Traffic Ticket FAQ
What are my options if I get a traffic ticket?
Essentially, you have two options: plead guilty or not guilty.
If you plead guilty, this typically means paying the ticket and any fines. If eligible, you may attend Defensive Driving School to avoid accumulating points on your license and paying the fine for your ticket (although the course itself comes with fees).
If you decide to fight the ticket, you must either represent yourself (not recommended) or hire an attorney. Arizona courts do not provide court-appointed attorneys to handle traffic cases. During the hearing, you (or your lawyer) present evidence, call any witnesses, and question the person representing the police department that administered the ticket (not always the same officer who cited you).
If you win your case, you face no fines, and the matter disappears from your driving record. If you lose your case, you are responsible for the fine and may face additional court fees.
What happens if I get a traffic ticket and I have a CDL?
Although the main options remain the same – plead guilty or not guilty – drivers with a CDL (commercial driver’s license) have a few extra requirements. They also may face harsher penalties, depending on the citation (please see our CDL page for full details).
CDL operators do not have the option to enroll in Defensive Driving School to avoid points or fines. They must also notify their employer of the citation within 30 days. If the violation occurred in another state, they must also notify the Arizona MVD. There is no notification requirement for parking violations.
What are points?
For every moving traffic violation (or bail forfeiture), you accrue points on your permanent driving record. If you accrue eight or more points in a 12-month period, you face license suspension (up to 12 months) or mandatory attendance in Traffic Survival School. The state assigns a point value to each offense:
- Aggressive driving
- DUI (including extreme DUI)
- Reckless driving
- Failure to stop for a traffic signal/stop sign or yield right-of-way, causing death
- Leaving the scene of an accident (a hit-and-run)
- Failure to stop for a traffic signal/stop sign or yield right-of-way, causing serious injury
- Driving over or parking in the gore area
- All other moving violations
Is Traffic Survival School the same thing as Defensive Driving School?
No. Phoenix drivers often choose to attend Defensive Driving School to avoid accruing points on their driver’s license. Traffic Survival School is mandatory for drivers convicted of certain moving violations, including:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Aggressive driving
- Any moving violation resulting in death or serious injury
- First moving violation for drivers younger than 18
Traffic Survival School is also required for drivers accruing eight or more points against their license in a 12-month period. Failure to attend may result in a 12-month suspension of driving privileges.
What happens if I have a GDL and get a traffic ticket?
Drivers under age 18 who have a GDL (graduated driver’s license) face slightly different penalties for moving traffic violations. These penalties vary according to the offense.
- 1st offense: Mandatory attendance in Traffic Survival School
- 2nd offense: Three-month license suspension
- 3rd offense: Six-month license suspension
These penalties are in addition to any penalties for the offense itself.
Can I attend Defensive Driving School to remove points from my driving record?
No. The program only allows you to avoid adding points for a current citation.
Why should I order a copy of my driving record?
It’s a good idea to review your MVR (motor vehicle record) at least once a year, since reviewing your record is really the only way to know what’s on it. If found not guilty of a violation, make sure your record does not include the violation or points. If you completed the Defensive Driving Program, make sure the ticket was dismissed and you didn’t incur points. You also want to make sure you don’t have so many points that suspension is likely. Finally, a surprising number of Arizona drivers don’t realize their license is under suspension, since driver’s license suspension is a penalty for more than traffic violations, including failure to pay child support, failure to pay fines or surcharges, and failure to appear in court.
What is the fine for my traffic ticket?
It depends on where and why you incurred the traffic ticket. Fines vary by violation and the area where the violation occurred.
When should I hire a traffic attorney?
If you want to fight the ticket, you should probably hire an attorney to represent you. Your lawyer guides you through the entire process. He or she represents you in court, handles any criminal charges, pleads to a lesser offense if applicable, and appeals a verdict of guilty or responsible.
All traffic tickets come with a timeline. The sooner you hire an attorney, the better.