What Is the Difference Between a Citation & a Traffic Ticket?

By Teo Spengler ; Updated May 31, 2017
Officer's Hand Putting Parking Ticket On Car

Traffic citation is another term for traffic ticket in most jurisdictions, with the same unpleasant effects. They are handed out by police officers for traffic offenses.

Citation Equals Ticket

The word "citation" has a variety of meanings, but when cars and police are involved, it refers to a traffic ticket. It's a document stating that you are charged with a traffic offense. For many traffic citations, like speeding, you may simply write a check and send it to the court together with the ticket. As a result, your insurance rates may rise. For more serious offenses such as driving under the influence, however, you must appear in court and enter a plea. You might face fines and possible imprisonment.

Violation Versus Citation

A traffic citation may charge you with one traffic violation or with several offenses. The violation is a reference to the traffic law you are charged with breaking; the citation is the document that notifies you of the charges and sets out your options.

About the Author

Living in France and Northern California, Teo Spengler is an attorney, novelist and writer and has published thousands of articles about travel, gardening, business and law. Spengler holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from San Francisco State University and a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley. She is currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.