What Happens When You Get an Out-of-State Traffic Ticket?
Out-of-state traffic citations and interstate traffic violation compacts.
Lots of people drive out of state for various reasons. So what happens if you get caught speeding while driving through another state? Will you have to pay the citation or go to court? And how does an out-of-state ticket affect your driving record?
The answers to these questions depend on what state you live in and the circumstances of your case. But generally, there will be consequences if you just ignore an out-of-state ticket. And with your driving record, an out-of-state conviction usually has the same effect as if you committed the offense in your home state.
A driver's license from one state generally gives you the right to drive in other states—at least on a temporary basis. While the rule is great for drivers, it poses some traffic-law-enforcement problems for the states. If an out-of-state driver fails to pay a ticket, what can the issuing state do about it?
Interstate traffic compacts were created to deal with issues arising from when drivers cross state lines. Almost every state—all except Michigan and Wisconsin—belongs to at least one of these compacts. Basically, interstate compacts are agreements among states to share information about and follow certain procedures for out-of-state traffic offenders.
Most states are members of the “Driver’s License Compact” (DLC) and “Nonresident Violator Compact” (NVC). These two compacts help to ensure that out-of-state traffic offenders pay their fines and drivers’ records reflect all their convictions, both in and out of state.
Driver’s License Compact
The DLC generally requires member states to report traffic convictions of out-of-state motorists to the motorists’ home state. The license authority (Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or similar state agency) of the motorists’ home state is then required to treat the conviction as if it occurred in the home state.
Example: Renaldo, who’s a New Yorker, is on a cross-country road trip. While driving through Ohio, Renaldo gets a ticket for driving 85 miles per hour in a 55 mile-per-hour zone. Rather than fight the ticket, Renaldo decides to just admit fault and pay the fine. Both states are members of the DLC. So Ohio will notify New York of the conviction and New York will assess “points” against Renaldo’s driving record. (Under New York’s point system, exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 but less than 40 miles per hour is eight points.)
The only states that aren’t members of the DLC are Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Nonresident Violator Compact
Whereas the DLC focuses mostly on driving records, the NVC is primarily an enforcement mechanism for ensuring out-of-state traffic offenders pay their fines. When an out-of-state traffic offender fails to pay a ticket, the DLC requires the issuing state to report the failure to the driver’s home state. The home state is then required to suspend the driver’s license until the driver handles the ticket properly.
Most states—all except Alaska, California, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin—are members of the NVC.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you get cited for an out-of-state traffic violation and have questions, get in contact with a local traffic attorney. A qualified traffic lawyer should be able to explain your options and help you decide on the best course of action.