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What are Arizona Traffic Tickets?

In Arizona, traffic tickets are issued by law enforcement agents to motorists or other road users who violate state Traffic and Vehicle Regulation laws. The type of traffic violation in question determines the type of ticket issued. Persons issued with traffic tickets may pay or dispute the tickets. While payment is an admission of guilt, challenging the traffic ticket typically requires a court hearing. Offenders may also attend a defensive driving school or plead guilty with an explanation in court. Typically, traffic tickets contain information about the offense, associated fines and penalties, and the local court where payments or disputes can be made.

Failure to respond to traffic tickets may result in the offender’s driver’s license being suspended and driving privilege revoked. It can also lead to increased fines or arrest. The Arizona Department of Transportation and the courts manage traffic tickets.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Does a Traffic Citation Mean?

Arizona, traffic citations are court summons issued when a road user violates state’s Traffic and Vehicle Regulation laws. They are typically issued following severe traffic violations, such as criminal moving violations. The recipient is required to appear in court to either pay or dispute the citation. Traffic tickets, on the other hand, can be resolved without a court appearance in many cases. However, in Arizona, the terms “citation” and “tickets” are used interchangeably.

Defendants in civil and criminal traffic cases have a right to:

  • Represent themselves in court or be represented by a lawyer
  • Present evidence
  • Question witnesses
  • Appeal a traffic hearing decision or outcome

The court may appoint lawyers to criminal traffic case defendants who cannot afford to hire lawyers.

How Do I Pay a Traffic Ticket in Arizona?

Persons who have been issued traffic tickets may pay online, in person at the courthouse, on the phone, or by mail. Available payment options vary by court. To determine what options are available at a particular court, interested persons may contact the courts directly. Traffic tickets contain information about the court to which the traffic ticket was issued.

Individuals who choose to pay their tickets must do so before their scheduled court date, typically 30 days from when the violation occurred. Most courts accept payments by cash, money orders, credit or debit cards, and cashier’s checks. Some courts, like the Maricopa County Justice Court and Phoenix Municipal Court, also have online payment portals. The court may permit persons who can prove that they cannot afford to pay in full to pay in installments.

Criminal traffic violations cannot be paid online—offenders must appear in court at the scheduled date. However, they may opt to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the citation.

Persons who choose to pay traffic tickets must note that payment is considered an admission of guilt. Depending on the violation, this may add points to the person’s driving record, result in a driver’s license suspension, and increased auto insurance premiums. Instead of paying or pleading guilty to a traffic ticket, eligible offenders may attend a Defensive Driving Course. The Supreme Court administers the course through various court-approved schools. Offenders must complete the Defensive Driving Course no less than seven days before the scheduled court hearing. They may also request extensions from the court.

If the offender completes the course, such a person must submit proof of completion to the court. Upon completion, the court will dismiss the traffic ticket or citation, and the offender will no longer be required to pay the applicable fine. Additionally, there will be no points assessed against the person’s driving record.

Can You Pay Arizona Traffic Tickets Online?

Yes, parties can pay Arizona traffic tickets online. Some courts have portals where offenders can pay traffic tickets. Most cities or counties provide different payment portals for parking violations.

Generally, parties cannot pay criminal traffic violations online. In Cochise County, some courts do not accept online payments for juvenile traffic violations without court approval. The court does not also accept online payments for tickets issued for vehicular insurance and financial responsibility violations listed in §ARS 28–4135. Offenders may visit each court’s website for up-to-date information about acceptable payment options.

How Do I Pay a Ticket Online in Arizona?

Traffic tickets contain information about the court to which the offender can make payment. To pay a ticket online, interested persons may visit the court’s website. Information required may include:

  • Ticket/citation number
  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Vehicle license number
  • Vehicle registration information

What is the Arizona Traffic Ticketing System?

Arizona traffic violations are classified into:

  • Moving violations: These are violations committed while a vehicle is in motion. Moving violations are more severe than parking violations and often attract severe consequences.

Moving violations can be further classified into:

  • Criminal violations: Offenses that could result in a criminal charge are criminal traffic violations. These offenses can be felonies or misdemeanors. Examples include vehicular manslaughter, careless driving, and driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drugs (DUI). There are additional penalties for criminal violations in addition to tickets, including imprisonment, community service, court-ordered driving classes, a revocation of the offender’s driving privileges, and driver’s license suspension.
  • Civil traffic violations: These are less severe violations than criminal violations as they do not involve criminal offenses. However, these violations are more serious than parking violations and can lead to points assessed against the offender’s permanent driving record. Examples of civil traffic violations are running a red light or illegal street crossing.
  • Parking or non-moving violations: These are traffic offenses that occur while a vehicle is parked. They can also be related to faulty vehicular equipment.

Arizona uses a point-based system to penalize traffic violations. Serious traffic violations attract higher points, while less severe violations attract fewer points, and in some cases, no points at all. Drivers who accumulate eight points or more in 12 months will either have licenses suspended for up to one year or be required to attend Traffic Survival School (TSS). Persons with points against their driving records may also have increased auto insurance premiums.

For a single traffic offense, the highest number of points a motorist or road user can accumulate is eight points. Arizona’s point-based system is as follows:

  • 8-point violations: DUI, aggressive driving, reckless driving, and extreme DUI are 8-point traffic violations.
  • 6-point violations: failure to yield right of way, stop at a stop sign or traffic signal that causes death; hit and run; and leaving an accident scene are 6-point violations
  • 4-point violations: failure to yield right of way, stop at a stop sign or traffic signal that causes serious injury is a 4-point violation
  • 3-point offenses: parking in or driving over a gore area, and speeding are 3-point violations
  • 2-point violations: other moving violations apart from the above-listed are 2-point violations.

To avoid amassing points on their permanent driving record, individuals may choose to attend a Defensive Driving Course. The Supreme Court administers the course, and upon completion, the violation charge laid against the offender will be dismissed. The following are eligibility requirements for taking the course:

  • The offender must not have attended a Defensive Driving Course in the 12 months before the ticket was issued.
  • Persons with multiple violations may apply to have only one of them dismissed
  • Violations that involve fatal accidents or serious injuries are not eligible.
  • The violation in question must be eligible to be dismissed through the completion of a Defensive Driving Course.
  • Online and in-person classes are available. However, if the court orders an in-person course, the offender must take the course in person.
  • Offenders must complete the course at least seven (7) days before the scheduled court hearing.

Commercial driver’s license holders may be eligible to take a Defensive Driving Course if:

  • At the time of the violation, the vehicle was not in commercial use
  • The class of license required for the car is M or D
  • The driver must meet all other requirements for the Defensive Driving Course

If a traffic offender completes the course and sends the court proof of completion, the court will forward the record to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). There will be no points assessed against the driver’s record. The court may also grant an extension if an offender requests on time. The Arizona Courts website lists approved Defensive Driving schools and courses.

How Do I Know if I Have a Traffic Ticket in Arizona?

An Arizona Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) is the driving record of road users or motorists registered in Arizona. It contains information about the state of the owner’s license, any accidents, traffic offenses, and any outstanding tickets. Interested persons may request their MVR or driving records from the Motor Vehicle Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation. Requestors may submit requests for their driving records online, in person, or by mail. Parties must submit a completed and notarized Motor Vehicle Record Request form to request by mail. An MVD agent must notarize the requestor’s signature. Completed forms can be mailed to:

Records Unit
Motor Vehicle Division
P O Box 2100
Phoenix, AZ 85001–2100

Interested persons may also submit requests in person at an MVD office or with an authorized third-party provider. The MVD charges $3 for uncertified records, which typically contain a three-year driving history. Certified records cost $5 and include a five-year driving history. For online searches, the $3 fee applies even if the search does not return any results.

Federal and state Driver Privacy Protection Acts (DPPA) guide the dissemination of driving records. Requestors must have a permissible use to obtain driving records that contain personal information such as social security numbers, name, address, and driver’s license numbers.

How Can I Find a Lost Traffic Ticket in Arizona?

Local law enforcement and courts manage traffic tickets. Persons who want to find misplaced tickets may contact the local law enforcement agency or jurisdictional court where the ticket was issued. However, the court may require information such as ticket/citation number, the violation cited on the ticket, the offender’s names as they appear on the ticket, or the fine amount.

Alternatively, requesting parties may find traffic ticket information online using the Arizona Public Access to Court Information portal. However, not all courts are accessible through the portal. The website lists unavailable courts and alternative methods of record search.

How Long Does a Traffic Ticket Stay on Your Record in Arizona?

In Arizona, points stay on driver’s records for up to 36 months, depending on the traffic violation’s nature. Accumulated points lead to increased auto-insurance premiums and may lead to a suspension of the driver’s license. Traffic tickets stay on offender’s records for up to five (5) years. However, criminal traffic violations may remain on the offender’s criminal history record for longer.

Is a Summons Worse Than a Ticket in Arizona?

Motorists or road users will receive notification of a violation through traffic tickets or citations. If the offender gives an unsatisfactory response to the traffic ticket, the court will issue a summons. While many traffic tickets can be paid or resolved online, a summons is an order to appear in court. Failure to pay a traffic ticket in Arizona may result in increased fines or a suspension of the offender’s driver’s license. On the other hand, failure to respond to a summons may result in more severe penalties. For instance, if a person fails to appear on a scheduled court date, the court may enter an automatic ‘guilty’ judgment and impose applicable penalties for the violation.

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