What happens if you have unpaid tickets?

On the Road 3 min read

Police officers issue traffic tickets for many reasons, including speeding, running red lights, and failing to use a turn signal. Fines vary depending on the violation. If you’re the unlucky recipient of one, paying the fine by the due date on the ticket is essential. If you don’t pay traffic tickets on time or have several unpaid traffic tickets, you could face more severe consequences.

What happens if you don’t pay a ticket on time?

If you get a traffic ticket, you have a certain amount of time to pay or contest it. You will face additional penalties if you don’t do either by the due date. Depending on the state where you live, the penalties for unpaid tickets may include:

Late fees and collections

If you don’t pay your traffic ticket on time, you may incur a late fee, increasing the amount you owe. Your account may also be referred to collections, resulting in additional fees. Collection accounts can also negatively affect your credit.

License and registration suspension

If the state suspends your license or registration, you can’t legally drive until they reinstate it. You typically need to pay a reinstatement fee to remove the suspension. Learn more about car insurance with a suspended license.

Inability to renew your license or register your car

If you have an outstanding traffic ticket, you may not be able to renew your driver’s license again until after you pay the ticket. If you need to register a vehicle or renew your registration, you will have to resolve your ticket before doing so.

Increase in your car insurance rate

Getting speeding tickets can impact your car insurance cost. Whether your rate will increase depends on a few factors, including your driving record and insurance history. Learn more about how tickets affect insurance rates.

Vehicle immobilization or impoundment

The city or county where the offense occurred may put a boot on your vehicle, so you can’t drive it. To get the boot removed, you’ll need to pay the fine. The state may impound your vehicle. If that happens, you’ll need to pay the towing and storage fees and the traffic ticket to get your car back.

Bench warrant

If you don’t pay the ticket by the due date, a judge could issue a bench warrant for your arrest. If a police officer pulls you over, they’ll see the warrant and take you into custody.

What happens if you can’t pay a ticket on time?

Unpaid traffic tickets don’t expire and stay on your record until you resolve them. If you can’t afford to pay a ticket on time, you may have other options, depending on the state where you live. Certain states allow you to set up a payment plan to pay your fine over time if the amount you owe exceeds a certain threshold. You can also take a driving class instead of paying the fine. If the course costs less than the fine, it can save you money.

In some states, you may be able to perform community service rather than pay the fine. When you get a ticket, you can usually request a hearing to ask the judge to reduce or waive the fine or extend the date when it’s due. Some judges may be willing to work with you, but there are no guarantees. If you don’t think you’re guilty of the charges, you can contest the ticket in court. If the judge finds you not guilty, you won’t have to pay the fine, and they will not add the infraction to your driving record.

What happens if you have a warrant for not paying a ticket?

A judge can typically issue a warrant for the unpaid ticket after the fine’s due date if you haven’t paid it. The warrant will stay active until you pay the fine or resolve the ticket. If a police officer pulls you over and sees the warrant, they can arrest you, and yes, you can go to jail for not paying a ticket. So, resolving any traffic tickets you receive as soon as possible is best to avoid more severe penalties.

Accidents and tickets happen. But it’s essential to keep your record as clean as possible. Learn more about the benefits of having a clean driving record.

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