Citation vs. Ticket: Is There a Difference?

For every motorist, the thought of getting stopped by the police for breaking traffic rules is enough to give them jitters. While people often use the word "ticket" to refer to this document issued for speeding or parking violations, the legal term is "citation." Whether you have been in this situation before, it's always a good idea to be prepared and informed about what steps to take when you receive a citation and how it can impact your driving record and auto insurance premiums.

Have you ever wondered what exactly a citation is? Simply put, it's a written record that details any traffic violations you may have committed while operating your vehicle or parking it. Now, you may have heard people refer to it as a "ticket," - and that's completely understandable, as it's a more casual term for the same thing. 

A citation and a ticket are the same and are usually issued by a police officer. However, a speeding camera may detect your violation in certain instances, and a citation may be mailed to you. But don't take it lightly because getting a ticket or citation can result in fines, court appearances, or even time behind bars, depending on the severity of the offense.

Arizona Traffic Infractions: Fines, Violations, and Citations

Have you ever been caught disobeying traffic laws while driving? If so, you may have received a traffic citation, a.k.a. an auto citation, or a ticket. This written notice serves as proof of your violation and typically includes instructions on resolving the situation, whether paying a fine or appearing in court.

Let's delve deeper into some of the most common types of auto citations. Speeding tickets, for instance, are a piece of paper issued by a police officer to a driver who was driving over the posted speed limit. On the other hand, parking tickets are considered non-moving violations since the vehicle was stationary at the time of the incident. Moving violations, however, are actions that can lead to a citation while operating a vehicle. 

Here are some common tickets for moving violations:

  • Speeding tickets: Cruising just a few miles above the posted speed limit might get you a pass from law enforcement, sparing your driving record from any blemishes. Driving faster than allowed can result in a fine and will appear on your driving record. And, for those who push the limits, getting caught in more serious speeding offenses can earn you a costly traffic citation or ticket and can even include jail time. 

  • Running Stop Signs/ Red Lights: Getting hit with a failure to stop ticket not only puts a dent in your driving record but also adds to the chaos of the road, putting everyone's safety at risk. Fines for this violation can pack a punch, depending on where you live and the circumstances surrounding the incident, such as whether an accident was caused. 

  • Failure To Signal: Neglecting to use your turn signal when changing lanes or making turns can result in a minor moving violation. This seemingly harmless mistake could land you a citation, a fine, and a few demerit points on your license. Stay sharp, and remember to signal, so you can keep cruising down the road without any unnecessary detours.

  • DUIs: The repercussions of receiving a traffic citation for DUI can be dire, ranging from a hefty fine to losing your driver's license or even facing a long-term sentence behind bars. And that's not all - this offense will linger on your motor vehicle record for at least five years and your criminal record indefinitely. Don't let one moment of carelessness lead to years of hardship - stay vigilant and obey the rules of the road.

  • Reckless Driving: Careless or reckless driving involves operating a vehicle without proper care for others' safety. Examples include distracted driving, such as texting, grooming, or applying makeup, which can lead to accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Other forms of reckless driving include speeding, ignoring traffic signals, weaving through lanes, tailgating, and driving under the influence. 

Here are some examples of non-moving violations:

  • Parking Citations: You may receive a parking citation for violations such as parking in restricted areas or during sweeping street hours.

  • Expired Tags: If your vehicle registration tags are expired, it is evident that you still need to keep them up-to-date, and you may be subject to a citation.

  • Car Damage Issues: Car repair issues like a broken headlight or turn signal can earn traffic citations if you don't address them promptly.

  • No Auto Insurance: Failing to carry car insurance can result in hefty fines, penalties, and legal consequences in the event of an accident.

  • No Seatbelt: Neglecting to wear a seatbelt while driving can be dangerous and result in a traffic citation.

When a law enforcement officer pulls you over and issues a citation, they usually explain the alleged violation. For instance, if you're caught speeding, the officer might have clocked your speed with a handheld radar gun. After hearing the officer's reasoning, you'll receive the citation, but remember this doesn't equate to an admission of wrongdoing. Instead, you acknowledge receipt of the ticket and agree to pay the fine or appear in court to contest it.

What To Know If You Get A Citation Or Speeding Ticket in Arizona

Understanding how to handle a traffic stop when caught speeding or another moving violation is crucial to make the best of a challenging situation.

  • Stay Calm and Be Polite: Maintaining composure and politeness is essential during traffic stops. If the officer asks you questions, respond respectfully and offer your explanation of the situation. The officer may have evidence of the alleged violation, so denying the accusation may not be in your best interest. Be prepared to provide your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance if the officer requests.

  • Inquire about Your Next Steps: Certain violations may require a court appearance, such as excessive speeding, reckless driving, or traffic accidents. Failure to appear in court can result in misdemeanor charges, fines, and jail time. Additionally, paying your fine after the due date could incur penalties and additional fees. Understanding the steps you must take after receiving a citation is vital to avoid negative consequences.

  • Document Everything: Taking note of specific details, like the date and time, weather conditions, surroundings, and any obscured speed limit signs, can prove beneficial after receiving a citation. Jotting down these particulars while fresh in your memory can be especially useful.

  • Resolve The Citation If You Can: If you pay your traffic ticket, the case will be closed, and the violation will appear as a conviction on your driving record. Attending traffic school might help avoid getting points on your record, but this option could be restricted to first-time offenders. If you must attend court, appearing on the specified date and time indicated on the citation is crucial. In the grand scheme, it's much better to take care of the ticket and show up to court than to deal with the legal consequences of neglecting to do so.

Contesting A Speeding Ticket in Arizona

You have several options for contesting a speeding ticket:

  • During the traffic stop: Remaining composed and polite, you can explain why you believe the ticket is unjustified before the officer issues it.

  • Before your court date: You may be able to negotiate a "mitigation" settlement, where you admit to the offense and provide reasons for leniency. A successful negotiation can result in a reduced fine or taking a driving course instead of paying the fine.

  • In court: You can plead not guilty, present your case, acknowledge the violation, apologize, and request a reduction in points or a fine.

Whether you call it a citation or a ticket, the reality is that it can affect your vehicle record, and criminal history is never pleasant. Hiring a criminal defense attorney may be a wise move. They can assist you in navigating the legal process and determining the smart approach for your case. 

Contact A Traffic Ticket Attorney in Tempe

If you receive a traffic citation in Phoenix, the best action is to talk with an attorney experienced with traffic ticket cases. When you work with Bala Legal Services, we can help resolve the issue with the guidance of a reputable and knowledgeable legal professional.

Our firm serves the areas of Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Chandler. If you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in Arizona, please contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation.

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Legal Disclaimer:

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Bala Legal Services team are licensed to practice law in Arizona. We invite you to contact us, but please be aware that contacting us does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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