How long does a traffic ticket stay on your record?

Written by michael j. scott
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Nobody likes to get a traffic ticket, but most people will probably receive at least one in their lifetime. Traffic tickets can be a minor inconvenience or have serious consequences, including increased insurance rates and even the loss of your license. The more tickets you receive the more serious the consequences will be, so it helps to know how long a traffic ticket will remain on your record.

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Point System

Most states use a point system for traffic tickets. This means that in addition to the ticket itself appearing on your record, you accrue a certain amount of points for each offence. If you reach a certain level of points, your license may be temporarily suspended or even permanently revoked.

For instance, in California you receive one point for minor traffic violations, one point for an accident and two points for serious traffic violations.

Minor Offenses

Most minor traffic offences will stay on your record for three years in most jurisdictions. The time frame varies from state to state, so contact your local DMV to get the exact number.

Minor traffic offences consist of minor speeding, typically anything under 10 to 20mph over the speed limit, failure to signal, failure to stop and similar offences. If you commit one of these offences and cause an accident, the offence becomes more severe and you accrue more points.

After the three-year period, the ticket drops off your records and the points are removed from your record. Insurance companies and potential employers should not be able to see the ticket after that point.

Serious Offenses

While most traffic tickets are minor infractions, there are more serious offences that can stay on your record for a much longer time. These serious offences will add more points to your record and not drop off for a much longer period. Again, the actual amount of time varies from state to state, so make sure you check with your local DMV.

Driving under the influence is one of the most serious driving offences, and consequently it will stay on your driving record for at least 10 years in most states. In a few states it will stay on your record for seven years, but 10 years is the general rule throughout the nation.

Reckless driving is another serious traffic offence that will stay on your record anywhere from five to 10 years in most states. A ticket for street racing will also stay on your record for five to 10 years.

Consequences

Getting traffic tickets and accruing points can have serious negative consequences. As mentioned earlier, if you receive too many tickets and accrue too many points, your license may be temporarily suspended. Only after a certain amount of time, which varies from state to state, will you be able to reinstate your license.

Further, your driving record is a matter of public record. This means your insurance company, employers and even family members have access to it. More tickets and points may mean increased insurance premiums and it may also affect your ability to gain employment if the job involves any kind of driving.

Keep Your Record Clean

The most obvious way to avoid having a traffic ticket on your record is to avoid getting one in the first place. Obey all the laws of the road and practice defensive driving techniques. While you are driving avoid risky behaviours like speeding, playing with the radio or talking on the phone.

That being said, everyone has a bad day. Check with the prosecuting agency handling the ticket and see if it will offer you the option of a plea-in-abeyance if you pay the fine and go to traffic school. If you take this option then you will not accrue points for the ticket and your insurance should not be informed.

Most agencies will only allow you to take the traffic school option once a year. If you have received more tickets than that, contact your local DMV and see if it offers a defensive driving course, as many states do. It will not remove the ticket, but it will remove a certain number of points from your record, hopefully allowing you to keep you license and keep your insurance rates down.

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