Updated March 2018
Do you have unpaid traffic and parking tickets? Unfortunately, this may not be a problem that is likely to go away if you ignore it.
There are some serious consequences associated with unpaid parking and traffic tickets: your driver’s license could be suspended; your credit score dinged; your car booted, and your car insurance costs increased. While failing to pay only one ticket may not result in immediate problems, if you fail to pay multiple traffic tickets (more than three in California) or ignore DMV notices, you may be at risk for losing your license.
This is also true for non-moving violations like parking tickets. A survey of state laws reveals that at least six states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, California, New Jersey, and New York) permit the DMV to suspend driver’s licenses for non-driving violations like parking tickets. Check your State DMV to learn whether your state permits license suspension for failure to pay parking tickets and how many tickets it takes to result in serious consequences.
How to check if your driver’s license has been suspended
You can request a copy of your driving record from the DMV. Your driving record contains all information you will need:
- The status of the license. So you will know if you are still good to drive or if your license has been suspended.
- Information regarding any tickets you have acquired. It can go back three to 10 years of history depending on your state.
- How many points you have acquired from tickets, accidents, and other driving violations.
How long does a suspended license last?
The length of a suspension depends on the laws in your state and on the degree of the driving offense.
Is a suspended license still a valid id?
A suspended license is still considered a valid id as long as it has not expired. However, if your license is taken, you may want to go to your local DMV and request identification (ID) card. Any U.S. citizen can obtain an ID card. In California, an ID card is valid for six years.
Unpaid tickets: How to get a suspended driver’s license back?
Even if you have your license suspended for unpaid tickets, you have options. If you are looking to resolve unpaid parking tickets and a suspended license: (1) contest a recent ticket in Court, (2) pay the balance of the tickets in full, (3) ask the Court for an alternative payment program like community service or payment plan.
First, you can fight recent tickets in Court either by contesting the tickets yourself or contacting an attorney. Generally, as many as 50 percent of parking and traffic tickets are dismissed when they are fought in Court; however, fighting tickets can take money and time. Each ticket may have a different time frame where you can appeal or contest the ticket, so it is important to contact a local attorney who is familiar with the traffic rules in your state.
For example, in California, you can contest a ticket by Written Declaration, which does not require an in-person Court appearance. Local attorneys will have more information about what is customary in your city or state.
Second, you can pay your unpaid parking tickets by contacting the parking authorities and asking for a full accounting of all unpaid tickets. If you have lost the ticket, you can contact your State DMV and ask for a production of driving records, which will include all of your traffic tickets and convictions, your driver’s license status, and whether you own any fees.
Once you pay your fines, make sure to follow up with the agency to make sure the tickets have been removed as past due. While it may be painful and annoying to pay these tickets, the cost, and difficulty of remedying the situation greatly increases if your license is suspended.
How much does it cost to reinstate a suspended license?
If your license has already been suspended due to unpaid tickets, you can pursue license reinstatement. In California, you can reinstate your license by (1) paying all of your unpaid parking tickets in full, (2) paying a license reinstatement fee, and (3) appearing in Court. The fees associated with reinstating your license can be as much as $275 just for the paperwork granting the DMV the ability to unsuspend your license. Contact your local DMV to learn how you can reinstate a suspended license in your state.
But I don’t have money to pay my license suspension or violation fees, what should I do?
Unpaid parking tickets can amount to fees in the thousands, and many individuals don’t have the available funds to pay tickets in full. However, this does not necessarily mean you are completely out of luck.
In many states, individuals can appear in Court to ask for fines to be reduced or for the Court to order an alternative payment plan. Some Courts allow for hardship payment plans where you can pay a portion of your tickets each month if you cannot afford to pay the full amount up front. These payment plans often include interest or a separate fee, but that may be a small price to pay if your license is reinstated and you are able to drive to work.
There may also be alternative payment methods like community service. For example, in San Francisco, there is a program where you can ask the Judge for permission to do community service in lieu of payment of unpaid parking tickets. This program allows individuals to earn approximately six dollars per hour of community service.
Get legal advice from a traffic ticket attorney?
What all of these options have in common is that you should not ignore past due tickets and that there are solutions. If you need help with past due traffic tickets, ask a lawyer to learn more about your options.
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