What Does a Citation Do to Your Insurance?

Getting a ticket is never fun. Not only do you have to deal with the legal consequences of the citation, but your auto insurer might get involved, as well. There are no blanket answers about what happens to your insurance when you get a ticket, because each state sets its own laws on the subject, but, generally, moving violations result in increased premiums for a period of time.

Nonmoving Violations

Your auto insurance premiums are based in part on your driving record. Your insurer checks your record before issuing you a policy, and again periodically throughout your relationship together to adjust your premium up or down as needed. Your driving record usually contains only moving violations, and these are the only citations your insurer cares about. Any citations for illegal parking or other nonmoving violations should have no effect on your insurance premiums.

Traffic School

Since insurers base your premiums in part on the citations listed on your driving record, it pays to do whatever you can to keep citations off your record. In some states, you may be able to erase your first moving violation by attending an accredited traffic school program or other safety course as approved by your state's court system. You may be able to repeat these programs if enough time lapses between citations you receive. When you complete these programs, the citation is removed from your record, and therefore your insurer should not raise your premiums as a result.

Department of Motor Vehicles Points

Each state has its own laws about how citations and other traffic infringements are recorded against you. Some states assign points to your record based on the severity of the citation you receive. According to the District Court of Maryland website, if you plead guilty to an offense caught on a red light or speed monitoring camera by paying the associated fine, no points will be assigned to your record and your premiums will not increase. Speak with your agent to see how the points system works in your state and how your insurer sets its rates. Your policy might offer some forgiveness or a sliding scale of penalties.

Length of Surcharges

If a chargeable citation ends up on your record and your insurer raises your premiums as a result, expect the surcharge to last at least three years. Some states allow insurers to charge for five, seven or even ten years, depending on the type of citation in question. For example, in California most citations remain on your record for three years after your conviction date. However, major offenses like driving under the influence stay on your record for 10 full years. Your insurer may not surcharge your policy after the third year, but you remain ineligible for certain discounts until the citation entirely disappears.