At some point, you’ll probably get a traffic ticket. You may get one for speeding, making an improper turn, running a light or any of a variety of other traffic violations. Every traffic violation has an associated fee that you must pay so you don’t lose your license. If you lose the paper ticket, there are ways to find out how much you owe.
What to Do When You Get a Traffic Violation Ticket
It can be a stressful experience to get pulled over for a traffic violation. When it happens, you may not be aware of exactly what you did wrong and what the specific fine is. The police officer explains the violation when you get pulled over for a ticket so that you are aware of why you are being ticketed.
He’ll ask for your license and registration and run your information through a database before issuing you a citation. The citation includes the date and time of your violation and a code for the offense. It may or may not include the fine you are required to pay, along with a court date by which to appear if you want to contest your ticket. Most tickets do include the amount of the fine.
Read More: How to Reduce a Traffic Violation Ticket
Determining How Much You Owe
If the fine amount is not included on your traffic citation, or if you lose the ticket, you can still find out how much you owe.
Many states allow you to look up traffic violation tickets online to get this information. To do this, you must have your original traffic citation handy and input the requested information or, if you don't have your ticket, you can often search by your name or your plate number.
If you can't access the information online, contact the police department for the officer who pulled you over, or contact your state's Secretary of State or DMV and they may be able to point you in the right direction.
The amount you are fined includes a base fine for the specific traffic violation and may also include:
- Citation processing fee.
- Court security fee.
- DMV history fee.
- Penalty assessment.
- Other fees required by state law.
The total amount you owe may also vary based on prior traffic violations, your driving record and where the violation occurred. For instance, the penalty may be higher if the violation occurred in a construction zone, school zone or at a railroad crossing.
For those states that permit you to look up a traffic violation ticket online, you also have the option of paying the ticket online. You should pay your traffic violation fees within the time period specified on the ticket; otherwise, you risk having to pay late fees, and if you don't pay, you could end up with a suspended license or even a warrant.
Contesting a Traffic Violation Ticket
There may be times when you don’t believe that you deserved the ticket you received and that you did not actually violate any traffic laws. In those cases, you can contest the traffic violation ticket. Any appeals must typically be done within a certain number of days of getting a ticket. Your city or state's rules may vary.
To contest a traffic violation, you can show up for the court date specified on your ticket or submit a letter. You must still reference the original citation, which means you’ll need the ticket number. The letter you submit should explain why you believe the ticket was issued in error. You may need to submit a fee to file an appeal, depending on the state.
Traffic appeals are sent to the local DMV appeals board or traffic violation bureau, where they are considered by the appropriate parties. It is ultimately their decision whether or not your citation and fine will stand or if it will be dismissed. If your appeal is denied, you should pay the required fee as soon as possible so you don’t get fined. Failing to pay a traffic violation can also result in your license being suspended.
If you lose a copy of your paper ticket, you can search online to find out how much you owe by entering the citation number in most jurisdictions.
Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.