Arizona Traffic Ticket and Points Assessment System

There are rules to driving, and they are in place to maintain safety on the road to the greatest extent possible. On a daily basis, though, those rules are violated, sometimes intentionally and other times accidentally. Whatever the reason for the violation, if a law enforcement officer witnesses you violating a rule or regulation while operating your vehicle, he or she may pull you to the side of the road for a traffic stop and subsequently cite you for the violation(s). For most of these violations, points are accrued to your driving record according to a traffic ticket points system.

Traffic ticket points systems are used to assign a point value to a specific traffic offense. Naturally, the more serious the traffic offense, the higher the points, and vice versa. The points are added to a person's driving record and are accumulated over a certain period of time. If the threshold is met within that specific time period, consequences are applicable, and these consequences could mean the suspension or revocation of your driver's license.

The object of the traffic ticket points system is simple: deter poor driving behavior that poses dangers to everyone who uses Arizona's roads, or areas/paths alongside these roads, including motorists, passengers, motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists. Each state has their own specific traffic ticket points system. Arizona is a little different than most other states, however, because accompanying the traffic ticket points system is a driver improvement program, which provides an opportunity for some drivers to have their ticket(s) dismissed.

Traffic Tickets in Arizona

In Arizona, if you violate a rule or regulation while driving, a law enforcement officer can write you a traffic ticket. These tickets are categorized according to their civil or criminal nature.

Civil Citations

Civil citations are infractions, or very minor moving violations, usually punishable by (1) a fine; and (2) points assessed against the motorist's driving record. The Justice of the Peace hears all civil traffic violation matters unless the citations are filed in a municipal court by a city law enforcement officer.

You can respond to a civil traffic citation in one of three ways:

  1. Plead Not Guilty. If you deny responsibility for the violation, then a hearing will be set and heard by a civil traffic hearing officer. The finding of guilty or not guilty is based on a preponderance of the evidence presented.
  2. Plead Guilty. If you accept responsibility, you simply pay for your ticket online, by mail, by phone, or in person.
  3. Attend Defensive Driving School. If you meet certain criteria, you can attend an approved defensive driving school.

Defensive Driving School

The Arizona Supreme Court approves defensive driving courses for the purpose of dismissing minor traffic tickets so that they are not assessed on your driving record. The following criteria must be met to attend an approved defensive driving school:

  • The offense is a civil traffic moving violation; and
  • You do not want to contest the ticket; and
  • You were not in an accident that involved a serious injury or death; and
  • You hold a non-commercial driver's license; and
  • You have not attended a defensive driving course within the last 12 months.

You cannot use Defensive Driving School to remove points already on your driving record, and you cannot use it to dismiss more than 1 violation at a time.

If you are able to attend defensive driving school, it is in your best interest. If you complete it successfully, then (1) the violation will be dismissed and you no longer have to pay a fine; and (2) you will not accumulate any points on your driving record.

Criminal Violations

A criminal traffic violation can either be a misdemeanor or felony. If you have been charged with a criminal traffic violation, you will have a court date assigned. The first court appearance is the “Initial Appearance/Arraignment.” At this court hearing, two basic things happens: (1) the charges against you and the penalties associated with those charges (minimum and maximum) will be read to you; and (2) you will then enter a plea to the charge(s) of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

For criminal traffic violations, you will have more points assessed against your driving record; sometimes your driver's license will be suspended or revoked regardless how many points there are on your record. You are also not eligible for the defensive driving school option. In addition to the fines and points, you can anticipate additional fees, community service, probation, and/or incarceration.

Points Assessment

Points are assessed within a 12-month period; after 12 months, the accumulation of points restarts. The table below provides the points that correspond to the specific traffic violation.

Traffic Violation

Points

DUI

8

Extreme DUI

8

Reckless driving

8

Aggressive driving

8

Leaving the scene of an accident/Hit-and-Run

6

Failure to stop for a traffic signal, causing death

6

Failure to stop for a stop sign, causing death

6

Failure to yield the right-of-way, causing death

6

Failure to stop for a traffic signal, causing serious injury

4

Failure to stop for a stop sign, causing serious injury

4

Failure to yield the right-of-way, causing serious injury

4

Speeding

3

Driving over or parking in a gore area

3

All other moving violations

2

License Suspension & Revocation

Suspension is the temporary removal of your driving privilege. Your license can be suspended two ways:

  1. if you rack up 8 points on your driving record within a 12-month period; or
  2. if you commit certain criminal traffic violations.

In the first scenario, you may first be required to attend Traffic Survival School, which is separate than Defensive Driving School. If you fail to complete it in due time, your driver's license may be suspended for up to one year.

In the second scenario, a driver's license can be suspended from days to years, depending on the conviction and circumstances. In some instances, a license can be revoked. Revocation is also the removal of your driving privilege, usually for longer periods, but after that period has expired, your license remains revoked until an investigation is completed to ensure all requirements are met.

Criminal Traffic Violations & Traffic Survival School

  • Red-light/stop-sign running
  • Aggressive driving
  • Moving violations resulting in serious or fatal injuries
  • First moving violation for drivers under 18 years of age

Criminal Traffic Violations & Possible Suspension

  • DUI
  • Reckless driving
  • Aggressive driving

Criminal Traffic Violations & Possible Revocation

  • Extreme DUI
  • Aggravated DUI
  • Hit-and-Run
  • Felony in which the vehicle is used
  • Any moving violation that results in death
  • Two or more convictions of DUI, reckless driving, or racing on the highways

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If you have been cited for the commission of a traffic violation, the points assessed on your driving record matter. Twelve months may seem short for the accumulation of points to restart, but if you driving privileges are affected, twelve months can become a long time. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you of your legal options. For criminal traffic violations specifically, a criminal defense attorney can also represent your criminal case and help you get your charges either reduced or dismissed. Contact the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp today. Time is of the essence to get your points reduced or dismissed before the DMV takes action on your driving privileges.

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