Is There a Statute of Limitations on Traffic Tickets?

If you’ve ever been pulled over and then forgotten to pay for your ticket, you’ve probably asked yourself is there a statute of limitations on traffic violations?

No matter the state in which a citizen is issued a traffic violation, they are required to pay the state for breaking the law. Almost all traffic tickets come with a moderate fine and allow you to pay through the mail or in person. However, there are situations where a traffic ticket is ignored or completely forgotten about. Is there a statute of limitations on traffic tickets?

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What is a Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations refers to a state law dictating for how long you can face charges for misdemeanors like traffic offenses. These statutes effectively set the time frame for how long a prosecutor can wait before they file charges.

Another way of looking at it is the time frame between the moment the crime is committed and when the crime has been charged. If you have ever been in a car accident, for example, you might understand the statute of limitations as it refers to the time frame you have to file a claim for compensation.

Traffic violations are different no matter which state issues the violation. 

  • A traffic ticket is not the same as being accused of a crime, something that starts the time limit on that statute of limitations. 
  • Instead, a traffic ticket is being charged with a crime which is what happens at the close of a statute of limitations.

Statute of limitations traffic ticket laws

The statute of limitations traffic ticket laws are the same as the statute of limitation speeding ticket laws.

When you get a moving violation, after you hand the officer your driver’s license and they hand you the ticket, they ask you to sign it.

When you sign the ticket that means you have been officially and legally charged with the offense. It also signifies that you acknowledge that charge by signing it.

From the moment you sign it, the statute of limitations no longer applies because you have already been charged.

Statute of limitations speeding ticket laws

If you receive a speeding ticket and the officer asks you to sign it, it’s the exact same thing. You have legally acknowledged that you broke the law and that you are charged with the crime. 

This means from the moment you sign the ticket the statute of limitations has expired and now that ticket remains valid until such time as you pay the fine.

What is the statute of limitations on a traffic ticket?

Once law enforcement issues traffic offenses the statute of limitation stops. But another key element to traffic citations is that of the fine which does not stop and remains on your record indefinitely.

Penalties for Traffic Tickets

Trying to ignore a traffic ticket in hopes that it will eventually go away because a statute of limitation expires is a very bad legal decision. 

  • People in these cases who don’t pay their ticket have to go to court or send an attorney to court on their behalf.
  • If you don’t pay the ticket or go to court, the state can issue a bench warrant for your arrest and suspend your driver’s license. If you get pulled over in another state they will see that your license is suspended and tow your car.
  • In some states, if you try to move and get a new license having a suspended license in your old state, you will face a lot of legal challenges.
  • Just like the traffic ticket will never expire, the bench warrant or summons will never expire.
  • In some states like Washington, if the traffic citation is ignored long enough it can eventually be converted into a civil infraction where the state doesn’t charge you with the original ticket but instead charges you with a civil lawsuit that can result in serious fines and remain on your record for up to 10 years. 

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of situations where people simply forget about traffic tickets. In these cases, you can voluntarily show up at the county clerk’s office or call them and try to pay the ticket but they might also arrest you. No matter what, you should consider a consultation with a lawyer who can give you a free case evaluation and offer advice on what the next steps are to remedy the traffic violation.

Article by James Finsweet

James Finsweet is a Head of legal department in LawBrother Ltd. At Lawrina, James contributes his experience in law practice and shares opinions on law regulations and news.

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