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What Happens If I Can’t Pay a Ticket?

Nobody wants to receive a traffic ticket. Everybody, however, must pay what they owe. Ignoring your traffic ticket is a mistake that could result in much more serious trouble, such as increased fines, license suspension, points on your driving record, and even warrants for your arrest. If you aren’t paying a ticket because you can’t afford it, you must take steps to ensure you don’t receive additional fines and penalties. Options are available for low-income drivers who do not have the funds to pay a traffic ticket in North Carolina. Here’s what to do if you’re in this situation. For additional information, consult a Raleigh traffic ticket lawyer.

Learn All the Ways to Pay

If you can’t pay your ticket because you don’t have cash or access to the Internet, don’t worry. Most jurisdictions offer a variety of ways to pay traffic tickets. Drivers with “waivable” tickets in North Carolina can pay their tickets online, through the mail, or in person at their local courthouses. A waivable ticket means that the violation was minor, and you do not need to appear in court to pay what you owe. A nonwaivable ticket for a more serious violation, however, will require that you attend court to pay your fine.

Request a Fine Reduction

Drivers having trouble affording their traffic tickets can speak to a judge about possibly reducing the amount of the fine. If you can show proof of income, a judge might agree to reduce the price of the ticket or set up a payment plan. Several jurisdictions in North Carolina offer alternative payment plans to drivers who can’t pay the full price of the ticket up front. Take the steps to request a monthly payment plan in your jurisdiction rather than simply ignoring the ticket.

Try to Get a Deadline Extension

Another arrangement the courts might allow if you can’t pay your ticket is to extend the deadline. If you need to wait until your next paycheck or job, for example, the courts might grant an extension on the amount of time you have to come up with the money. Again, you may have to prove your income or show other documentation to receive a deadline extension. Always try for an extension if you know you won’t be able to pay your ticket on time. Otherwise, you could end up owing even more.

Ask About Traffic School

Signing up for traffic school or a driver’s education course might be a suitable alternative to paying your ticket in some situations. Ask the courts if you can go to traffic school instead of paying your ticket. You may still have to pay a small fee to take the course, but it will generally be less than the fine for the ticket. Traffic school may also help save you money by decreasing the price of your auto insurance, if your insurance company has a discount available.

Offer Community Service in Lieu of Payment

For some drivers, accepting community service hours in lieu of paying a fine is a better option. Go to the court date listed on your traffic ticket and plead guilty. Then, ask if the judge would accept community service hours instead of you paying the ticket. Explain that you can’t afford your ticket but would be happy to repay what you owe through serving your community instead. It will be up to the judge whether to grant your request.

Fight Your Traffic Ticket

Another option you might have if you can’t pay your ticket or don’t believe you should have received the fine to begin with is to fight the charge in trial. You have the option to plead “not guilty” and to prove your innocence. A successful plea could result in the courts dropping the charges altogether – and you not having to pay your ticket. Discuss fighting a ticket with a Raleigh defense attorney to see if this is the right move for you.