Citations or traffic tickets are issued in the State of New Mexico 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 New Mexico 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 New Mexico are classified as infractions, which require paying a fine up to $500. More serious offenses carry higher fines and/or imprisonment. Some towns and counties impose additional fees (such as correction fees, judicial education fees etc) on top of the penalty fee.
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 mode of payment depends on where the ticket was issued. The state has one Metropolitan court and several smaller municipal courts. If your fine amounts to more than $500, or if you appeal the decision handed down by a municipal court, or if you are having a trial by jury, your case will be heard in the District court.
Most tickets can be settled out of court. Your traffic ticket will provide you with information on this. If the "penalty assessment box" has been marked on your ticket, you will need to make a payment. Some courts allow you to make payment over the telephone, using a credit card. This information will be listed on your ticket. You can also send a check or money order to the address listed on your ticket.
If the "court appearance" box is marked on your ticket, you will have to attend the local court. If you wish to dispute the citation, you must appear in 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.
Some offenses that require a court appearance are street racing, reckless driving, DUI, fleeing the scene of an accident, speeding 26 mph or more over the speed limit and driving with a suspended license.
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 New Mexico [ Motor Vehicle Division]. New Mexico routinely provides information concerning traffic ticket convictions to other states.
- The New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division follows a 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.
- New Mexico 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. Points on your New Mexico 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.