One day, you look down at your car windshield and see a telltale piece of paper, courtesy of your local police station. Great. You’ve got a speeding ticket. Or is it a citation? Is there even a difference between the two? And what should you do about it?

The answer, in short: there’s no difference. 

In casual conversation, we call getting written up by a police officer for a moving violation a ticket, whether it’s a traffic ticket or a parking ticket. For legal purposes, the actual document itself is called a citation. Regardless of what we call it, let’s clear up what a traffic citation is, how it works, and what you need to do about it!

Citations: What Are They?

Citations are typically administered as a result of a traffic violation

Traffic violations vary from district to district. Some offenses typically considered traffic offenses are: 

  • Not obeying traffic signals and signs
  • Driving without the proper insurance
  • Failing to use a seatbelt
  • Speeding
  • Failing to signal a turn
  • Running a red light
  • Driving without a license plate

There’s also parking citations, which you might receive for offenses like parking in an illegal location. 

Rather than arresting you on the spot for these sorts of offenses, a police officer can issue you a citation. A citation is a legal document with a specific citation number. This document describes what infractions you are being cited for, what the legal consequences are, your options for responding, and how much time you have to respond before facing additional consequences. 

The typical resolution of your citation includes paying a fine, providing proof of insurance, or making a court appearance on a specified court date. You may also contest a citation that you disagree with. If you don’t pay your citation by its due date or attend your scheduled court date, you may face late fees, legal repercussions, or increased insurance premiums. 

One of the worst parts of receiving a citation is how it can increase your car insurance payments. If you’re seeking new car insurance due to rate increases because of a traffic citation, insurance comparison site Insurify can help find affordable policies for you in just a few swift clicks. 

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Citations can take the classic form of a piece of paper attached to your windshield. However, e-citations are becoming the norm. Instead of being handed a citation in paper form, you may sign a citation electronically on the officer’s tablet and receive a copy of it in your email. 

How Do I Pay My Citation?

Depending on your city and state, there are many different ways to pay fines listed on your citation. Your citation will usually list how to pay any attendant fines. Most jurisdictions now offer some form of online payment, but some do not. Some of the most common methods for citation payment are:

  • Credit card (some typical credit cards accepted are American Express, Mastercard, and Visa
  • Money order
  • Check

If you’re struggling to pay the fine from your citation by the due date, get in touch with your local government to see if they offer any type of citation payment plan. Many local governments, especially small ones, are willing to be flexible when queried. 

How Important Is Responding to a Citation?

Very! Not only is a citation a legal document, but it also requires that you take action by a specific date or face additional legal consequences. These can include additional fines, being ordered to appear in court, or even having your driver’s license suspended or revoked. 

Remember that you have the right to contest your citation in court. When a law enforcement officer hands you a citation and asks you to sign it, you are not agreeing that you are guilty. You are simply agreeing that you received the citation and understand what your responsibilities are in relation to it. And in most jurisdictions, even if you plead not guilty in a traffic court hearing and are ruled guilty by a judge, you can choose to appeal the decision in a superior court

It’s especially important to know your right to contest a citation because having one on your driving record can raise your insurance rates. You may also want to get legal advice on whether contesting the citation would be a suitable course of action.

How Do Citations Affect My Car Insurance?

The answer depends on what you’re cited for. 

Traffic citations fall under one of two categories: a non-moving violation––also known as a parking violation––or a moving violation. As the names suggest, moving violations are incurred while your vehicle is in motion, while non-moving violations are for stationary offenses such as parking too long in a particular zone. 

Moving violations have license points assigned to them. For example, here are some examples of points assigned to drivers when they disobey traffic laws forbidding reckless driving in the states of Arizona, Texas, and Florida as of 2021:

Offense Arizona Florida Texas
Reckless Driving 8 4 2


Insurance companies consider these points when determining your car insurance rates. The more points you have, the higher a risk insuring you is, which raises your insurance rate. Points accrued on your record (or any other driving incident or insurance claim) from the past seven years or even longer may increase your car insurance costs.

More serious offenses, like being convicted of driving under the influence, also affect insurance rates but are categorized as convictions or criminal offenses. Convictions and other criminal charges related to driving cannot be removed from your motor vehicle record.

Thankfully, many insurance carriers offer relatively affordable policies for high-risk drivers. Even if you do have moving violations on your record, Insurify can help you find cheap car insurance that will keep you covered in the event of any future fender-benders!

How Do I Get License Points From My Citation to Go Away?

Though the rules vary from state to state, points can expire from your driving record over time, and there are ways to actively remove them.

For instance, in Idaho, you can reduce your point total by three points once every three years by taking a defensive driving course at a local or online traffic school.

If you want to know how many points are currently on your driving record or what opportunities are available in your state to lower these points, go and visit your local department of motor vehicles (DMV) either in person or online.

Citations aren’t the end of the world. Most of us have been stopped at least once for a traffic violation. But do know that citations can affect your average insurance rates, so they should be taken care of quickly! 

Everyone needs car insurance, and everyone deserves it at rates they can afford. Many auto insurance companies offer non-standard, state minimum rates specifically for drivers who don’t have sterling driving records. Learn more and find the right policy for you at Insurify

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Citations Vs. Tickets: Quick Questions

Is there a difference between a citation and a ticket?

No! “Citation” is just the legal term for a parking or traffic ticket. The two words mean the same thing.

Can I pay the fines on my citation online?

Most jurisdictions in the United States now offer online services and payment options for your traffic or parking citation. Visit the website of your local DMV to see if this is an option for you.

How can I find affordable car insurance if I have multiple prior citations?

Many insurance carriers offer affordable policies specifically for drivers with prior citations or moving violations. Insurify can compare car insurance quotes from dozens of leading carriers and help find the most affordable and comprehensive policy for you.


Browse, Compare, Discover with Insurify today.

Updated July 21, 2021

Jeannette Wisniewski is a technology writer whose passion is encouraging people to engage with technology by making it more understandable and more interesting. Though she enjoys writing business copy for a wide range of subjects, she is most inspired by emerging tech and its applications. She is a graduate of San Jose State University, a Georgia Peach at heart, and happy to call Boise, ID home.