Traffic violations are usually thought of as some wrongful act taken by a driver or owner of a vehicle. Sometimes these infractions can come from inaction instead. In many states, a vehicle's owner must have it inspected periodically and display a sticker documenting compliance with the law. Driving without the appropriate inspection sticker can result in fines and even points on your license. However, some defenses might help you get the ticket dismissed.
Inspection Stickers Help States Enforce Environmental Safety Laws
Vehicle inspections are required in many states for the purposes of safety and environmental protection. If your vehicle passes the screening, you are usually issued an inspection sticker that must be displayed on your car, typically on the windshield. While state rules can vary, inspection stickers are generally good for one or two years. Failure to have your vehicle re-inspected after this period can result in your receiving a citation if you continue to drive. In most states, traffic authorities are not required to give you an advance warning before writing a ticket for an expired inspection sticker.
Failure to Comply Can Lead to Penalties
In most states, driving with an expired inspection sticker is considered a traffic violation. This means that the ticket would be issued to the driver and not the owner. Fines can vary in amount, such as $50 in Massachusetts. In addition, in some states, you may be subject to points being added to your license. This can cause your insurance premiums to rise considerably; after a certain number of points – which can vary from state to state – your license can be suspended.
Your State's Laws May Allow You to Contest Citations
Just because you received an expired inspection sticker citation does not mean you are automatically subject to fines and points on your license. Most states have a formal appeal process that allows you to challenge the ticket, often in front of a traffic court judge. The judge will listen to your side of the story and decide whether to find you guilty and assess a penalty or throw the ticket out. Some states have a specific time frame for which you must respond to a traffic ticket, such as 20 days. Otherwise, you could face late penalties in addition to the underlying fine and points that are assessed if the court finds you guilty.
You May be Able to Assert Various Defenses
One way to defend against an expired inspection citation is to show that the officer who cited you made a mistake – meaning you either had a valid inspection sticker displayed or there was some other defect in the ticket, such as the officer wrote down the wrong license plate number. In some states, a court will waive the fine if you quickly respond to the ticket and get your vehicle inspected as soon as possible. Some states have a specific time frame, and in others you simply need to have it inspected before the date of the hearing. However, you may still be required to pay a minimal administrative fee.
Challenging the validity of an inspection sticker citation may help keep your driving record safe and keep your insurance costs low. Be sure to understand your state's timelines and formalities before contesting a citation.
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."