Traffic Fines Law and Legal Definition

The total amount of a traffic fine is made up of amounts required to be paid by state laws as well as county and city ordinances, which vary by jurisdiction. There are three levels of severity of traffic violations: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Most traffic violations are infractions, but some, like vehicular manslaughter, are felonies.

Infractions are not punishable by jail or prison and not subject to trial by jury; the punishment is a fine. The more common traffic infractions including speeding and running a red light or stop sign. Drivers stopped for moving violations are usually released after they sign a Note to Appear, printed on the ticket, agreeing to appear at a set date and time. The traffic ticket provides information about when to appear in court.

Drivers charged with an infraction who want to admit guilt can avoid a court appearance by paying the fine in person or by mail. If drivers do not pay the traffic fine within the authorized time, their driver's license may be suspended or a warrant of arrest may be issued. Usually they also will not be able to renew their vehicle registration until they have paid all outstanding parking tickets and administrative costs in full.

Drivers who plead not guilty and request a trial may be required to post bail or sign a written document to appear in court. If they fail to appear, they will be charged with the additional misdemeanor of violating their agreement to appear. In this case, a warrant may be issued for their arrest and their driver's license may also be suspended.

Upon receipt of a traffic citation, a driver may have the following options:

  1. Pay the ticket.
  2. Go to Driver's Improvement School.
  3. Contest the ticket in court.

The traffic fine may be result in points being assessed upon a driver's license, which may affect risk of driving privilege suspension and higher insurance rates. In some jurisdictions, points may be waived uppon completion of a driver's improvement course. Local laws should be consulted for the specific requirements in your area.