What If I Can’t Afford to Pay My Traffic Ticket?

Even if you don’t have the money to pay a traffic citation, you typically still have options to avoid late fees, collection agencies, and license suspension.

Getting a traffic ticket isn't the end of the world. But if you're already low on funds, having an expensive fine hanging over your head can be stressful. Fortunately, drivers who are going through financial hardship usually have a number of options for dealing with fines that can make things easier.

What Happens If You Don't Pay a Speeding Ticket?

Ignoring a traffic ticket will only compound the problem. Unpaid tickets will normally lead to late fees, the involvement of collection agencies, and eventually license suspension.

Depending on the situation, ignoring a traffic ticket can also result in a judge issuing a warrant for your arrest and criminal charges for failing to appear in court.

What Are the Options for Lowering the Amount of the Fines for a Ticket?

If you can't afford to pay a traffic ticket, there are a number of things you can do. What will work best depends on your situation.

Traffic School

In some states, eligible drivers have the option of dealing with a traffic citation by completing traffic school. It depends on which state you live in, but generally, you don't have to pay your citation if you do traffic school.

The costs of traffic school are typically quite a bit less than paying a traffic fine. Plus, completion of traffic school will normally keep demerit points off your driving record and prevent insurance rate increases.

Generally, motorists are eligible for traffic school only once every so often. In some states, drivers are able to do traffic school one time each year.

Judges Can Reduce Ticket Fines in Court

Traffic violation fines and the time you have to pay them are often standardized. For example, the fine for running a red light might be $120, and the jurisdiction you're in might give you 30 days to pay that fine.

However, the rules aren't usually set in stone. In most states, traffic court judges are allowed to lower fines and extend payment deadlines. So, if your finances are tight, it normally doesn't hurt to communicate your situation to the judge.

In some states, it's also possible to request payment extensions by mail.

Payment Plans

Payment plans are another possibility. A traffic ticket can get pretty expensive once all the fees and court costs are added in. Some people aren't able to pay the full amount at once but can make smaller monthly payments. To find out if payment plans are available in your area, you might want to call the traffic court clerk or check the court's website.

Community Service in Lieu of Fines

In some areas, drivers might be able to satisfy a ticket by performing community services instead of paying a fine. So, if you have more time than money, you might want to ask about community services options.

Beating Your Ticket in Traffic Court

Beating your ticket in court is a pretty good option. If you're able to accomplish this, you won't have to pay anything.

However, winning a traffic court trial can be tricky, especially without the assistance of a traffic attorney. But even if you lose, you'll likely still have some of the options discussed above. So it might be worth a shot. With any luck, the traffic cop won't show up in court, which typically means you win by default.

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