The state of Texas classifies most traffic offenses that result in a ticket as Class C misdemeanors, which are considered the least serious type of criminal offense. By state law, Class C misdemeanors carry a standard two-year limitation period. This means that your ticket must be issued within two years of the driving offense, or the state cannot prosecute you. However, a ticket that is properly issued stays on your record forever unless you take action to have it dismissed.
Texas Statute of Limitations for Traffic Offenses
The statute of limitations is a time period during which the state must bring charges against you. Different offenses carry different limitation periods – generally, the more serious the crime, the longer the state has to file a complaint. In Texas, most traffic tickets carry a two-year limitation period. If a traffic violation is more than two years old and a complaint hasn't been filed, you can't be prosecuted for that particular traffic offense.
Time Limit for Paying the Fine
The statute of limitations applies only to filing the legal complaint against you. The instant the ticket is filed, the statute of limitations stops running. Assuming the citation is issued within the two-year limitation period, you're obligated to pay the fine before your scheduled court appearance, or appear in court to fight the ticket. The ticket does not become invalid after two years or any other period. The only way to remove the traffic ticket is to get it legally dismissed.
Penalties for Ignoring a Texas Traffic Ticket
Ignoring a traffic ticket in the hopes that it will go away may result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest. If you fail to pay your ticket or appear in court by the listed deadline, the court may enter a judgment against you, and then issue an arrest warrant and a new misdemeanor charge of failure to appear in court. The arrest warrant never expires. If arrested, you might be sentenced to community service hours or jail time.
Ways to Avoid a Traffic Penalty
Your best bet to avoid paying a traffic fine or incurring another penalty such as having points added to your driving record, is to consult an attorney. An attorney can help you decide the best plan of action for your ticket. For example, you may be able to attend a traffic school course to avoid getting points on your license. You'll need the court's permission to go this route, and it's available only for minor traffic citations in Texas. But if you are eligible, passing the course will dismiss your ticket and permanently remove it from your driving record.