Violating traffic laws can be easily done, and if caught by the police, will incur a ticket. Unfortunately, tickets come with a fine and you are legally obligated to pay it.
By promptly paying the fine, the situation can be resolved easily and you can continue to drive without any worries.
However, there seems to be a misconception that traffic violations are not a serious affair, and can be left to deal with later on.
And although at first it may seem like you can get away without paying it, lawmakers do not forget who they ticket, and you will be chased up. Continue to ignore it and further action will be taken against you by lawmakers, and can result in a series of costly legal affairs.
In this guide we will explain what happens if you don’t pay a ticket, and what the outcomes could be.
What Happens if you Don’t Pay?
From the date of issue, you will be given a traffic court date and a date by which you must pay the fine. And ignoring either of these will result in further legal action and increased fines.
Firstly, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. The warrant itself brings a charge, and additional fees will add to this, and these depend on your offence. Once the warrant for your arrest is active, you will be subject to arrest if stopped by a police officer for any reason. The officer will immediately take you to the local jail where you will be processed.
Secondly, a Failure to Appear (FTA) charge will also be levied against you. This is separate to the initial warrant fee, and is significantly higher.
And finally, on top of these fines, your driver’s license along with vehicle registration will be suspended due to a warrant for arrest being active under your name. To clear these you will need to pay a further smaller fine to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for each case.
Aside from the court’s action, once you are back driving, there can also be knock-on effects of not paying fines.
Your driving record will reflect your offences, and your insurance company will be aware of this. They can and will likely increase your premiums. Depending on the cost of your original fine, this increase in insurance alone could mean that you are out of pocket more than if you had simply paid up.
If you do not pay your ticket because you feel that you have a genuine case against it, then you are still responsible for the fines.
However, there is a process by which you can contest the ticket. You must notify the court of your disagreement with your fine, and be given a court date.
On the day your case will be debated, and could go either one of three ways:
- A reduction of your fine
- An acquittal of your fine
- An increase in your fine
As the state’s representatives will have good knowledge of traffic laws and codes, you will benefit from hiring a lawyer. But keep in mind the associated costs of doing this.
On top of this, the Texas Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) has the power to issue further fines known as surcharges. Surcharges are issued based on the amount of points you are given and any convictions made against you.
In Texas it currently stands at $244. $50
Paying the Ticket
By ignoring a traffic ticket you can end up paying a lot more and having to fight legal battles.
Now let’s quickly discuss what happens when you admit guilt and pay up.
By pleading guilty (also called no contest) you admit responsibility, and must appear in court, along with paying the fine.
Depending on the seriousness of the offence, each traffic violation in Texas incurs either 2 or 3 points on your license. And these points stay there for 3 years.
There are several ways to pay, and they include:
- In person
- By mail
This is all the action that the state will take against you if you pay your traffic fines within the 20 day given period.
It is also possible to stop any points received from harming your driving record by taking a defensive driving course. These must be approved by the state, last at least 6 hours in duration, and you will have 90 days to successfully complete it.
However, your offence was one of the following, you cannot take a defensive driving course:
- You were driving 25 MPH or more over the speed limit
- The offence took place in a construction zone
- You have already taken defensive driving within the last 12 months
By taking the course your record can be protected which will stop your insurance premiums from increasing.
Do I Have to Go to Court if I don’t Pay a Ticket?
Yes. If you plead guilty and plan on paying, then there are ways to avoid the court date in Texas. But if your court date passes without payment of fine, then the newly issued warrant for your arrest will also require you to appear in court.
How Long Will you Spend in Jail if you Don’t Pay a Ticket and are Stopped Again by Police?
This depends on available dates for your court hearing. In the worst case scenario, you could be held there until an available date.
What if I Cannot Afford to Pay For a Ticket?
Texas law states that nobody should face jail time for a fine they cannot afford. You must still attend your court date, where you will have the chance to explain your financial situation.
Failure to pay a traffic ticket is a serious offence and can lead to unnecessary trouble, and long-term suspension from driving.
The only way you should consider avoiding paying a ticket is through legally contesting it. However, you should only do this if you are confident that you have a solid case to appeal.
If not, paying your fines and admitting guilt is the most effective and cheapest way to return to driving.