Traffic Ticket Attorney | Trapped by Old Traffic Fines?

Brian StrongBrian Strong, Criminal Defense Attorney in Arizona, DUI & Traffic Defense Attorney11 Comments

speed-limit-signI am a seasoned traffic ticket attorney and everyone needs to know that many years ago, the Arizona legislature decriminalized most traffic offenses. While DUI, Driving on a Suspended License, Reckless Driving and Hit & Run all maintained their misdemeanor criminal status, the majority of Arizona traffic offenses (such as speeding, stop signs and car pool lane violations) became civil infractions.

The key difference between a criminal and a civil offense is that you can never be sent to jail for violating a civil traffic law. The judge can assess a fine and inform Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of your infraction, but you can never go to jail. Even if you fail to pay a court-ordered civil traffic fine, the court cannot issue a warrant for your arrest. So what happens to those drivers who either refuse to pay a civil traffic fine or simply do not have the money to do so? The legal procedure is not complicated. Their driver’s license gets suspended indefinitely until the fine is paid in full.

Driving on a suspended license is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,500.00 fine. Often this offense results in just a criminal citation, but sometimes, an individual is taken into physical custody and his vehicle impounded. If a person is found guilty of driving on a suspended license, MVD can impose additional suspension time (in addition to the rapidly-accruing fines).

As an Arizona traffic ticket lawyer, I have been amazed at the number of people who end up in deeper legal trouble because they thought ignoring a civil traffic fine was no big deal. They assumed that, without a warrant for their arrest, there was nothing to worry about.

They did not realize they were driving on a suspended license. By the time I am called for advice, what started out as a single $300 civil fine has often ballooned into thousands of dollars in fines, surcharges, and incarceration costs.

The sad reality is that a lot of people live on tight budgets. By statute, traffic courts must offer monthly payment plans. For many people, however, monthly payments still create a significant economic hardship they are unable to meet. Historically, courts have turned over their delinquent traffic accounts to professional collections agencies. Paying 50 cents on the dollar to a collection agent may stop the annoying collection calls and letters but seldom results in the reinstatement by MVD of one’s privilege to drive.

To help drivers satisfy old traffic fines, the Arizona legislature has enacted A.R.S. §13-824. Effective January 1, 2016, any city court judge or county justice of the peace may utilize community service (at a rate of $10.00 per hour) as a method to allow drivers to pay traffic fines. Pursuant to this new statute, court fees, assessments and incarceration costs can also be worked off through community service. As a result, individuals with criminal traffic cases (like DUI or Suspended License violations) will also have the ability reduce their financial obligations to any court in the state.

Although some judges previously permitted community service, there was no uniform application as to when community service was available or how much each hour was worth. Certain judges allowed permitted community service hours to be applied only to a fine, others also reduced fees and assessments. Some judges only gave $5.00 per hour credit while other judges used the federal minimum wage. Hopefully, this new statute will result in a more uniform procedure and make it easier for the average taxpayer to keep unpaid traffic fines from growing into a huge legal nightmare.

Should you or a loved one have any questions about an on-going traffic case or obnoxiously old traffic fines, please give me call. I am an experienced traffic ticket attorney and I can help you today. Please call me 24/7 at (480) 833-2341, to discuss your situation.

Attorney Profile: Brian D. Strong – Senior Associate
Direct Line: (480) 833-2341 (24/7)
Email: [email protected]
Main Area of Law: Criminal Defense Attorney
Blog: Brian’s Other Articles

11 Comments on “Traffic Ticket Attorney | Trapped by Old Traffic Fines?”

  1. Hello, I had received a traffic ticket for driving a car with expired plates and no insurance 3 years ago. When I didnt pay the 400 bucks. They raised it another 200 bucks and suspended my drivers license. I went to court and requested community service to help pay my fine so I could drive again. The court clerk in Kingman, AZ, told me that community service could not be used with any kind of traffic ticket. Geez, please help.

  2. I’m from California and got a ticket back in 2012 for driving on suspended license,failure to appear on a traffic stop supposedly for tailgating a semi truck. A hold is on my license.I had an over the phone arraignment with a judge,and told that I have bail 1,078.00,plus 277.27 that was sent to a collection agency for the tailgating infraction and once paid in full my license would be released, but I would still have to be sentenced and that the 1,365.27 could go towards my ticket could you please email me on this matter. Thank You

  3. I have recently moved back to Arizona from Oregon. I think I may have 2 unpaid speeding tickets from 2006(Maricopa county) under my previous married name. I now live in Pima county, and I do have a valid Oregon drivers license with my maiden name. Is this going to hinder me from obtaining an Arizona license? Thank you in advance for any help!

  4. Question…a unpaid speeding ticket in Kingman,AZ area from 1982. Would that still be on the books? Doubt they even had things computerized back then. Thanks

    1. The only way to be certain if an old fine is still on a court’s books is to contact the court directly. In addition, even if the court (or a collection agency) is no longer actively pursuing an old fine, if a driver’s license was suspended for failure to pay a fine that suspension status remains in place indefinitely until MVD receives a court clearance form and the driver has paid a reinstatement fee to MVD. Call me at (480) 833-2341 I may be able to assist you. Brian.

  5. I have an old fine that was sent to collections shortly before the 7 year mark. At almost the 10 year mark I saw the judge and he agreed to me paying $10 a month. I am on disability so I have a limited budget and I was unable to pay off the fine due to rent and utilities. I moved to Colorado and have no idea how to deal with it now. My license is suspended and I wasn’t aware until I was pulled over in someone else’s car.

    1. Hello Leslie. If you would call our office at (480) 833-2341 it would be easier to assist and answer your questions. Our office is open until 5:00 pm today.

  6. Is there a 2011 statute that nullifies all fines previous to that date?Also; it seems like I was jailed back in dec.of 2018 on a warrant , more specifically a three times quashed warrant, for 5 and one half days. on fines from 2004. Help!

    1. Hello Timothy. The easiest way to answer your question is if you would call my office at (480) 833-2341.

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