What’s the right way to handle an out-of-state speeding ticket? The best move is to own it, whether you choose to pay it or fight it. And the worst move is to ignore a ticket.
What you may not know about getting an out-of-state ticket is that it’s similar to getting one at home. It has roughly the same effect on your driving record. That’s because most states have one or more reciprocal agreements, known as traffic violation compacts.
How are out-of-state traffic tickets handled?
The Driver’s License Compact, or DLC, was founded in 1961 as a pact between member states to report all out-of-state traffic convictions to the driver’s home state Department of Motor Vehicles. In turn, the home-state authorities agree to treat all out-of-state convictions just as it would in-state convictions.
In the late 1970s, states took a second giant step and formed the Nonresident Violator Compact, or NVC, in which states agree to help each other collect fines and enforce the contract terms of out-of-state violators through such disciplinary action as suspending their licenses.
Alexis Bakofsky of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) explains how the state’s Nonresident Violator Compact works.
“If a motorist fails to comply with the terms of a traffic citation, the jurisdiction that issued the citation will report it to FLHSMV. The FLHSMV will give the motorist a 20-day notice to suspend their license until they comply,” she says.
How an out-of-state traffic ticket may affect auto insurance rates
All but a handful of states belong to one or more compacts and they may not assess penalties for minor driving infractions. As a result, if you return home with an out-of-state traffic ticket, more than likely your local DMV will soon know about it and probably be monitoring your response.
Since your home state will likely share the details of your traffic ticket, your auto insurer will likely see it when they check your driving record. Insurance companies are free to raise your auto rate when they feel it’s justified.
However, in some states, insurance companies are not allowed to raise your rates based on just one moving violation. In these states, a single out-of-state ticket may not meet the criteria for a rate bump, though your insurer may yank your “good driver” discount for the infraction.
Insurers may hold that a 10 mile-per-hour speeding ticket does not warrant a rate nudge. But a violation for driving 30 miles per hour over the limit would be considered major and increase your rate.
How should you best respond to an out-of-state traffic ticket?
First, decide if you will pay the fine or contest the ticket. Most states give you 21 to 30 days to pay by mail or online. Fighting a ticket can be cumbersome and expensive. Plus, it usually means that you must appear in court or hire a traffic attorney to plead your case.
The downside of handling an out-of-state speeding ticket by paying it is that it goes on your driving record.
“Citations are only added to the driver record after a case is disposed by the court in the issuing jurisdiction,” says Bakofsky. “However, if the ticket disposition is not guilty or dismissed, the citation does not get added to the driver record.”
But in most states, if you pay the fine and complete a state-approved traffic school course, you get some relief. This typically expunges the violation from your driving record and helps you avoid an auto insurance rate hike.