What Are the Texas Statutes of Limitations for Traffic Violations?

Have you recently received a ticket alleging you committed a traffic violation in Texas? If it seems like the state waited a long time to issue the ticket, you may wonder whether you still have to pay the associated fine. Whether the ticket is valid depends on the statute of limitations, which determines how long the state has to bring a charge against a driver. These time limits vary by violation, and they can significantly impact your case’s outcome. Here’s a closer look at the statutes of limitations for common Texas traffic violations.

texas statue of limitations on traffic violations
Image via David Guenther, used with Unsplash License

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

In criminal cases, a statute of limitations is a law establishing the maximum time after an event within which the state may file charges against someone. When the period specified under the statute of limitations expires, the state can no longer issue charges against an offender. These laws ensure the authorities take legal action against someone within a reasonable time. In turn, this principle helps individuals avoid the indefinite threat of prosecution. Statutes of limitations also help preserve the integrity of evidence and ensure that cases are decided based on the best available information, as memories fade and records can be lost over time.

Statute of Limitations for Traffic Tickets in Texas

According to the Texas Transportation Code, many of the most common moving traffic violations in Texas are Class C misdemeanors, also known as “fine-only” misdemeanors, because they cannot result in jail time. The statute of limitations for these is typically two years. In other words, the state must give you a traffic ticket within two years of the date on which you allegedly committed the offense. Otherwise, the authorities can’t take legal action against you.

More serious traffic offenses can have longer statutes of limitations. For example, injuring someone while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a third-degree felony. The statute of limitations for most third-degree felonies is three years. If you have more questions on this topic, a San Marcos traffic defense lawyer can provide more details on the statute of limitations that applies to your situation.

Statute of Limitations vs. Deadline to Respond to a Traffic Ticket

Understanding the difference between a statute of limitations for a traffic offense and the deadline to respond to a traffic ticket is crucial. The statute of limitations refers to the time limit within which the state must initiate legal action for prosecuting a traffic violation. Once this period passes, the authorities can no longer prosecute you for that offense.

The deadline to respond to a traffic ticket, on the other hand, is the timeframe you have to either pay the fine, contest the charge, or take other legal action. Missing this deadline can lead to additional penalties, including late fees and the suspension of your driver’s license.

This distinction between the two is vital to understand. Once you have received a ticket, the state will initiate legal action against you. You don’t have two years to respond – you have days or weeks at most. Do not ignore a traffic ticket under the mistaken assumption that you have months or years to act. You must act immediately to avoid additional consequences and give yourself the best possible chance of contesting the ticket.

What Happens If You Ignore a Traffic Ticket in Texas?

When you don’t respond to a traffic ticket by the deadline, you’re not just risking additional fees – you’re potentially facing much more significant legal issues. Here are some of the critical consequences you might face:

  • Increased Fines – Initially, the fine associated with your traffic ticket might seem manageable. However, if you ignore the ticket, additional late fees and penalties can significantly increase the total amount you owe.
  • Warrant for Your Arrest – Texas courts may issue an arrest warrant if you fail to respond to a traffic ticket. This means you could be arrested at any place and time.
  • Driver’s License Suspension – Ignoring a traffic ticket can lead to the suspension of your driver’s license. You’re legally prohibited from driving without a valid license, which may affect your ability to commute to work or school.
  • Vehicle Impoundment – In some cases, especially if there are multiple unresolved tickets, the police can impound your vehicle. Getting your vehicle back will require paying all your outstanding fines and additional impound fees.
  • Credit Score Impact – Unpaid traffic fines can be reported to credit agencies. A lower credit score can affect your ability to get loans and credit cards, as well as affect rental and employment opportunities.

 Should You Always Pay a Traffic Ticket?

The fines from a traffic ticket can drain your finances, and accumulating enough driver’s license points within a short period can lead to a driver’s license suspension. Additionally, your auto insurance company might raise your premiums after a ticket. For these reasons, it may be worth contesting the ticket to avoid more significant financial consequences.

However, to do so, you must consult a lawyer and respond to a traffic ticket within the required timeframe. You don’t want to ignore a traffic ticket, but you must also protect your rights and avoid unnecessary complications. Your best bet is to talk to a lawyer and have them outline your legal options.

How Our San Marcos Traffic Ticket Defense Firm Can Help

At the Law Office of Case J. Darwin, Inc., we understand the stress of receiving a traffic ticket and the repercussions of ignoring a ticket for too long. Our dedicated team is here to help you fight your ticket and avoid the negative consequences of delaying your response. We’ll review the details of your case, explore all your legal options, and represent you in court if necessary. We aim to minimize financial penalties, prevent points on your license, and keep your driving record clean.

Don’t let a traffic ticket disrupt your life. Contact the Law Office of Case J. Darwin, Inc., today, and let’s tackle it together with confidence and efficiency.

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