Getting a traffic ticket in Texas can be a frustrating and confusing experience. You might be wondering how much you’ll have to pay, if your ticket will affect your driving record, and if your auto insurance rates will go up. Below you’ll find all the basic information on what to expect when you get a Texas traffic ticket.
How to Plead
If you get a Texas traffic ticket, you have three choices: plead guilty, plead no contest, or plead not guilty. It’s good to weigh your options and understand the ramifications of each choice before you submit your plea.
If you plead guilty or no contest, you’ll be required to pay your ticket and fines. You might have an opportunity to negotiate lower fines or penalties and/or points off your driving record by taking a Texas defensive driving class. These factors will all depend on your violation and it will be up to the court to decide.
Pleading not guilty is much more difficult. Fighting traffic tickets in Texas requires drivers to present their case in court in front of a judge. If you win your case, you may walk away with no or violations on your record. The court has the knowledge and the advantage in this situation though, so unless you are well-versed in Texas traffic law, you should consider hiring an attorney to present your case. Even if you do fight your ticket, you might still face fines — and lawyer’s fees.
Texas Fines and Penalties
In Texas, all tickets are assigned fines and penalties. In addition, the Texas Driver Responsibility Program (DRP) allows the state to slap drivers with additional surcharges for certain violations, on top of the fines associated with that ticket. You’ll receive a letter in the mail outlining any additional surcharges you may have to pay.
Surcharges are applied based on two factors: points and convictions. Keep in mind, if you have both points and a conviction added to your driving record, you could be charged separate fines for both!
Here’s what you can expect for each:
Points: Every traffic violation has either 2 or 3 points associated with it. If you are convicted of a traffic violation, the points associated with that ticket will be added to your Texas driver record —and they’ll remain there for 3 years from the date of your conviction.
2 points: any Texas or out-of-state traffic conviction
3 points: any Texas or out-of-state conviction involving a crash
Even just one 2-point assessment on your record could result in higher insurance rates. If you continue to get traffic tickets and have 6 or more points added to your record, you will be forced to pay a surcharge every year until those points are reduced. These fines are as follows:
$100 for the first 6 points
$25 for each additional point over 6
Conviction: Certain violations carry surcharges that are automatically assessed to you once your conviction is added to your record. You’ll be required to pay the fee for 3 years from the date of conviction, and the surcharge can be much more expensive than point-based charges. Here is a list of conviction-based surcharges and what you can expect to pay annually:
$1000 – Driving while intoxicated (DWI), first offense
$1,500 – DWI, two or more offenses
$2,000 – DWI with BAC of .16 or greater
$250 – No insurance
$250 – Driving with an invalid license
$100 – Driving without a license
Dismissing a Ticket
The only way to prevent points from damaging your driving record is to take a Texas-approved defensive driving course. Your course must be 6 hours in length and approved by the Texas TDLR. Online courses are the fastest and easiest way to meet this requirement.
Once you’ve admitted guilt for your violation, you’ll need to request permission from the court to take a defensive driving course. You can do this either in person or by mail. Once approved, you’ll have 90 days to complete and pass your course, and submit your certificate of completion to your court.
If you were doing the following, you will not be able to take defensive driving:
Driving 25 MPH or higher over the speed limit
Committed an infraction in a construction zone
Already taken defensive driving within the last 12 months
If you’re approved to take defensive driving to dismiss a ticket, you’ll need to submit both your certificate of completion as well as a copy of your Texas driving record to the court.
Check Your Texas Driving Record
You’re not done yet! Even after you take a TEA/TDLR-approved defensive driving course in Texas, and you’ve submitted your completion certificate along with a copy of your driving record to your court, you’ll still need to follow up. Remember, excessive points on your record can lead to additional fines, increased auto insurance rates, and ultimately a license suspension.
Wait a couple weeks then contact your court for a new copy of your driving record. Make sure the ticket and points were removed from your record, and if not contact your court right away.