What Is a Citation?

Citations, or tickets, are legal documents indicating traffic violations. Read this guide on citations and tickets to find out if you should pay the fine or hire a lawyer.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
There is no formal distinction when it comes to a citation vs ticket. If you commit a traffic or driving violation such as speeding or running a red light, you'll likely get one of the two.
If you want to learn more about what citations are, how they work, and how they can affect your
car insurance
, licensed broker
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And if you’re looking for cheap insurance after getting a citation, Jerry has you covered. This
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What is a citation?

A citation is a legal document that you receive when you
commit a traffic violation
. Traditionally, they come in the form of a paper tucked under your windshield wiper.
However, e-citations are now becoming more common.
An e-citation may be given to you via an officer’s tablet. You’ll sign the form electronically to acknowledge that you understand your obligations, and then you’ll receive a copy in your email inbox.
Here are some of the offenses typically considered to be a traffic violation:
  • Not obeying posted signs and traffic signals
  • Speeding
  • Failing to use a turn signal
  • Failing to use a seatbelt
  • Driving without the right insurance
  • Driving without a license plate
You can also get a citation for a parking violation if you park somewhere illegally or incorrectly.
A citation will include the following information:
  • What violation(s) you are receiving a citation for
  • A citation number (unique to you)
  • The legal consequences of your actions
  • Options for how to respond to the citation
  • How much time you have to respond before the consequences escalate

What to do if you get a citation

It can be stressful and confusing to deal with a citation, but there are steps you can take to make things easier for yourself.
If you’re pulled over, try to answer the officer’s questions calmly and accurately.
Afterward, while the event is still fresh in your mind, write down everything you remember including speed limit signs, the weather, and your surroundings. This information could help you later if you choose to appeal your case.
The citation may instruct you to pay a fee or go to court. It is absolutely critical to respond by the date listed on your ticket.
If you don’t take action by the established date, you could face further legal consequences. You could face additional fines, or
your driver’s license could be suspended
or even revoked.
To resolve your citation, you’ll need to plead guilty or not guilty. Signing the citation isn’t a confirmation of guilt. It’s simply an acknowledgment that you received the ticket and understand your responsibilities.
Here’s what you may need to do to resolve a citation:
  • Pay a fine
  • Offer proof of insurance
  • Show up at court on a specific date
  • Make an appeal in court if you disagree with the citation
You do have the right to contest your citation if you don’t think you should have been ticketed. In this situation, you can go to court and plead your case.
In some cases, you may even be able to request a "mitigation" negotiation. You do this by admitting to the violation and requesting leniency.
If the judge is amenable, the citation might not go on your record. But you may still have to pay some or all of the fine.
Depending on your situation and the severity of the offense, hiring an attorney might be the best course of action.

How do you pay your citation?

Depending on your state and municipality, you may have several ways to pay a fine:
  • Check
  • Money order
  • Credit card
If you’re struggling financially and can’t pay your fine, ask your local government about payment plan options for citations. You may have better luck with this request in a smaller township than the city, but it’s always worth asking.

Do citations affect insurance?

citation can affect your car insurance
, though the seriousness of the impact depends on what you’ve been cited for.
First, you need to understand that there are two types of violations, moving and non-moving.
Moving violations are offenses committed while the vehicle is in motion, like speeding. Non-moving violations refer to stationary incidents, such as illegal parking.
Both types of violations will go on your record, whether they were committed out of state or in the state where you’re licensed.
In most–but not all–states, moving violations like
have license points attached to them. The number of points you receive depends on your state and the specific traffic law that you broke.
Insurance companies consider
driver license points
when calculating your car insurance premium.
Does a citation go on your driving record? Yes, if you plead guilty. And the more points you accumulate for moving violations, the riskier a driver you’re perceived to be. This tends to increase your car insurance rates.
If you’ve repeatedly committed traffic offenses, your rates could increase significantly or the insurance company might discontinue your coverage.
There are insurance providers out there that offer policies for
high-risk drivers
who have a moving violation on their record. If you’re looking for affordable car insurance after a citation, try
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How to get rid of license points on your record

License points can be actively removed or they can expire over time.
Getting rid of points on your record
will depend on the laws of your state.
Many states allow drivers to get rid of license points by taking an approved
defensive driving course
or enrolling in traffic school.
, for example, completing a course "masks" your points from insurance companies. In
, drivers receive a three-point credit on their record for taking a course.
In some states, you can request a manual expungement of your record. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait 12 months to six years to get the points stricken from your record.
To find out how many points are on your record, contact your local DMV. They can also tell you about opportunities to remove these points from your motor vehicle record.

Frequently asked questions

Citation vs. ticket–is there a difference?

Nope, they’re the same thing! A ticket is just what most people call it, but a citation is a technical term for the document you’re given when you commit a traffic offense.

Can I pay the fines on my citation online?

In nearly all states, you can pay your fines online. Your citation should have information about where you can go to pay the fee.
Contact your local DMV to inquire about online payment options.

How can I find affordable car insurance if I have prior citations?

If you have prior citations, you can still find affordable car insurance! You can shop around for quotes yourself to get the best rate … or you can have
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Jerry’s services are free, and it only takes 45 seconds to sign up for the app.

Can going to traffic school help my insurance rates?

In some states, yes. You may be able to improve your insurance rates after receiving a citation by attending traffic school or taking an approved defensive driving course.
Check the laws in your state to confirm whether this is an option for you.
Keep in mind that going to traffic school may not remove the citation from your driving record. It could instead allow you to "mask" the citation from insurance companies, though the police, DMV, and employers may still be able to view the incident on your record.

Where to get the cheapest car insurance after a citation

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