Everyone makes mistakes or poor decisions while on the road. If you get caught and receive a ticket – whether it be for speeding, driving under the influence (DUI), or just merging without using your turn signal – you can face fines and other consequences.
In Arizona, there is a defensive driving program that allows drivers to get their traffic tickets dismissed, reduce adverse driving points, or even get an insurance discount. However, not everyone is eligible, and the program only works for some moving violations.
Here's what you need to know.
Arizona's Defensive Driving Program
In an attempt to minimize the costs of making a simple mistake on the road while still keeping our streets safe, Arizona created its Defensive Driving Program to allow drivers the opportunity to learn from their mistakes without paying steep fines and living with a blemish on their driving record. Created by the legislature but overseen by the Arizona Supreme Court, the Defensive Driving Program gives drivers a way to have their tickets dismissed or lower the points on their driving record by taking classes that help them drive more safely.
Benefits of Taking a Course in the Defensive Driving Program
You can use the Defensive Driving Program to do one of 3 things:
- Dismiss a traffic violation before you've been convicted;
- Prevent points being added to your driver's record after you've been convicted; and/or
- Reduce the cost of insurance.
Importantly, not everyone is eligible for using the Program to dismiss a ticket. However, many of those who can't use the Program to get a ticket dismissed can still use it to avoid the driving points that can accumulate on their driving record.
Eligibility for Using the Defensive Driving Program to Dismiss a Ticket
Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible to take Arizona's Defensive Driving Program, nor is every ticket or moving violation eligible for dismissal through the Program. To be able to use the Program to avoid the legal repercussions of a moving violation, both the driver and the violation have to eligible, and you have to complete your course in the Program at least 7 days before your court date.
The general rule for a driver's eligibility is that everyone is eligible for the Defensive Driving Program, even out-of-state drivers. However, there are some huge exceptions that cut deeply into those numbers.
- Commercial driver's license (CDL) holders are ineligible for the Defensive Driving Program. This is true, even if the moving violation in question did not happen while you were driving commercially – otherwise eligible tickets that a commercial driver received while running a personal errand cannot be changed through the Defensive Driving Program. The only way you can utilize the Program as a CDL holder is if the moving violation occurred either before you had your CDL, or if it happened after you surrendered it.
- Commercial vehicle drivers are also ineligible for the Program. Some people drive a commercial vehicle that requires a CDL without actually having a CDL. If the moving violation happened in this circumstance, then you are ineligible for the Defensive Driving Program.
- Repeat offenders are ineligible. You can only take the Defensive Driving Program once per year. If you've attended a course in the Defensive Driving Program to change a prior moving violation, you will be ineligible for one year following the issuance of the prior ticket.
In addition to being an eligible driver, your moving violation also needs to be eligible for you to take a course in the Defensive Driving Program to have your ticket dismissed. Importantly, only certain violations are eligible for dismissal through the Program. The Arizona Courts webpage has a listing of the eligible moving violations. Even if your moving violation is eligible for the Program, other factors may make it ineligible.
- Only one moving violation can be dismissed at a time through the Defensive Driving Program. If you received multiple moving violations at the same time, you can only attend the Program to have one of them dismissed. The others remain unaffected.
- If the moving violation happened in association with an accident that caused a serious injury or fatality, then the violation is ineligible for the Program.
Just because your moving violation is ineligible for dismissal through the Program, it does not mean that you cannot take a course in the Program to prevent driving points being added to your driving record.
Taking a Course in the Defensive Driving Program
If you and your violation are both eligible for the Program, you can take a course to have that violation dismissed. The Arizona Courts provide a listing of the certified schools that provide courses in the Defensive Driving Program, with many of them providing courses both online and in a classroom setting. The online courses are only available to those who are not required to attend a classroom course by the judge presiding over their case.
Out-of-state license holders who commit a moving violation in Arizona can also utilize the Program by reaching out to one of the certified schools and setting up a way to take a course.
Using the Program to Prevent Points from Accumulating on Your Record
Every moving violation comes with points that accumulate on your driving record. If you get too many, you can face penalties that include fines, a license suspension, or even a license revocation.
In some cases, you can complete a course in the Defensive Driving Program after being convicted of a traffic offense and prevent that infraction's points from being added to your driving record. However, if the offense was a serious one or if you've already accumulated too many driving record points, you may need to complete the more intensive Traffic Survival School instead.
Using the Program to Reduce the Cost of Insurance
Finally, you can voluntarily take courses in the Defensive Driving Program to reduce the cost of your car insurance. The requirements and the rate reduction, however, depending on your insurance company.
Traffic Attorneys at Arizona Criminal Traffic
If your driving rights are being threatened and you need a lawyer to help, reach out to the traffic attorneys at the Arizona Criminal Traffic law firm. Call us at (888) 202-9222 or contact us online.