Debt Accrued From Traffic Tickets – What’s The Best Way To Handle Them? – Guest Post

Debt Accrued From Traffic Tickets

To some, a traffic ticket is nothing more than an inconvenience; they pay the ticket and move on. For others, the same ticket can become a years-long nightmare of crushing debt and perhaps the loss of their driver’s license entirely. You may also not be able to renew your car’s registration.

People who cannot afford to pay for their traffic tickets fall into a cycle of unpayable debt. Millions of people are riddled with unaffordable criminal legal debt like this. When these people lose their driver’s license, they are forced to stop driving. Or they keep driving without a license and face even more court fees, arrests, and jail time too.

If their driving license gets suspended, people can’t go to work, take their children to school, or drive an elderly to the hospital. So most people continue driving without a license, and if they are pulled over, it results in further fines, arrest, and jail. Even a little jail time can lead to job loss, leading to a financial crisis and instability for individuals. These enforcement methods make it even more difficult for people to pay the penalties and fees they need to pay to get their licenses back again.

What is traffic ticket debt?

It is important to make sure drivers have licenses and insurance to ensure road safety. But taking away licenses of people who can’t afford to pay their court debts only hurts their ability to earn money. Debt collection lawsuits only add to the financial struggle of the people who are already living paycheck to paycheck. This form of debt is known as traffic ticket debt. Fines might be applied many times for several missed deadlines or hearings. As a result, the debt owed by people who are least able to pay keeps accumulating.

Debt accounts for 30% of your credit score, and payment history accounts for 35%. If you have unpaid traffic tickets, they can negatively impact these two categories that account for more than half of your credit score. The tickets only impact your credit record if they have been unpaid for an extended period and are sent to collections. The longer you wait to pay for those tickets, the more your credit rating will suffer.

How should you deal with traffic ticket debt?


Knowing what kind of criminal justice debt you have will help you figure out how you should respond to it.

  • Fines are monetary penalties imposed by the court for committing an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony.
  • User fees or expenses are imposed to help the government in recovering the costs of prosecuting, incarcerating, or overseeing criminal defendants or to otherwise pay the legal system’s costs. Jury fees, expert witness fees, extradition charges, detention costs, and appointed defense counsel fees are some examples.
  • Surcharges are fees or percentages added to a fine to pay for a specific government function. They are not related to the cost of prosecuting the offender.

If you don’t pay your fine, fee, or surcharge right away, the amount may go up. It happens as interest, collection costs, late payment penalties, and payment plan costs accumulate over time.

Reinstating your driver’s license

Depending on your state, nonpayment of traffic fines may lead to the suspension of your license, even if you cannot afford to pay the fines. You should avoid driving with a suspended license and try to reinstate it. Many states will not reinstate your license unless you pay off your criminal justice debt or enter a payment plan. You may also have to pay an extra reinstatement fee. You can contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to figure out how much you owe and ways to get your license reinstated. You should also enquire about your eligibility for a payment plan. The option of other payment alternatives like doing community service may also be available to you.

Enrolling in a payment plan

Courts will rarely consider your ability to pay. This is where having a lawyer will help you. With the help of a lawyer, you may be able to reduce or remit your criminal justice debt. They can also help you enter into a payment plan based on your income. A payment plan can be beneficial if you cannot afford to pay for all your traffic ticket debt at once. Once you enter a payment plan, your license will also get reinstated. But make sure you can afford the payment plan before you enroll in it. If by any chance you face jail time for nonpayment of your traffic ticket debt, you should seek legal advice immediately. As ruled by the Supreme Court, you can’t be put in jail for debt without taking into account your ability to pay or the availability of other punishments.

Alternative ways to make paying off traffic ticket debt easier

Some states need you to request a payment plan before your debt is sent to a collection agency. Recently, states have started turning to debt collectors more and more to manage unpaid traffic tickets. Consumers, in some cases, have to pay as much as 40% extra fees on top of their ticket costs and fines to these collection agencies. Once your traffic tickets go to debt collectors, you may not be able to enroll in a payment plan. In this case, you may consider a debt consolidation program. It is the process of replacing your unsecured debts with a new monthly payment plan that is more manageable.

Based on your financial situation a judge may also significantly decrease or cancel any criminal justice debt you owe. You can appeal for this relief in a hearing and showcase your reason for nonpayment.

Author Bio: Lyle Solomon has extensive legal experience as well as in-depth knowledge and experience in consumer finance and writing. He has been a member of the California State Bar since 2003. He graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, in 1998, and currently works for the Oak View Law Group in California as a Principal Attorney.

Comments are closed for this post.