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Traffic Tickets 101: Types, Penalties and Defenses

5 min read

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By Tim Lee

Traffic tickets range from minor parking citations to serious moving violations. Learn about common traffic violations and penalties, and presenting a defense.

If you’ve ever received a speeding ticket, you’re not alone. According to research compiled by Insurify Insights, an estimated 10.54% of drivers have gotten a ticket for a speeding violation. But, exceeding the speed limit is only one of many citations issued by police officers for traffic violations, and tickets may be more than just a nuisance.

Tickets can come with hefty fines and other penalties, including loss of your driver’s license and even arrest. Below, we’ll explore types of traffic violations, possible penalties and how to provide a defense against them in traffic court.

Types of Traffic Tickets

Traffic tickets may be issued for moving or nonmoving violations. The severity of the violation and the penalties incurred vary significantly between the two categories.

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Moving Violations

Moving violations occur when a vehicle is in motion. Although they include a wide range of traffic offenses, moving violations are typically considered more serious than nonmoving violations and, consequently, carry heftier penalties.

Some offenses may even be considered misdemeanors or felonies and can lead to arrest. Moving violations are always issued against the driver.

Types of Moving Violations

What constitutes a moving violation depends on the legal code of the state in which you’re operating the vehicle, for example, texting while driving is illegal in many states, while other places currently have no statewide legislation prohibiting it.

Miles Loewen/Unsplash

Nonmoving Violations

Nonmoving violations occur when the vehicle isn’t in motion, and citations are generally issued against the vehicle rather than the driver. There are three types of nonmoving violations:

Parking Violations

Parking violations involve a vehicle that’s been parked in an unauthorized or restricted area. They may include the following types of tickets:

Alwin Kroon/Unsplash

Paperwork Violations

Paperwork violations include issues involving vehicle registration, insurance and inspection. This can vary by state and may include:

 Equipment Violations

Equipment violations involve faulty equipment or automobile modifications that violate state codes. They’re sometimes referred to as fix-it tickets and may include the following:

Penalties for Traffic Violations

If you’re issued a parking ticket, the consequences can vary considerably depending on the situation. Most traffic offenses are categorized as infractions, which means they violate state or local traffic codes. These violations are not considered criminal offenses. More serious violations can lead to the loss of a license or even arrest.

Penalties may include the following:


Fines vary depending on the type of infraction, whether it’s a repeat offense, and the specifics of the citation. For example, fines issued for speeding in a construction or school zone may be considerably higher than those issued on a highway, and the greater the speed is over the limit, the higher the fine may be.


In most states, points are assigned for moving violations, with more serious offenses incurring a greater number of points. If a driver accumulates a certain number of points on their license in a designed period of time, as outlined by the state of issue, the license may be suspended or revoked.

Wheel clamps

Certain parking violations may result in a wheel clamp, which prevents a car from being moved.

License suspension or revocation

Repeated moving violations or serious offenses, such as alcohol- or drug-impaired driving, may lead to license suspension. In some states, multiple parking violations may result in a suspended license for the vehicle owner, regardless of who committed the violations.

Community service or jail time

Violations that involve the destruction of property or harm to human life may be classified as misdemeanors or felonies and could result in arrest. Consequences include enforced community service and possible jail time.


Unpaid parking tickets may collect late fees and be placed with collection agencies, negatively impacting the driver’s credit score. In lieu of penalties, some drivers may be eligible to attend traffic school either in person or online. By completing this safety course, drivers may be able to clear their record, avoid losing their license and reduce the impact on their insurance premiums.

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Defending Against a Ticket

You should remember that there are ways to defend against a ticket. If you’re pulled over for a traffic violation, it’s important to remain calm and provide the police officer with your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance card. Once a ticket has been issued, you can begin to consider your defense.

Start by recording relevant details, which may include the following:

In cases of serious violations, it may help obtain witness statements and photograph key locations and objects, such as obscured stop signs or obstacles in the road. These items can be presented to a traffic court judge along with your verbal defense to increase your chances of having your ticket dismissed or reduced.

Note: If your violation involves a misdemeanor or felony charge, it’s important to seek legal counsel immediately.


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Tim Lee



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