If you’ve been issued a traffic ticket, unless it was a traffic accident or for a very serious offense such as a DUI, reckless driving, or other type of criminal misdemeanor, you’ll likely be given the option to pre-pay your ticket and avoid appearing in court. But what happens if you simply prepay a traffic ticket?
IF YOU PAY NOW, YOU MIGHT ALSO HAVE TO PAY LATER
When considering whether to prepay a ticket, in addition to the fee for the ticket itself, you need to factor into the equation the potential points you may accrue on your license and auto insurance as a result. These points can lead to auto insurance rate increases and possibly even the loss of your driver’s license. Even a modest increase to your annual car insurance premium can total thousands of dollars when multiplied by the 3-5 years that a ticket-related increase can stick around.
By prepaying a traffic violation, you’re by default admitting guilt to the violation and you will be found guilty by the court. Depending on the following factors and more, the consequences that follow the prepayment of a ticket could be more trouble than challenging the ticket yourself or hiring lawyers that handle traffic tickets:
- Severity of the traffic violation
- The number of and recency of other tickets on your driving record
- Your immigration status
- If you have a Commercial Drivers License or drive for your profession
- If you are on probation
WHAT ARE DRIVERS LICENSE POINTS VS INSURANCE POINTS?
Most DMVs in the United States (the State of Virginia being among them) use a point system to track your driving record. You are awarded safe driving points when time elapses without any infractions on your record, but you are penalized with demerit points when you are caught driving unsafely or in a manner that’s illegal in your state. You can read about the Virginia DMV’s point system here.
Insurance companies also keep track of your driving record using a points system, however every insurance company’s points system is unique to their business and none are directly related to your DMV points. These systems weigh aspects of your MVR (Motor Vehicle Record) to determine whether you should be considered a high-risk driver, and if so, to what degree. The points they associate with your MVR are the penalty you pay for the risk you present to your insurance agency.
WHAT IS A MOTOR VEHICLE RECORD (MVR)?
Every person in possession of a legal driver’s license in the U.S. is in a national database which keeps a record of individual citizens’ driving history. This is record is your Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) and includes all of your personal details such as social security number, all information published on your driver’s license, and the details of your traffic accidents, ticket citations, any DUI convictions as well as the current number of points on your driver’s license.
Typically, your insurance company will take into consideration the most recent five year history of your MVR when calculating your insurance premium rate. But potential employers may also consult your MVR to evaluate your suitability for a job. Particularly if you will need to operate a commercial vehicle or even just a company car for your position.
SHOULD I FIGHT MY TRAFFIC TICKET INSTEAD OF PREPAYING?
Because insurance companies’ point systems are not made transparent to the public, there’s no way to calculate with exact certainty how your recent traffic ticket will affect your insurance. But, it’s safe to predict that the greater the severity of your ticket or citation, the greater the number of points your insurance company will penalize you with. The result of which will be higher increases to your annual insurance premiums.
The cumulative expense of non-misdemeanor traffic citations on your insurance rates can be more expensive than your cost to hire a traffic attorney. Further, if you are ticketed for reckless driving, driving without a license, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or other misdemeanor traffic violation you will not be able to prepay the ticket and you should talk to an attorney about contesting the ticket or working to mitigate the consequences.
We can help you to learn what happens when you fight a traffic ticket, and save you time and money by appearing on your behalf in court to negotiate to have your charges dropped, dismissed or reduced.
Contact us our team of lawyers in Harrisonburg VA to learn more about how we can help you.