Should I Just Pay My Traffic Ticket, or Should I Fight It?

The Dilemma: Should you Pay, or Should you Fight your Traffic Ticket?

Are you wondering whether to just pay a traffic ticket or fight it in court? While paying the fine may seem like the easiest option, there are situations where it might not be the best choice. Before you make a decision, it can be helpful to understand the options available and how they can impact you. When you have received a Washington traffic ticket, you have several options—paying the ticket, requesting a mitigation hearing, or contesting the ticket. The right choice for you will vary depending on the type of ticket you received, your driving record, and a few other factors. At Garguile DUI & Traffic Lawyers, PLLC, our experienced Washington traffic ticket attorneys can assess your case and help you make an informed decision. Sometimes, fighting the ticket in court may be in your best interests. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of each option.

Paying tickets is quick and easy, but it means you’re “Pleading Guilty”

Most drivers fail to realize they have options other than paying their traffic tickets or don’t consider the long-term consequences of having tickets on their driving record. As a general rule, you should never pay for a ticket given to you by a police officer. However, that is not always the case.

When you just pay a traffic ticket, you are effectively pleading guilty. If you are comfortable with the ramifications of pleading guilty to a traffic ticket, paying the ticket is the fastest way to resolve the situation. If you are hoping to avoid the fallout of a traffic ticket, you need to fight the charge through a contested hearing.

What Are Some of The Long-Term Consequences of Just Paying a Ticket?

Most people’s only real long-term consequences are what they will pay for their car insurance. Some people believe that since they have a good record or have been with their insurance company for a long time, their insurance rates won’t be affected if they pay their ticket.

The truth is that insurance companies are in business to make money, and they make their money by betting on risk. The risk is that you won’t be involved in an accident, and they won’t have to pay out because of it. It’s important to realize that in the eyes of an insurance company, any moving violation on your record increases the risk you pose to the company. Insurance companies go to great lengths to make the financial math work in their favor. Any ticket on your record will make you riskier in their eyes.

The problem is that insurance companies do not publicize the formulas they use to determine risk. Your insurance agent can’t tell you what a traffic ticket will do to your rates. There have been studies done by companies like Insurance.com that have looked at thousands of policies. They’ve provided us with educated guesses on what traditional traffic infractions will do to your insurance rates. They say texting while driving tickets will raise you by about 23%. A speeding ticket for 16 to 29 miles per hour over the limit will increase your rates by about 22%. For a speeding ticket of 1 to 15 miles per hour over, you generally look at a 20% increase. An improper pass is a 20% increase. Failure to stop at a stop sign is a 19% increase. These are significant increases considering the average cost of car insurance in Washington State is $1,371 per year.

Outside of money, the other long-term consequence is considering current and future employment. If you drive for a living, you should think long and hard before you decide to just pay for a ticket. Many companies that employ drivers require them to have a clean driving record. If you are driving under their insurance, they will make sure that you’re a safe driver. The only real way to judge how safe of a driver you are is by inspecting your driving record.

Unfortunately, we routinely get calls from individuals who either can’t get a job or have lost their job due to their driving record. The company tells them that they’re too expensive to insure. Driving records are very important, especially if you drive for a living. If you don’t drive for a living, the most significant impact would be the financial consequences of increased insurance rates.

How Long Does a Traffic Ticket Stay on Your Driving Record in Washington?

How long a traffic ticket will stay on your record depends on the type of driving record. In Washington State, you can get three driving records.

  1. A complete driving record;
  2. An employment record; &
  3. An insurance record.

Insurance companies use insurance records to determine premiums, and future/current employers use employment records. For insurance purposes, your infractions will stay on this record for three years. For employment purposes, violations will remain on your record for five years from when the court resolves the infraction.

How Many Traffic Tickets in Washington Would Result in A Suspension of My Driver’s License?

The more traffic tickets you have on your record, you will likely face license suspension or revocation. Although Washington does not utilize a driving points system, the state has the authority to suspend or revoke your license if you receive too many tickets.

A newly implemented state statute will suspend your license for 60 days if you have three or more moving violations within one year or four or more moving violations within two years. After the 60-day suspension, you will be on probation for one calendar year. You will have an additional 30-day suspension if you commit another offense while on probation. After the new suspension ends, your probation will restart for one calendar year.

Should you Contest Non-Moving Violations? Probably not, but…

Now that we have discussed the options available and the long-term consequences, should you pay your traffic ticket or fight it in court? Like most answers from attorneys, it depends. Specifically, it depends on the type of traffic infraction you were given. The violations that make sense not to contest and pay are non-moving violations. Although generally, it does not make sense to contest these infractions, it may make sense to request a mitigation hearing on them and save a few dollars on the fine.

Some of the most common non-moving violations are parking violations, camera tickets (tickets issued by a camera), equipment violations, or paperwork violations relating to insurance, registration, or licensing.

A quick caveat here, we usually see non-moving violations charged along with moving violations. If your ticket includes both, you would still want to contest the moving violation and either pay or mitigate the non-moving violation.

Questions? Talk to a WA Traffic Ticket Lawyer (Free Consults)

Contact our team for a confidential case review if you are still on the fence or want to learn more about the best options for your case. Please fill out our quick contact form or call us to get started today.