"Expungement" normally refers to the process for removing a conviction from your criminal record. However, in some states, you can also expunge a traffic infraction from you record. In states that allow it, expunging a traffic violation can have certain benefits.
Most states have expungement procedures for removing violations from your record. However, whether this type of procedure is available for traffic violations depends on what state you live in.
In many states, like California, Texas, and Ohio, expungement procedures are available only for criminal convictions—not traffic infractions. So, in these states, you generally can't expunge minor traffic violations like speeding, running a stop sign, and the like.
However, some states, like Utah, have a process for expunging minor traffic violation convictions. To find out whether a traffic ticket expungement is possible in your state, it's best to check with a local traffic attorney.
Expungement procedures vary by jurisdiction. But expungement procedures generally share some similar features.
To be eligible for an expungement, you typically have to meet certain criteria. For example, following a traffic violation conviction, there might be a waiting period (like a year or so) to complete before you're allowed to apply for the expungement. Also, expungements might not be available for some more serious traffic offenses.
In many areas, you can apply for an expungement by filling out a standard form. Generally, you find these types of forms online or pick one up at the courthouse. If you have questions about applications, it's probably a good idea to call the court clerk.
There are also states that automatically expungement traffic violations after a certain number of years have passed. In these states, there's no need to fill out an application or take any other action.
In states that don't allow traffic ticket expungements, you might still be able to lessen the impact of a traffic ticket.
For eligible drivers, traffic school (also called "defensive driving") can be a good option for keeping a ticket from affecting your driving record. Depending on the state, completion of traffic school might keep points off your driving record or get rid of the violation altogether.
In some states, drivers can take traffic school or a defensive driving class preemptively can get a point credit. The point credit will cancel out points the driver might get in the future for a ticket.
Some states have a "deferral" option for traffic tickets. Generally, a driver is eligible for a deferral only once every seven years or so. To get a deferral, the driver must pay the fine or an administrative fee. So long as the driver doesn't get any new violations within a certain period of time (normally six months to a year), the deferred violation won't go on the driver's record.
In most states, traffic violation points expire after a certain number of years. So, if you can stay violation-free, your violation point tally will eventually go down on its own. Generally, expiration periods range from one to three years.
Apart from avoiding tickets in the first place, beating your ticket in court is the best way to keep your driving record clean. If you contest a ticket and win, your driving record will be unaffected.
Generally, states have some traffic violations that carry points and others that don't. One way to keep points off your record is to plea bargain for a non-point violation.