It’s summer, and you and your family have packed up your RV for a road trip to Yellowstone. You hit the open road and have clear blue skies for the entire drive. Along the way you stop to see a few famous sights, including the Devil’s Tower — that mountain in Wyoming that many people may recognize from the Steven Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
It’s a little later than you had planned when you leave the Devil’s Tower, and you still have several hours of driving before you get to Yellowstone. You want to make it in time to get settled and have dinner at your campsite, so on a stretch of highway with no other cars around, you hit the gas pedal a little hard. The next thing you know, you’re being pulled over for speeding by a Wyoming trooper.
A speeding ticket may not seem like a big deal. Most people pay the fine and move on, and watch their speed a little more carefully in the future to avoid getting pulled over again. However, when you get a speeding ticket in another state, it can have consequences for you when you get home.
The Interstate Driver’s License Compact
Most states in the United States participate in an agreement called the Interstate Driver’s License Compact that means states trade information about traffic offenses committed within their borders. That speeding ticket in Wyoming doesn’t stay in Wyoming — it also shows up on your driving record back home unless you live in one of the few states that doesn’t participate in the compact. Those include Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Even worse, if the penalties for the traffic ticket are stiffer in your home state, you may face those additional penalties when you get home. For example, Wyoming doesn’t apply points to your driver’s license when you get a speeding ticket, but if you live in, say, Ohio, you may end up with points on your license, depending on how much your speed exceeded the posted speed limit. If you already have points on your license from previous traffic infractions, that out-of-state speeding ticket may put you over the limit that leads to a driver’s license suspension.
If, for some reason, you just don’t pay the ticket, the state where you got your ticket may ask your home state to suspend your driver’s license, or you may be prevented from renewing your license or getting a new license if you move to another state.
When to Fight a Speeding Ticket
When you pay a ticket, that’s an admission of guilt and you’ll end up not only paying a fine, but dealing with any other ripple effects as your infraction is reported to the National Driver Register and shows up on your driving record in your home state. Unexpected consequences of a speeding ticket could include points on your driving record in your home state and increased insurance premiums.
There are some scenarios when it may be worth thinking about fighting the ticket.
• You already have points on your license and more points would lead to probation or suspension of your driving privileges
• Your insurance rates would increase significantly
• You have a commercial driver’s license that could be affected by a traffic infraction or points on your license
• You employer periodically checks your driving record and an infraction could jeopardize your job
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
You could opt to fight the ticket on your own. You have the legal right to represent yourself. However, you should be aware that if you choose to represent yourself, you might have to travel back to the state where you got your ticket to appear in court. With the cost of gas or plane tickets these days, travel could be even more expensive than attorneys fees, especially if you have to make more than one trip. Many jurisdictions will allow a lawyer to appear in court on your behalf meaning you won’t have to spend the time and money on travel.
The other compelling reason to at least talk to a lawyer — and most lawyers will offer a free initial consultation about your case — is that how each state handles traffic infractions under the Interstate Driver’s License Compact varies. For example, some states don’t report very minor infractions but some states report everything. A lawyer can help you figure out how the state where you got your ticket and your home state may handle sharing information, and what consequences you might face at home if you plead guilty to speeding.
A lawyer who works in the state and city or county where you got your ticket also should have a good working knowledge of the courts and prosecuting attorneys, what defenses tend to work and which ones don’t, and how receptive prosecutors will be to negotiating for a lesser infraction or dismissing your charge if you take a driver education class or pay a small fine.
Raj Dua is a traffic violation defense lawyer located in Fairfax, Virginia. Raj spends a large portion of his practice helping people who’ve been cited with moving violations, including speeding tickets and reckless driving. Raj also practices general criminal defense and DUI representation in northern Virginia.