Citations or traffic tickets are issued in the State of Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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:
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 Tennessee are classified as infractions, which require paying a fine. The fine will be mentioned on your ticket. 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. Tickets must be paid in the court or county in which they were issued. If you are unsure of where the ticket should be paid, call the Tennessee Department of Safety on (615)741-3954. If you receive an out of state ticket, ask the officer about payment details for it. You could also contact the magistrate court in the county where you received the ticket. The payment information might also be written on the ticket itself.
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.
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 Tennessee Driver License Division. Tennessee routinely provides information concerning traffic ticket convictions to other states.
- The Tennessee Department of Revenue 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. This will happen if you accrue 12 points within 2 years. For more information, see our Point System section.
- Tennessee 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 Tennessee 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.