How Long Can Unpaid Traffic Tickets Be Ignored?

If you have received a traffic ticket, there is always the temptation to simply ignore it and throw it away.  Traffic tickets are costly, and in many cases are arbitrarily issued by officers – for example, if you were travelling above the speed limit to stay with the flow of traffic, you might have received a ticket while other drivers travelling at the same or even higher speeds were ignored.  Is it acceptable to ignore a traffic ticket, and how long can you go by ignoring the unpaid traffic tickets without receiving harsher fines and penalties than you would have based on the initial ticket amount?

The Rules for Unpaid Traffic Tickets

Typically, any traffic ticket that is issued and signed by a police officer who has pulled you over has a due date imprinted on it. 

  • The due date is usually anywhere from a week to two weeks, after which time you must either have paid the ticket, or returned the ticket unpaid with the box checked that you wish to contest the ticket in court.  
  • If the ticket is not paid or not returned with the indication that you are planning on contesting the ticket, a court date will be assigned after the due date has passed, and you will be notified of when you must appear in person to answer to the traffic ticket.

Traffic tickets assigned by speed cameras or red light cameras are a different matter.  Because no officer has signed the ticket, you are not presumed to have received the ticket unless you have been physically served by a human being, meaning someone must come up to you and hand you the ticket personally.  While these camera tickets carry similar due dates to a traffic ticket issued by an officer, they can be ignored for a longer period of time because, in many cases, the companies operating the cameras do not have the staff required to personally serve every ticket that is issued by their camera system.

If you have ignored the traffic ticket past this point, and if you ignore the court date, the court will set a warrant for your arrest that is enforceable the next time that you are pulled over, or if a police officer sees you and runs your tags through their computer system.  Because an arrest for an unpaid traffic violation is a much more serious matter than a simple traffic ticket, it is wise to note the dates on the ticket that indicate when it is due and to return it within that time period to avoid potentially larger fines, legal hassles, and the possibility of arrest.

Getting Help

Rather than ignoring tickets, you should get help to handle them. Contact an experienced attorney who specializes in traffic and traffic tickets, and your lawyer can assist you in handling the tickets in the best way possible given the nature of the situation. 

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