Why Is My Traffic Ticket So Expensive?

How traffic tickets are calculated and reasons they can be significantly more than the actual fine.

Some traffic tickets, like seatbelt violations, are fairly inexpensive (under $50 in some instances). But many factors can cause a traffic citation to grow into hundreds of dollars in fines and fees. The laws of every state are different. However, the amount you'll pay for a traffic ticket generally depends on the seriousness of the violation, the location where you received the ticket (fees often differ by locale), and secondary violations that you're cited for during a traffic stop.

Base Traffic Fines

Generally, traffic violations have statutorily-based fines and penalties. In some states, traffic laws provide minimum and maximum penalties for violations. For instance, a stop sign ticket might carry a base fine of $20 to $100. Many states also have fine schedules, which list the specific fines—rather than a range—for traffic violations. (Fine schedules might also differ by city or county.) However, certain factors can increase the base fine amounts.

Speeding tickets. Fines for speeding tickets often increase with the amount by which the driver exceeded the speed limit. For example, a standard speeding ticket carries a $45 fine in Kansas. But going 37 miles per hour over the limit would result in a $300 fine—a $195 base fine, plus $15 for each mile per hour over 30 miles per hour.

Increased fine zones. The base fine can also increase if the violation occurred in a certain area. Violations in work zones, school zones, and traffic control zones will often result in increased fines. Many states require that the standard fine be doubled if the violation occurs in one of these restricted safety zones.

Aggravating factors. In many states, a traffic violation that results in a collision, property damage, or injury will also result in increased fines and penalties. The enhanced penalties might involve increased fines, jail time, or license suspension.

Fees Added to Traffic Fines

In addition to the fines imposed, many states also impose various fees to cover administrative costs and the like. These added fees are often equal to or more than the fine imposed for a violation. So, even though the fine for a violation might not be all that much, the total amount the driver has to pay once the various fees are added in can be significantly more.

Secondary Violations

A traffic stop for a speeding or some other violation can result in the driver being ticketed for additional "secondary violations." Common secondary violations include seatbelt and texting-while-driving tickets. Drivers who are ticketed for more than one violation will normally have to pay multiple fines.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Talk to a Traffic Ticket attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you