Georgia Traffic Ticket Information

A single Georgia traffic ticket can cost a fine a dozen times higher than Washington state traffic tickets. Georgia's traffic ticket fines are some of the highest in the country, and that's not even counting the lifetime penalties. If you get a traffic ticket in Georgia, you might as well take out a second mortgage.

Traffic ticket fines aren't the only monetary problem with Georgia traffic tickets. Fees and surcharges can also wreak havoc on your finances. Then come the non-monetary penalties, like suspensions and revocations. All this wrapped up and packaged with the potential to increase your insurance premiums.

According to research from the Statistic Brain Research Institute , the U.S. raises more than six billion dollars from traffic ticket fines every year. On average, 20.6% of drivers will get at least one traffic ticket every year. That means you have a one in five chance of getting a ticket. And if that ticket happens to be in Georgia, you're going to pay many times the national average.

All in all, Georgia makes millions upon millions of dollars in fines. Just three cities alone (Clarkston, Morrow, and Riverdale) pulled in a total of $3.7 million. Those cities are so reliant on fines that between 15% and 25% of their annual budget comes directly from citation revenue.

Although the massive costs of Georgia traffic tickets can send a chill down even a polar bear's spine, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of things you need to know about traffic tickets before you're ready to face on in court.

That's where WinIt comes in.

Table of contents

Georgia Parking Tickets

There are plenty of ways to get a parking ticket in Georgia. But none of them are the same as traffic tickets. The parking ticket category only includes violations that occur when your vehicle is neither activated nor under your immediate control.

Another important difference is that traffic enforcement officers write these tickets to the registered owner of the vehicle instead of directly to you. For example, if you let a person borrow your car and they park illegally, you might have to pay that ticket. Of course, there are laws in place that can help you make the borrower pay you back.

The overwhelming majority of parking tickets in Georgia fall under the jurisdiction of cities and towns. The state government as a whole has little to say about them, leaving that to the cities themselves. For example, there are whole sections of the Columbus Municipal Code dedicated to the creation and enforcement of local parking tickets.

Since there's little to say about parking tickets from a state perspective, be sure to ask your lawyer about local laws in your jurisdiction. Also keep in mind that the county might also put fines on top of the city fines. All the more reason to contest your tickets.

Georgia Traffic Tickets

In terms of penalties and fines, traffic tickets in Georgia are some of the worst in the county. The state's speeding ticket fines are particularly expensive, clocking in at well over the national average. But what many people don't realize is that speeding violations are more than just violations: they're crimes.

Criminal traffic tickets are tickets that you get for committing a serious crime. The government decides what is considered a serious crime and breaks them into a long list of subcategories. The two main categories of criminal traffic tickets are misdemeanors and felonies. A large portion of traffic violations in Georgia fall into one of these two categories.

The third category of traffic violations is traffic infractions. Traffic infractions are the least serious of all traffic violations. They typically include small things like idling or standing.

Whether an officer accuses you of an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony, you have the right to contest the accusations. That means you can go to court, argue your case, and hope that the judge will dismiss your ticket. In court, a dismissal is the best case scenario.

Infractions

Traffic infractions are the lowest kind of traffic offenses. Only a small percentage of Georgia traffic tickets fall into this category, since many traffic violations are considered misdemeanors. That said, there are still quite a few infractions that can get you a serious ticket.

Many traffic infractions are simple equipment violations or other non-moving violations. Equipment violations can include any kind of violation that pertains to your vehicle's parts, such as driving with a broken windshield. Non-moving violations are any kind of violation that doesn't have to do with the vehicle being in motion. Equipment violations are a kind of non-moving violation.

Misdemeanors and Felonies

Misdemeanors mean trouble. Felonies mean lots of trouble. Both of these categories of traffic violations constitute criminal offenses.

For misdemeanors, this all sounds worse than it actually is. Even Georgia speeding tickets constitute misdemeanor traffic violations. Even so, courts will rarely give jail time for such offenses. Instead of going to criminal court, local governments often deal with speeding tickets in traffic court. That means no jail time, in most cases.

The only way to escape jail time for certain is to have the court dismiss your ticket.

Some misdemeanors are worse than others. There are a few misdemeanors of a "high and aggravated nature" that will most likely land you in jail if you are convicted. They're not quite as bad as felonies, but are still pretty bad.

Felonies are the worst of the worst. This category contains only the most heinous criminal acts that one can commit with a vehicle. Examples include vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault, and eluding police.

How Much a Traffic Ticket Costs in Georgia

Georgia traffic ticket costs are set at the state, county, and local levels. The state government sets a range of fines that the local courts can rule on in individual cases. Both the state and county governments tend to then add fees and surcharges to tickets in their jurisdictions.

The local government down at the bottom only has jurisdiction over a small area, like a small town or part of a city. They can also add fines, fees, and surcharges of their own, provided that they don't go over the maximum costs set by the state government.

There are also federal tickets, but those are only relevant on federal property, like federal government buildings and military bases.

Whatever the county and local courts rule on any given case has to be within the guidelines of the state government. If the state says a violation is punishable by "up to 12 m months imprisonment," the court can decide anything between 0 and 12 months. If the state adds on "but not less than six months," then the court can decide anything between 6 and 12.

That applies to fines, fees, surcharges and other penalties.

Fines

The national average cost of a speeding ticket is $152, including fees. In Georgia, the fine amount by itself is a minimum of $100 and quickly increases to more than $400. That's before fees, surcharges, and other penalties. The true cost of a Georgia speeding ticket is much higher.

All fines operate on what is called a fine "schedule." Fine schedules are lists of fine prices that the court can use to speed through the adjudication process. Instead of reading through case law and taking hours to determine a penalty, the judge can look at the schedule, apply that cost, and be done.

County and local governments can set their own fine schedules as long as they don't conflict with those of the state government. Let's use speeding at six to ten miles per hour over the limit as an example. The fine schedule for Fulton County lists the fine as $150. The fine schedule for the city of Atlanta lists the fine as $25 for a first offense.

Through Georgia's First Offender statute, people who have never received a traffic ticket in Georgia can have their fines reduced by hundreds of dollars. For example, a first-time speeder has a maximum fine of $600. That's $400 less than the normal maximum fine for speeding in Georgia.

Fees

There are many fees that you might have to pay for a Georgia traffic ticket. Like with other traffic ticket costs, fees can vary from one jurisdiction to the next. Credit card convenience fees are a great example of fees that vary from place to place.

The amount of time that constitutes a late payment varies from place to place. In Fulton County, the time is seven days after your court date. Failure to pay will result in a $100 fee, in addition to "other penalties authorized by the law."

Georgia also has what's called a Super Speeder fee. If you get a speeding ticket for driving faster than 75 miles per hour on a two-lane road or 85 miles per hour on any road or highway, you have to pay an extra $200. If you have to pay this fee, then you do not qualify for the first-time offender discount.

Surcharges

Surcharges are similar to fees in that they add onto the original fine amount and vary from place to place. However, surcharges only apply after a conviction. You might not even know about the increased surcharges until after you decide to pay your ticket.

These surcharges can be between 35% and 60% of your original fine. For example, a speeding ticket of Driving Too Fast for Conditions (§40-6-180) in Atlanta has a fine of $132 and a surcharge of $62.40. That totals 147% of the original fine.

Insurance Premium Increases

Just about any kind of traffic ticket in Georgia can increase your insurance premiums. Even traffic tickets with no points can increase your insurance premiums . On the bright side, non-moving violations can have a much lower impact on your insurance than moving violations.

Better yet, Georgia only lets insurers see the last two years of your record. That's less than half of what happens for traffic tickets in New York.

Here are a few sample violations and their average effects on car insurance premiums: | Violation Description | Percent Increase | Additional Cost Over 2 Years | |---|---|---| | Failure to Stop at a Red Light | +22.7% | $702.34 | | Following Too Closely | +23.3% | $720.91 | | Passing a School Bus | +27.0% | $835.39 | | DUI | +73.9% | $2,286.47 | | Hit and Run | +82.2% | $2,543.27 | Based on the average annual cost of insurance in Georgia: $1,547

Penalties

One thing makes Georgia's traffic violations penalties worse than many other states: Lifetime penalties. When you get a traffic ticket in Georgia, the court doesn't just look at the active violations on your record. It looks at all of the violations for which you have ever been convicted. In other words, every violation during your lifetime can have increasing penalties.

  • License Suspension and Revocation

Georgia traffic tickets for severe violations can result in the suspension or revocation of your driver license. These two possibilities function in similar, yet different, ways. With suspended licenses, you may be able to get them back. That is not the case for revoked licenses.

A license suspension comes in two forms: definite and indefinite. A definite suspension is one that lasts for a predetermined period of time. For example, 12 months. Indefinite suspensions can last until you've done whatever the court wants you to do. Then you pay a fee and you'll get your license back.

A license revocation also can be definite or indefinite. However, you don't get a revoked license back after the revocation period. Instead, you have to get an entirely new one.

If you are convicted of two major traffic violations over your entire lifetime, your driving privilege in Georgia will forever be revoked.

  • Jail Time

The majority of traffic tickets in Georgia are criminal, which means that they can send you to jail. That's true even if you qualify for the first-time offender discount. Of course, few tickets will actually send you to jail. For example, Georgia traffic courts rarely send people to jail over a speeding ticket. If jail time is up for discussion, then you will have the right to a jury trial.

If you fail to appear in court for a Georgia traffic ticket that has a mandatory appearance date, the court might issue a bench warrant. That warrant will allow police officers to arrest you and force you to go before the court.

Georgia Driver License Point System

When you get a traffic ticket in Georgia, another penalty you'll have to deal with is the state's point system. Driver license points are added to your license whenever a court finds you guilty of a traffic violation. Getting more than 14 points on your license within a 24-month period will cause the court to suspend your license.

The point of these points is to prevent harmful behavior and repeat offenders from getting back behind the wheel. Unfortunately, many first-time offenders will also find themselves adding points to their license.

Like with fines, Georgia's driver license point system follows a schedule. The main difference between the two schedules is that the points schedule is much more strict. Whereas the fine schedule of each city leaves a bit of wiggle room, the points schedule does no such thing.

These points stay on your record forever. However, after two years, they become "inactive." That means they are no longer counted against you for suspension, but the Department of Driver Services (DDS) can still use them against you in future traffic court cases.

The DDS imposes points for convictions of many crimes as described in the Uniform Rules of the Road. Here are a few examples: | Code Section | Violation Description | Number of Points | |---|---|---| | 40-6-2 | Failure to Obey a Person Directing Traffic | 3 | | 40-6-45 | Improper Passing on a Hill or Curve | 4 | | 40-6-56 | Failure to Maintain Safe Distance from Bicycle | 3 | | 40-6-163 | Unlawful Passing of a School Bus | 6 | | Varies | Speeding | Up to 6. |

Driver Improvement Courses in Georgia

Unless you plan to wait 24 months, there is only one way that you can remove active points from your driver license: take a driver improvement course. Also called defensive driving courses, these courses are a crucial part of the point reduction application process with the DDS.

According to the Official Code of Georgia (OCGA) §40-5-86, drivers in Georgia are allowed to file a point reduction application for up to seven points every five years. That application requires that you submit a certificate of completion from one of these courses to the DDS either by mail or in person.

Driver improvement courses can come with a tuition price and a few small fees along the way. But that can all be a small price to pay if you're worried about having your license suspended.

Georgia Traffic Court

All non-criminal Georgia traffic tickets go straight to traffic court. Sometimes, traffic courts will also handle misdemeanors when the prosecutors have decided to waive the criminal charges in favor of pursuing the civil charges. That's legalese for saying, "No jail. Yes fine."

The court process is the same from court to court, but the courtroom procedures are likely to be unique to each court. These courts handle dozens or even hundreds of cases each day, which means you'll only have a small window of time to present your case.

Contact Information

When dealing with Georgia traffic tickets, you'll want to have the contact information of three different people: somebody at the court, somebody at the DDS, and your lawyer.

To find the court that you need to contact, see the below section on how to read a Georgia traffic ticket. Once you know which court is handling your case, you can search for its contact information online.

If you have any questions about points on your driver license, statewide fees, or other traffic laws in Georgia, you can contact the Department of Driver Services at any of the following phone numbers:

  • (678) 413-8400
  • (678) 413-8500
  • (678) 413-8600

In order to maximize your odds of a positive outcome for your ticket, you should maintain contact with your lawyer throughout the court process.

Additional Resources

  1. A list of all certified driver improvement schools in Georgia.
  2. Contact information for the DDS.
  3. List of DDS locations.

Georgia Traffic Ticket Process

Georgia traffic tickets go through a process known as traffic court. Traffic court is where all of the non-criminal traffic violation cases go when people contest them. Some traffic court judges will also handle preliminary hearings and other tasks before sending those cases back to criminal court. As long as jail time is not a potential penalty, you'll be going to traffic court.

That means you'll need to know how to read your ticket. Read the section below to find out how. Once you've gotten the necessary information from your ticket, you're ready to hire a lawyer. Your lawyer will need to know everything about your case in order to win it. That means pictures, videos, and other evidence can really come in handy.

Once you're done reading your ticket, your lawyer will advise you how to plea. Contesting a traffic ticket almost always means pleading not guilty. Rare exceptions are states like Washington, which allow you to contest a traffic ticket even after pleading guilty. Georgia is not one of those states.

There's a lot more to Georgia's traffic court process than what can be written out in a single section. You'll find much more detailed information in the sections below, but know that the best way to answer your questions is by contacting a lawyer through the WinIt app.

How to Read a Georgia Traffic Ticket

Look at the sample traffic ticket below:

This ticket has a ton of information on it, which can make it confusing. Understanding all of it can make a big difference in your case. Breaking down the ticket into sections can make that easier.

On the top of the first page is the information about you and your vehicle. That's pretty straightforward. Your home address, your vehicle's registration number, and similar information.

In the middle of the first page is your offense accusation. This section details the charges against you and the issuing officer's comments. It also describes the circumstances surrounding the ticket when you received it. For example, the officer can check the box for "cloudy" when giving you an imprudent speed ticket.

The bottom of the first page shows the court's information. That's where you'll find your court date, which is one of the most important parts of the ticket.

The back page lists plea options and sentencing. This is where you'll enter your plea.

Plea Options for Georgia Traffic Tickets

There are three traffic ticket plea options in Georgia. Those options are guilty, no contest, and not guilty. Each of these three plea options comes with its own pros and cons. However, one stands out from the rest: Not Guilty.

Pleading not guilty is the only way to defend yourself in a court of law against the officer's accusations. This section will provide a detailed explanation of the three traffic ticket plea options as they pertain to Georgia. However, for more information on plea options, check out the articles on WinIt's blog.

  • Guilty

A plea of guilty is an admission of all charges. To plead guilty is to tell the court that you did everything the officer says you did in the exact way that he says. A plea of guilty is your way of admitting that everything on the ticket is correct and provable.

If so much as a single fact on the ticket is not both correct and provable, you might not want to plead guilty. The phrase "correct and provable" matters a lot here. If you didn't do something, it's not correct, which means you might win your case. If you did do something but the officer can't prove it, you might be able to win your case.

  • No Contest (Nolo Contendere)

No contest pleas are similar to guilty pleas, but have one major benefit: They can't be used against you in a civil suit. To plead no contest is to tell the court that you will accept the penalties but did not commit the violation. In other words, "I didn't do that, but okay."

Let's say you plead guilty to a reckless driving violation. While driving recklessly, you rear-ended a person and damaged their vehicle. That person's lawyers can use your guilty plea as evidence against you if they decide to sue you for damages. With a no contest plea, that person's lawyers would have to start from scratch.

  • Not Guilty

The only way to contest your traffic ticket in Georgia is to plead not guilty. To plead not guilty is to tell the court that you did not commit the violation and you will not accept the penalties. This plea option begins the traffic ticket dispute process. You will need to pay special attention to your charges, the citation number, and your court date.

A not guilty plea enables you to go to court and contest the ticket in front of the judge. Oftentimes, you will have to testify against the police officer who wrote the ticket. Other times, there will just be a prosecutor. Sometimes, you'll get lucky and nobody will show. Then you get your ticket dismissed.

  • Plea Bargaining

The state of Georgia does allow plea bargaining. However, each jurisdiction has the right to ban that. A great analogy is New York state versus New York City. New York state allows plea bargaining, but New York City does not.

Plea bargaining is the process of negotiating a plea agreement with the prosecution. This means pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for lesser penalties. Plea bargaining almost always requires you to plead not guilty beforehand. Another thing to note is that judges have the power to overrule your plea agreement if they deem it necessary.

How to Fight Georgia Traffic Tickets

Like we said earlier, it all starts with a plea of not guilty. Once you've pleaded not guilty, you can start fighting your ticket. That means heading to traffic court on the date listed on the bottom of the first page of your ticket. Of course, there are two different processes for Georgia traffic tickets: civil and criminal court.

Civil court is the umbrella category under which all non-criminal court cases are handled. That includes traffic court cases. Criminal court is the umbrella category under which all criminal court cases are handled. That does not include traffic court cases. However, misdemeanor and felony traffic cases will still go to criminal court.

  • Infractions

Parking and non-criminal traffic tickets are both considered infractions. Although the two are quite different, they often go through the same process. Many municipal courts in Georgia even use the same court rooms for both parking and traffic tickets.

If you've plead guilty or no contest to a ticket, you're done. The process ends there. Simply pay the ticket, bear the penalties, and hope you can still afford rent.

If you've pleaded not guilty, you then have to go to court on the date listed on your ticket. You will then have a few minutes to contest your ticket in front of the judge. After that, the judge will render a verdict and decide which penalties (if any) to apply.

  • Misdemeanors and Felonies

Misdemeanors and felonies are criminal traffic violations. These violations go to criminal court. However, you'll notice that not all misdemeanors go to criminal court. Most speeding tickets, for example, go straight to traffic court. That's because, in most cases, the courts can decide whether they want to dole out jail time.

When courts do decide that they want to offer jail time, you will have to go to criminal court. You then have the right to a speedy and fair jury trial. This process is much longer and more time consuming than the process for traffic infractions.

How to Pay Georgia Traffic Tickets

You can pay Georgia traffic tickets in many different ways. It all depends on the court. That said, the Department of Driver Services accepts mail, phone, and online payments. If you live in Georgia and are a licensed Georgia driver, then you can pay most of your fines, fees, and other costs online. If you are an out-of-state driver, then you might have to make travel arrangements.

Georgia's Department of Driver Services only offers a limited services fee payment service for out-of-state drivers. This service only applies to super speeder fees and reinstatement fees. If you do not want to travel back to Georgia to pay your ticket, you can consider hiring a lawyer to do so.

The WinIt app allows you to either hire a lawyer or make payments in the easiest possible way.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I look up Georgia traffic tickets?

Georgia traffic tickets are impossible to look up. You cannot find them online through the DMV, through the DDS, or through any other agency's website. The only way to look up lost or missing traffic tickets is by asking the court. That is, assuming you can remember which court you were assigned.

  1. How many points is a traffic ticket worth in Georgia?

A single traffic ticket in Georgia can give you up to six points. Each additional ticket can give you additional points.

  1. Should I hire a traffic ticket attorney?

Yes. Traffic ticket attorneys are much more likely to win traffic ticket cases than most people are by themselves. If your case does not have the potential to win, many attorneys will still be able to negotiate lower penalties on your behalf.

  1. How can I get a traffic ticket dismissed?

Contesting a traffic ticket is the only way to get it dismissed. If you plead guilty or no contest, then the ticket will turn into a conviction. More severe violations are never dismissed before court. Examples include drunk driving and other criminal cases that result in bodily injury or death.

  1. How can I reduce the number of points on my license in Georgia?

There are only a few ways to reduce the total number of points on your license. Among the most successful is traffic school. By successfully completing a defensive driving course, you can apply to have up to seven points removed from your license every five years.

  1. How can I get a copy of my driving record?

Georgia's DMV allows you to search your driving records online. If you want to get a full copy of your driving record, you will need to request a copy of your motor vehicle record (MVR) from the DMV.

  1. Can my employer see my driving record?

Yes. Employers are authorized to request a copy of your certified MVR. This is most commonly done when an employee will be driving a work vehicle. If your boss lets you drive for any reason while on the clock, they will most likely want a copy of your driving record.

  1. How many points can I get before Georgia suspends my license?

That depends on your age. If you are under 18 years old, the total is four points within 12 months. If you are over 18 years old but under 21, you can lose your license for a single four-point violation. If you are 21 years or older, the total is 15 points within 24 months.

  1. What is a super speeder?

Under Georgia's Super Speeder Law, a super speeder is anybody who drives more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit. This comes with additional fines, fees, and other penalties. A common penalty is an additional $200 fine on top of the original penalty.

  1. How can I get out of a bad speeding ticket?

Plead not guilty. Once you plead not guilty, you begin the traffic ticket dispute process. This process enables you and/or your attorney to go to court, fight the charges, and get a positive result. Keep in mind that there is always a risk that you might end up paying for attorney fees as well as the original ticket.

  1. What is a traffic citation?

Traffic citations are traffic tickets. The two terms are interchangeable. However, the official court practice is to use the term "citation."

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