A traffic ticket can lead to some pretty serious consequences for your pocketbook long after the court costs and fine are paid. Convictions for moving violations can increase your insurance premiums and you could pay the state surcharges for non-moving convictions like Driving While License Invalid or Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (i.e., no insurance).
WHAT IS A “MOVING VIOLATION”?
Not all traffic tickets are moving violations. For example, a seat belt ticket has to do with activity in your car, but it is not a moving violation. On the other hand, speeding tickets are moving violations.
How do moving violations affect your insurance premiums?
When an individual’s automobile insurance company determines your premium amount, one of the biggest factors they look at is your history of moving violations. Statistically speaking, the more moving violations an individual’s driving record shows, the riskier that person is to insure because they are more likely to be involved in auto accidents. The higher the risk—the higher the premium.
How does the State of Texas feel about those moving violations?
The State utilizes a point system to determine when someone will have to pay surcharges on their license due to too many violations. For example, a conviction for speeding will cause two (2) points to be added to your driving record. A total of six (6) points on your record will result in an annual surcharge that you will have to pay to maintain a valid driver license.
The following are a few examples of the points that can accumulate on an individual’s driving record.
- Speeding = 2 points (city/county) 3 points (state)
- Running a red light = 2 points
- Careless & imprudent driving = 2 points
- Failure to maintain a single lane = 2 points
- Following too close = 2 points
- Failure to yield= 2 points
- Leaving scene of accident = 6 points (city/county) 12 points (state)
- Operating vehicle without a license = 2 points
- Permitting unlicensed driver to drive = 4 points
- No Insurance (failure to maintain financial responsibility) = 4 points
- DWI (alcohol) or DUI (drugs) = 8 points for 1st offense
- Driving while suspended or revoked = 12 points
The following are examples of non-moving, no-point violations:
- Failure to register vehicle
- Expired license plates
- Seat belt violation
- Illegal Parking
- Defective Muffler
Can an attorney keep moving violations off your record?
An attorney can often resolve your case with a deferred adjudication disposition. This essentially means that you do not have a conviction for the moving violation, but you typically pay a higher fine and have a period of “probation” where you cannot get another conviction without the current case becoming a conviction. With no conviction for a moving violation, your insurance premiums will not increase and you will not be accruing points on your record that could result in a surcharge.
But what if I have a CDL?
There are very specific statutes involved that do not allow municipal or justice of the peace courts to give Deferred Adjudication for those individuals who have a Commercial Driver License – even if they were driving their personal vehicle when they received the ticket!
CDL holders could lose their employment and potentially their license if they receive a conviction for a moving violation. But without deferred as an option, are they left to fight the ticket and hope for a “Not Guilty”? An attorney can still help in these scenarios!
An attorney can sometimes get your moving violation traffic ticket reduced to a non-moving violation that does not cause points to be added to your driving record. You will still have to pay a fine and court costs for any moving violation that is reduced to a non-moving violation and even have a conviction for a non-moving violation. But there are far fewer consequences for a conviction for most non-moving violations, so this is often a good solution.
Another option is to take your conviction at the municipal or justice of the peace level and then appeal your conviction to the County Court where the statute allows judges to grant deferred adjudication for CDL holders. Just because the statute allows it, does not mean that every judge will do it! A good attorney will know what each county court judge is likely to do in those scenarios and be able to advise you as to the best course of action.
Can a lawyer get non-moving violations dismissed?
A lawyer can get some non-moving violations such as “No Insurance” or “Failure to Register Vehicle” dismissed, if you can provide proof that you have purchased insurance and properly registered your vehicle within the statutory time. Most courts adhere to the timelines for getting your vehicle registered or “curing” the violation, so seek legal counsel quickly if you are cited for a non-moving violation.
Even worse, if not handled properly, convictions for things like Driving While License Invalid make the next violation a Class B misdemeanor. That means having to bond out of jail and going through the County Court system and potentially being sentenced to a $2,000.00 fine and 180 days in jail in the end! Not to mention the snowball effect of multiple suspensions and surcharges being placed on your license, making the most basic life events difficult to accomplish. Can you imagine just trying to go to the grocery store when your license has been suspended for a conviction for DWLI? Too stressful for me!
Of course, the best way to avoid expensive car insurance premiums, surcharges, legal fees, court costs, lost time at work, and potential enhancements on later offenses is to obey all traffic laws, maintain your administrative requirements (insurance, license and registration) and drive safely across our great state of Texas.