a court date.

There are pros and cons to each of these choices, plus your state might have more options so it is best to call the traffic court or other entity listed on the ticket and find out all your options. Some states, counties and cites have websites that you can go to and find out more information about your ticket and even to pay the ticket online if you so choose. States such as Virginia, Maryland and California have traffic court websites that can be found online. You can also check the website of your state's Department of Motor Vehicles to find out how many points are assigned to the violation listed on your ticket.

Some states have a Traffic Violations Bureau which you can contact instead of a court to find out more about the citation you received, the penalties that come with it and your options of how to take care of it. If this is your first moving violation, or the first in a few years, there are many states that will allow you to take a defensive driving course or other type of traffic school to keep the ticket from being assigned points and to keep it off of your record. Many times this also keeps your insurance company from raising your rates.

If you decide on taking traffic school you might end up paying the fine plus costs for the course, so it is not a cheap choice but remember it can keep the violation off your record. Typically a safety course will last from 6 to 8 hours. Some states, such as California and Florida, allow drivers to take the class online if they so chose. If you take traffic school for the ticket, make certain to take the class within the allotted time and turn in the certificate you receive upon completion to the court so it is recorded properly there.

If your state does not allow traffic school (or you not eligible for it because of taking it recently or speeding too much above the speed limit) then you can see if your state allows for deferred adjudication, prayer for judgment continued (PJC) or defer of judgment. These are all different terms for the same basic concept and appear to be mostly available in southern states.

Essentially, these types of judgments keep the ticket from going on your record and from your license receiving points, as long as you do not receive any moving violation for a certain amount of time, normally 6 months. If you do get a ticket during this time period, both tickets go on your record. Deferred adjudication, etc can cost a lot, sometimes double the ticket's fine amount, but that is what you can decide to pay to keep the violation off your record. (Even a single ticket can cost you your good driver discount.)

If you decide to contest your ticket you will need to set up a court date. If your ticket is for a lot of miles over the speed limit or a more serious charge like reckless driving you might decide to obtain a lawyer specializing in traffic law to help you "get out" of the ticket. Before acquiring an expensive lawyer, you might try speaking to the clerk court on your own to see if there are any reductions to the ticket that this office can do without you appearing in court.

In some states, if you can reduce the ticket to a lower offense or lower the mph over the speed limit of the ticket, you can keep the violation off your record or at least reduce insurance surcharges. For example in North Carolina if you can get a speeding ticket reduced to 10 mph or less over the posted speed, you will not receive insurance points but this is only as long as you have not had a previous moving violation within 3 years.

Other ways to contest your ticket is to represent yourself in front of the traffic court judge. If you think you really have a case that you were not speeding it is wise to take pictures of the area in which you were stopped and read up on the traffic laws of your state. At your court date, trial, the officer who issued your ticket will testify and then you will have an opportunity to present your side of the case. After hearing from both sides the judge will render a decision.

Some motorist get lucky and the officer that wrote up the ticket does not appear in court in which case the ticket is usually dismissed. Depending on your state or county though, you might be required to pay court costs. If you lose your case, normally you will have to pay the fine plus court costs and other fees.

The way many people take care of tickets is to plead guilty and pay the fine. If you do this, in most states your license is assigned points and the violation is put onto your driving record. It is the easiest way to take care of a ticket but can be the most costly. You end up paying the fine and then might pay again when your insurance company sees the violation on your driving record. You will need to inform your insurance company of this citation if they request information on your driving history or they might see it on their own when they next pull up your motor vehicle record (MVR).

How much your insurance rates will increase depends upon state laws and your specific insurance company's rating system. Most states allow insurance companies to have their own rating system, but it must be approved and filed with the state's insurance regulatory body. Some states, such as Massachusetts, set the rates for the state as well as set up the insurance surcharge scale. If you want to know how much your ticket will cost you in terms of insurance premiums hikes, contact your insurance company or state insurance regulator. That may help you decide if you should plead guilty or chose a different way to handle your ticket.

Getting a ticket for speeding is unpleasant to say the least. Paying the fine for the ticket can be painful. Most states have other options available besides pleading guilty and getting a conviction on your record for the moving violation. Make sure you find out about all your choices before deciding how to take care of the ticket. You cannot just ignore a ticket, even if it is from out of state, because in most states your driving privileges will be taken away if you do not respond to the citation. Find the best solution for you and take care of the citation and then you can put the whole thing out of your mind if you so wish.

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