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

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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