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Dealing With Out-of-State Traffic Tickets

By: Kathy Teel July 26, 2012
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This article summarizes what happens when you receive a traffic ticket while traveling out of state. For information about how to deal with traffic tickets from a specific state, visit our Paying Traffic Tickets and Fighting Traffic Tickets pages.

Many people believe that out-of-state traffic tickets don't follow them home.

That's not true. Not only do most states share information about traffic violations, but your home state might penalize you.

And it's only a matter of time before your auto insurance company finds out, as well.

Traffic Violations Across the Country

Various compacts and registers help states keep up with driver offenses.

The Driver License Compact

44 states and the District of Columbia subscribe to the Driver License Compact (DLC), an interstate agreement used to exchange information on license suspensions and traffic violations by out-of-state drivers. Even non-participating states conform to the rules of the DLC, and there are similar compacts and agreements binding those states.

All of this makes it virtually impossible to receive a ticket out-of-state and not have your home state notified.

The Nonresident Violator Compact

The Nonresident Violator Compact is another interstate agreement. Under this arrangement, the state in which you've received a traffic ticket can notify your own state of non-payment, so they may begin license suspension proceedings against you.

The National Driver Register

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps track of all drivers with serious traffic violations, as well as those who have had their licenses suspended, revoked, cancelled, or denied.

When you apply for a driver's license, or seek to renew an old one, your state's Department of Motor Vehicles will check the national database, and then use the information they find to deny you driving privileges.

How States Report Your Traffic Violation

States do differ, however, on the violations they report to your home state. One state will report a violation for driving 10 mph over the speed limit, while others will only report for 20.

States also differ in how they utilize the point system and whether an out-of-state violation of the vehicle code affects your record.

Some states, like New Jersey, will add points to your driving record for an out-of-state violation. Other states, like New York, do not. Be aware, though, that states tend to be as hard on an out-of-state DWI as a similar offense made in-state.

Pay or Fight Your Out-of-State Traffic Ticket

To pay or fight your out-of-state traffic ticket, check the citation itself for complete instructions. You'll need to deal with the county court in the state that you committed the violation. For more information, visit our Traffic Tickets page.

Hire a Traffic Ticket Attorney

A driver might decide to contest an out-of-state ticket. Some lawyers specialize in cases involving traffic violations, and can sometimes arrange a plea bargain or have the charges reduced, so no points are added to your driving record.

Keep in mind that, in some cases, a traffic ticket attorney may advise you to simply pay the ticket, since the cost of the case will outweigh the cost of the fine.

NOTE: Try to hire a lawyer in the state you were ticketed. He or she will be more familiar with that state's vehicle code.

Out-of-State Tickets and Car Insurance

The impact of an out-of-state ticket on your car insurance premium differs based on:

  • Where the infraction occurred.
  • The insurance laws in your home state.
  • Your own insurer's practices.

In general, the more often your car insurance company checks your driving record, the more likely you'll see an increase in your premiums.

Have you ever gotten an out-of-state ticket? How'd it affect your driver's license or driver record?

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