Citations or traffic tickets are issued in the State of Maine for various violations of traffic law. Citations generally indicate the statute or code number of the violation, and explain how and when to pay the fine or respond to the ticket. You must respond to a citation, usually by paying a fine or appearing in court, or else a warrant may be issued for your arrest and your driving license may be suspended.
TYPES OF VIOLATIONS
Most traffic tickets in Maine are issued for what are sometimes called "strict-liability" offenses. In these cases, the only thing required to convict a person of the offense is proof that they committed the act, regardless of any criminal intent. Examples of strict-liability offenses include:
- Overdue parking meters
- Not using turn signals
- Parking in a handicapped zone without authorization
MOVING VS. NON-MOVING VIOLATIONS
Violations are also classified by whether or not the vehicle was in motion at the type of the incident, and traffic tickets may therefore be for either moving or non-moving violations. Examples of moving violations include:
- Speeding or driving below the minimum speed
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Driving without a seat belt
- Drunk driving (DUI and DWI)
Non-Moving violations include:
- Parking in a handicapped zone or other illegal parking
- Driving with an invalid vehicle registration
- Having expired or missing license plates
- Leaving a vehicle unattended and running
The majority of traffic violations in Maine are classified as infractions, which require paying a fine ranging from $25-$500. More serious offenses carry higher fines and/or imprisonment.
YOUR OPTIONS WHEN YOU RECEIVE A CITATION
Many citations do not require a court appearance, and you may admit guilt by paying the ticket directly. The citation will indicate how and by what date to pay the fine. The payment should be made within 20 calendar days of receipt of the ticket. You can pay online using a credit card (an additional $6 service fee is charged for this payment option), in person to the Violations Bureau or by mailing the check/money order along with a copy of your ticket to:
Violations Bureau 85 Park Street, P.O. Box 480 Lewiston, ME 04243-0480
If you wish to contest the ticket, you can ask for a court date on the ticket itself and send it to the Violations Bureau of Maine District Court at the address listed on the ticket or to the address given above.
A hearing date will be sent to you within 6 to 8 weeks of receipt of the above. You must appear in a Maine District court personally on the scheduled date, and enter a "not guilty" plea. While you may be able to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney, a trial will be scheduled if no agreement is reached. A trial gives you an opportunity to fight the traffic ticket in front of a judge or jury, and most people prefer to hire a traffic ticket lawyer to defend them in court.
If you wish to change your plea after deciding to contest the ticket, you can do the following:
- If you have received your Trial Notice, sign at the bottom of it and mail it back to the Violations Bureau.
- If you have not received the notice, you can fill out the back of the extra copy of your ticket and change your answer.
- If you do not have the back of the copy, write a letter to the Violations Bureau explaining the change in plea.
You can contact the Bureau at 207-783-5422 for more information on this.
THE IMPLICATIONS OF BEING FOUND GUILTY
When you pay a ticket directly, you are essentially pleading guilty to a traffic offense, which carries the same consequences as being found guilty of the violation in court. Motorists who either plead guilty directly or are found guilty of an offense should be aware of the following possible consequences:
- Certain traffic offenses, including speeding and other moving violations, are automatically reported to the Maine Driver License Division. Maine routinely provides information concerning traffic ticket convictions to other states.
- The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles follows a demerit point system to track violations and their corresponding penalties. Points are added to your driving record which could result in your license being suspended. For more information, see our Point System section.
- Maine drivers that accumulate points on their driving record are often subject to higher car insurance premiums.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT TRAFFIC TICKET CONVICTIONS
One of the best ways to reduce the negative implications of traffic violations is to drive safely and not commit any additional offenses. Demerit Points on your Maine license will be reduced, and your driving record may eventually be cleared if you remain free of any additional violations. Smart drivers often choose to take a defensive driving course or traffic school course in order to reduce the points on their license more quickly.
Taking a defensive driving course can also help lower the car insurance premiums of drivers whose rates increased following one or more traffic ticket convictions. Some drivers prefer to obtain a new quote for car insurance following a traffic ticket conviction, since often more competitive rates and coverage may be available.