Pennsylvania Traffic Ticket Information

There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania and each of them is swimming in traffic tickets. According to government data from 2013 to 2017, police officers in the state wrote almost seven million traffic citations. That means hundreds of millions of dollars in fine revenue for the state. The traffic ticket information in this article will help make sure you don't fall prey to excessive traffic tickets.

Roughly seven million traffic tickets amounts to an average of 1.4 million traffic tickets each year. But that number has been increasing with each passing year. In 2018, police officers around the state issued almost 1.6 million traffic tickets. That's 14% more tickets than the previous average. This number boils down to about 3,796 traffic tickets each day.

Let's look at this traffic ticket information another way. There are about nine million licensed drivers in the state. With 1.6 million tickets, that's about one ticket for every five people. In other words, there is about a 20% chance that you will get at least one traffic ticket each year.

Since almost all of these tickets cost more than $100 after adding together all of their penalties, a single conviction can have serious consequences. Fortunately, you have options. This article contains all of the information you'll need for a basic understanding of Pennsylvania traffic tickets.

Table of contents

Pennsylvania Parking Tickets

As you might expect, parking tickets are not the same as traffic tickets. Parking tickets are offenses committed when nobody is operating the vehicle. Another difference between parking tickets and traffic tickets is that parking tickets are written to the registered owner of the vehicle, whereas traffic tickets are written to the operator of the vehicle.

Examples of parking violations are as follows:

  • Double parking.
  • Blocking traffic.
  • Parking in a handicapped spot.
  • Blocking a fire hydrant.

There are countless other ways to get a parking ticket in Pennsylvania. Local governments have a wide range of wiggle room for creating and enforcing their own parking violations. Be sure to brush up on the specific rules in your location before making any decisions.

Pennsylvania Traffic Tickets

There are two kinds of Pennsylvania traffic violations: moving and non-moving. Each of these kinds of traffic violations also has three degrees of criminality, which we'll cover in the next section.

Moving violations occur when the vehicle is in motion. In other words, somebody has to be driving the vehicle in order to get the ticket. However, passengers can still get ticketed for moving violations. A great example of this is seatbelt violations. Both the driver and the passenger may receive tickets for seatbelt violations.

Non-moving violations occur when the vehicle is not in motion. Although this sounds simple, it's a little more complicated than that. Violations like stopping or standing are both non-moving violations. But so are equipment offenses. Equipment violations are considered non-moving violations even if you get one while operating your vehicle.

Infractions

Traffic infractions are minor violations. These are the lowest on the totem pole in the criminal justice system and don't have the potential to send you to jail. Traffic infractions in Pennsylvania are non-criminal traffic offenses. Both parking tickets and traffic tickets count as traffic infractions, according to the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code (PVC).

Traffic infractions tend to have the lowest fines and other penalties. That being said, the penalties for traffic infractions are still quite severe. They can cost hundreds of dollars, lead to higher insurance premiums, and more.

Misdemeanors and Felonies

Misdemeanors and felonies are both criminal traffic tickets. Not only do they come with higher monetary costs, they can also send you to jail.

Misdemeanors are the next step up from traffic infractions. Although misdemeanors can come with serious consequences, they are usually considered minor offenses. That means there is more leeway in the legal process.

Felonies, however, do not have such leeway. Felonies include the most severe vehicle code violations in the state. One example of a felony traffic violation is vehicular homicide. These offenses are often prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Fortunately, many Pennsylvania traffic tickets are non-criminal infractions.

How Much a Traffic Ticket Costs in Pennsylvania

The total cost of traffic tickets in Pennsylvania can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars. How much your ticket costs will depend on many different factors. Examples include whether the violation were committed in a school zone, what the violation entails, and which county the violation happened in.

Then there are fix-it tickets. Fix-it tickets don't cost any more than the price you pay to fix the violation and have it re-inspected. Pennsylvania police officers only write these tickets for equipment violations. For example, if you're caught driving with a broken headlight, you might be able to beat your ticket if you fix the headlight in time.

Fines

The traffic ticket fine is what you pay when you get your traffic ticket. It is usually the value listed on the ticket, but that's not always the case. The fines for traffic tickets in Pennsylvania are uniform across the state, except for in cities of first class, such as Philadelphia.

Philadelphia and other cities with more than one million residents have a degree of wiggle room regarding traffic fines.

Overall, Pennsylvania traffic ticket fines are not all that bad. They're almost always less than $100 and tend to be less than $70. But fines are only one small part of traffic ticket penalties in Pennsylvania.

Fees

Traffic ticket fees are hidden costs that you might not know about until you go to pay your fines. These fees could be anything from a simple credit card convenience fee to an expensive suspension lift fee. One of the most common traffic ticket fees is the $10 Judicial Computer Program Fee. Other common fees include court costs from hearings and proceedings.

Fees apply to most of the bureaucratic parts of driving in Pennsylvania. Getting a new license, renewing your registration, and other actions all have fees in most of the state. Sometimes these fees overlap with traffic ticket procedures, particularly when you get more than six points in a short period of time. We'll talk more about that later.

Surcharges

Like fees, surcharges are a hidden cost that may surprise you when you go to pay your ticket. Surcharges only apply after convictions, which is why it can be hard to spot them beforehand. Unfortunately, surcharges tend to be much more expensive than the tickets themselves.

For example, let's say you get a traffic ticket for going 60 mph in a 45-mph zone. The fine would be $55 in most parts of the state. Then the surcharge for a first offense would be $75. If this is your second conviction, then you'll be paying double the surcharge. These additional costs could double, triple, or even quadruple the price of your ticket.

Insurance Increases

Accordingto the Zebra's 2019 State of Auto Insurance Report, there are many different ways to increase your insurance premiums. Let's continue with our speeding example from earlier. Fines and surcharges for speeding fifteen miles per hour in a 45-mph zone will, for a first offense, be $140 or $150.

For that violation, you are looking at an insurance rate increase of 20.9% for up to five years. With average car insurance premiums of $1,390, your new insurance premium would be around $1,681. That's $290 more each year. Over five years, you could end up paying $1,450 extra.

Add that to the original fines and surcharges and you get a total penalty of $1,600. That's not including potential court costs, which could be as expensive as the surcharges.

Non-Monetary Penalties

Fines, fees, surcharges, and insurance increases are bad enough as-is, but there are even more potential penalties for Pennsylvania traffic tickets. Common penalties are license suspension or revocation and jail time. But there is also a long list of other non-monetary penalties that warrant a brief mention.

For certain offenses, your vehicle could be confiscated. Your vehicle may be towed or impounded. Your vehicle may be booted. You might have to deal with civil action and lawsuits. Many of these non-monetary penalties also lead to increased monetary penalties down the road.

  • License Suspension and Revocation

License suspensions and revocations are similar in a lot of ways. Both involve you losing your driving privileges and potentially facing further legal action. They can also both be the result of you getting too many points on your driver license.

Suspensions differ from revocations in that you may still get your driver license back after lifting the suspension. Revocations do not give you that possibility. If the court revokes your driver license, you will have to go through the process of getting an entirely new one.

  • Jail Time

Misdemeanors and felonies come with the potential to add jail time to your penalties. This can be for as little as a few days or as many as a few decades. How much jail time, if any, the court decides to give you will depend on the charges and the circumstances surrounding the offense.

Jail time is not a common penalty for traffic offenses, but it is very much a possibility. Keep in mind that most traffic ticket lawyers do not handle criminal traffic ticket cases. In such cases, you should consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney instead.

Pennsylvania Driver License Point System

Like many states, Pennsylvania uses a driver license point system based on the severity of certain offenses. More severe offenses will result in a higher number of points. Keep in mind that even [traffic tickets with no points]https://blog.appwinit.com/traffic-tickets-with-no-points/) can result in insurance increases and other penalties.

If you get more than six points on your license at any given time, you will have to complete a driving exam within 30 days of conviction. Failure to do so will result in license suspension. There are also many different ways to have your license suspended or revoked without regard to points.

Pennsylvania Drivers with New York Traffic Tickets

If you are licensed to drive in Pennsylvania and you get a traffic ticket out of state, you might still receive points on your Pennsylvania driver license. On the bright side, Pennsylvania doesn't tend to apply points for minor traffic violations occurring in other states. So, if you routinely travel into New York, you might not have to worry about New York traffic violations adding to your point count.

However, these points will most likely still appear on your driving record. Since they still appear on your driving record, you still have to worry about your insurance premiums increasing. In New York, traffic tickets stay on your record for up to four years.

Another thing to note is that New York City traffic tickets are different from those in the rest of the state.

Pennsylvania Traffic School: Alcohol Highway Safety School

Pennsylvania does not have any kind of mandatory traffic school. For most violations, there is no penalty including mandatory attendance at a traffic school. However, there is the Alcohol Highway Safety School (AHSS).

Attendance in an AHSS program is mandatory for anybody who has been convicted of an alcohol-related traffic violation. This does not apply to standard Pennsylvania traffic tickets, only to those involving alcohol.

The downside to Pennsylvania's lack of traffic school options is that you can't often use traffic school to get out of your traffic tickets, like you can in other states. This may still be an option during plea bargaining, which we will discuss later on.

Pennsylvania Traffic Court

There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania, all of which have some kind of traffic court process. The phrase "traffic court" often refers to a program through which judges handle large numbers of traffic and parking ticket hearings. These hearings tend to take place at the municipal or county level, though larger cities may use unique processes.

Criminal traffic cases do not go through traffic court. Except under rare circumstances, Pennsylvania traffic courts will not oversee anything more than preliminary hearings for criminal traffic offenses.

Traffic infractions, however, go directly into traffic court. These courts handle hundreds of thousands of cases every year, averaging out to 3,796 cases each day. Of course, many of those cases are resolved before ever going to court, but the court still has to undergo internal processes to finalize each ticket. That means each county has to handle an average of 57 cases every day.

Since so many cases go through traffic courts on a daily basis, the hearings tend to take on a lightning-round style. The officer testifies to the ticket. You explain why you don't deserve the penalties. The judge makes a decision and that's that. This demand for in-depth legal knowledge at breakneck speeds is why you should always hire a traffic ticket lawyer.

Contact Information

In most cases, there's little use in contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or other agency at the state level to handle your ticket. That's because traffic tickets in Pennsylvania are handled on the local level. Who you should contact depends on which court has jurisdiction over your traffic ticket.

For example, if you get a speeding ticket in Philadelphia, you will have to go through Jefferson County Court. For a full list of county court locations and contact information, consult the website of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania (JSP). That website has an interactive map that will help you find the website of your local court.

Additional Resources

The best resource to use in the traffic ticket process is the WinIt App for Appleand Androids. WinIt handles your traffic ticket dispute or payment process from start to finish, guiding you through every step of the way. WinIt also maintains a blog of high-quality traffic ticket content, updated multiple times each week.

Another great resource is the Attorney General's data on Magisterial District Court Caseloads in Pennsylvania. This can be confusing and difficult to navigate, which is why the government also released multiple data dashboards with information about how to use it.

Pennsylvania Traffic Ticket Process

The Pennsylvania traffic ticket process works much like most other states. It starts with the ticket, moves on to the plea, then court, and finally payment. Each step along the way has a considerable amount of court protocols in place that could either be a hurdle or the key to winning your case.

Navigating Pennsylvania's traffic courts can seem like a daunting task for anybody—and it is! That's why you should consider hiring a traffic ticket attorney to represent you in your case.

Whether you hire an attorney or not, you will need to know how to read and respond to your traffic ticket. Once you've learned that information, you can move on to trial with clear head and well-prepared notes.

How to Read a Pennsylvania Traffic Ticket

There are three main sections of a Pennsylvania traffic ticket. The first section contains lines 1 through 23. This section provides information about the court and you. The Docket Number in line 2 is your case number. That's the most important part of the ticket. The second section contains lines 23 to 48. This is where you'll find the charges against you, the fine therefor , and other information about the alleged violation. At the bottom of this section, in lines 46, 47, and 48 are where you will have to sign to plead guilty to the ticket. The third section of Pennsylvania traffic tickets is information about the police officer who wrote the ticket. This example is from the Harrisburg County Police Department. This information might not seem relevant to most people, but it can be vital to defeating your ticket in the hands of a lawyer.

How to Plead to Pennsylvania Traffic Tickets

There are three plea options in Pennsylvania: Guilty, no contest, and not guilty. Although guilty and no contest pleas are similar in many ways, they have important differences. Not-guilty pleas are quite the opposite of guilty pleas. Pennsylvania also allows you to plea-bargain for better results.

Which course of action is right for you depends on your circumstances and goals. If you want to get the ticket over with as soon as possible, you can plead guilty and pay the full consequences. If you believe that you don't deserve the ticket and want to fight it, you must plead not guilty.

A common misconception is that you can plead guilty and still get off with a good enough reason. In reality, the only way to get in front of a judge is to plead not guilty. Otherwise, your ticket immediately becomes a conviction.

  • Guilty

To plead guilty is to accept full responsibility for the charges as written. The phrase "as written" is very important here. Let's say an officer writes you a ticket for speeding 20 miles per hour over the limit. You really were speeding, but only 10 miles per hour over the limit. Since the charges are for 20 miles per hour, they are false.

Guilty pleas are considered prima facie evidence in civil cases. That's legalese for, "If you plead guilty, they can sue you." If you plead guilty to a DUI that resulted in somebody's injury, the court will take that plea as evidence in any future lawsuits against you.

  • No Contest (Nolo Contendere)

Nolo contendere (no contest) pleas are almost identical to guilty pleas. However, there is one key difference between the two pleas: No contest pleas are not acceptable prima facie evidence.

To plead no contest to a Pennsylvania traffic ticket is to accept the penalties but deny responsibility. This enables you to avoid future lawsuits based on the traffic violation. Unfortunately, judges have the ability to deny no contest pleas if they believe the law demands it.

  • Not Guilty

Not guilty pleas are the cornerstone of the fight against traffic tickets. To plead not guilty is to say that you will neither admit guilt to the charges nor accept the penalties. This is what you do when you want to fight the ticket.

Not guilty pleas make it possible to contest the ticket in court. That comes with its own pros and cons. For example, fighting a ticket in court might cost you more if you lose than if you had simply paid the ticket in the first place. Or it could cost you only a fraction of the original fine if you get the ticket dismissed.

It all depends on whether you're willing to accept a bit of risk for a high potential reward.

  • Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is the process of negotiating a plea option with better results. It involves negotiating with a prosecutor, police officer, or judge in exchange for reduced penalties. Plea bargains often lead to you pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for lesser penalties.

This is a mutually beneficial process, both for the court and yourself. You stand to gain a reduction in your penalties and the court stands to gain a quick end to your case. To start the plea bargaining process, you must first plead not guilty.

How to Fight Pennsylvania Traffic Tickets

Fighting a Pennsylvania traffic ticket often takes considerable time and effort, but it doesn't have to. Once you've gone through the system two or three times, you start to get the hang of things. Unfortunately, nobody wants to get two or three traffic ticket convictions before learning how to beat them.

That's where lawyers come in. Lawyers go through the process dozens of times each day, handling traffic infractions in bulk. However, the way that traffic infractions and criminal traffic violations are handled is entirely different. Here's how:

  • Traffic Infractions

Traffic infractions go through the traffic court process. When you receive your ticket, it should include a docket number. That's your case number, sometimes called a citation number. You'll then take that to court, plead during a hearing, contest the ticket if you want to, and be done with it.

Although the preparation and buildup for the hearing can take many hours over the course of a couple weeks, the actual hearing can be over in the blink of an eye. The downside of this is that you only have the blink of an eye to present your case.

  • Misdemeanors and Felonies

Court cases for misdemeanors and felonies are just the opposite of traffic infractions. Whereas traffic infraction court cases end in a matter of minutes, criminal court cases can last months. They also go to trial, unlike infractions.

Criminal cases allow you to request a trial by jury in order to contest your charges over the span of a couple days, usually. There are very few traffic attorneys who also handle criminal traffic cases. Instead, you should consider consulting with a skilled criminal defense attorney.

How to Pay Pennsylvania Traffic Tickets

There are two good ways to pay a Pennsylvania traffic ticket: Through the WinIt App or through the court itself.

The WinIt App allows you to submit payment for any traffic tickets without all the hassle of other methods. You simply enter your payment information and we do the rest.

The next best method of payment is to pay online using the court's online services. Unfortunately, not all counties have fully digitized their services. That means you may have to mail payment or go to the court directly. This could be particularly challenging if you live out of the area.

Frequently Asked Questions

And that's it! That's all the Pennsylvania traffic ticket information that you need to know to get started fighting your ticket. Of course, this is only the beginning. Now you need to decide whether you'd like to brave your own path or hire a lawyer to handle things on your behalf.

If you still have questions, feel free to comment them below. Our team of skilled Pennsylvania traffic ticket experts will respond as soon as possible. In the meantime, head over to our blog for more helpful tips and tricks or read through the frequently asked questions below:

  1. What if you lost your traffic ticket?

If you have lost your traffic ticket, you need to look it up as soon as possible. The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles has a web page dedicated to helping people pay their tickets. On that web page is a list of methods for finding your ticket. Searching by name may be the most helpful.

  1. What is a citation number?

Your citation number is your docket number. Many traffic tickets in Pennsylvania will list the docket number early on in the ticket. In the sample ticket above, the docket number is in box/line number two.

  1. Do I have to respond to my traffic ticket?

Yes. Failure to respond to your traffic ticket is another violation in and of itself. That means you would then be facing additional charges. That's not to mention late fees and additional penalties for failure to appear, if you missed your original court date.

  1. Can you appeal traffic ticket convictions in Pennsylvania?

Yes. Pennsylvania traffic tickets are eligible for judicial review if you file the necessary appeal forms within 30 days of your conviction. Police officers, however, are not often allowed to appeal not-guilty verdicts.

  1. What is a summary offense?

Summary offenses are traffic infractions. These phrases are interchangeable. In many places, "summary offenses" is a more common phrase than "traffic infractions." However, most jurisdictions recognize that the two phrases have similar meanings.

  1. Can you pay Pennsylvania traffic tickets online?

Yes. Most counties in Pennsylvania allow you to pay traffic tickets online, in person, or by mail. However, there are still a few jurisdictions that have not created an online payment portal.

  1. Can Pennsylvania police mail you a ticket?

Yes. Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code does not require you to sign for a ticket. Police officers can mail you the ticket, regardless of whether you sign for it or not.

  1. How do I find my court date?

The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania (JSP) has an online portal dedicated to helping people locate public records. Traffic tickets and court cases are often a matter of public record. That means you could use the JSP system to find your court case and therefore your court date.

  1. Do police officers have to show up to court?

Yes. Although police officers do not physically have to be in attendance, they must submit their side of the story. If a police officer neither attends the hearing nor files the proper paperwork for a trial by mail, then the court will dismiss the case for lack of evidence.

  1. How long do points stay on my record in Pennsylvania?

At least 12 months. Every 12 months, you may be eligible for a three-point reduction in your active points.

  1. What is the statute of limitations on traffic tickets in Pennsylvania?

Three years. Police officers in Pennsylvania have the privilege of sending your traffic tickets for any offense committed within the last three years. If they have already sent you a traffic ticket, it will not expire.

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