Everyone hates tickets. But if you get ticketed for a driving or parking violation, you need to make sure that you take care of it. Failing to pay a ticket can result in unpleasant consequences, such as being arrested, spending time in jail, paying expensive fines, and a getting slapped with a suspended driver’s license.
For more information on driving violations, see Traffic Violations & Driving Crimes.
If you are ticketed for speeding or parking illegally, the ticket should have all the important information printed on it, including the fine, where to pay it, and when to pay it. Even if you decide to fight the ticket, make sure that you know when you must appear in court and where, or to whom to send a letter appealing the ticket. Keep records to document any actions you take, and write down the name of anyone at court whom you talk to about the ticket. Except under very unusual circumstances, it is your responsibility take care of the ticket, and that may include following up to make sure that the payment or letter has been received.
Oftentimes, the fine for a ticket increases if not paid by the due date. Due dates vary depending on state or local law and the particular offense. Sometimes, additional fines can be tacked on to the ticket if it is not paid within a certain period of time, such as six months. State and local governments raise revenue through driving and parking tickets and they have no incentive to keep the prices down. Even if you are one day late, or sometimes even if the payment is in the mail, an increased fine can apply. The written ticket that you receive should make it clear exactly when you have to pay, so pay close attention. Through increased fines, a minor parking ticket can quickly become a major headache.
If you are issued a traffic ticket and you fail to pay it by the due date and fail to appear (FTA) in court to fight it, a judge can also issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Once a bench warrant is issued, you can be arrested and taken to court. If you are picked up on a warrant, you could be held in jail until the court has a hearing on your case. Also, if you are found guilty of failing to appear, you can be sentenced to jail time, or ordered to pay additional fees.
For more information, see How to Handle an Outstanding Bench or Other Warrant or a Missed Court Date.
Even if you avoid being arrested or going to jail, there can be serious negative consequences if you do not pay a ticket by the due date. While state laws vary, other consequences for failing to pay a ticket can include:
In many states, if your license or registration is suspended, you have to pay a reinstatement fee before you can drive or use your vehicle again.
If you need to fight a traffic ticket, or if you are facing serious penalties as a result of failing to pay a ticket, you may want to talk to a local criminal defense attorney who handles traffic tickets. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and how to protect your rights so that you can obtain the best possible resolution for your case. Do not wait. If you have unpaid tickets, deal with it as soon as possible.