Traffic tickets - also called citations - are used for minor violations of traffic law such as speeding, running a stop sign, and parking violations. Citations are issued by the Utah Highway Patrol, county sheriffs' offices, and municipal police departments.
A citation lists your name and address, your driver's license number, and your violation. A citation also lists:
- the name and location of the court that will decide your case
- the deadline you have to pay the fine or when you have to go to court
- what you must to do respond to the ticket
Your citation should tell you the statute or code number of the violation you are being charged with. If you were cited under state law, you can look at the Utah Code online (le.utah.gov). The law library website describes how to find Utah city and county codes online. Traffic tickets can impact your driver's license and your insurance rates.
Classification of Offenses
Most traffic offenses are classified as infractions (no imprisonment and fines up to $750) or class C misdemeanors, (maximum imprisonment of 90 days and fines up to $750). Some traffic offenses, such as drunk driving, are classified as more serious offenses which have the possibility of longer terms of imprisonment and higher fines.
The Uniform Fine/Bail Forfeiture Schedule and the Bail Schedule for Justice Courts provide information about the fine or bail for each offense. This is what the judge uses to determine the fine or bail for the offense.
The Uniform Fine/Bail Forfeiture Schedule specifies which offenses require you to come to court.
Most infractions - such as parking violations - do not require you to appear in court, and can be handled by mailing the bail amount to the court listed on the citation.
Disputing Your Traffic Citation
Generally speaking, if you choose to dispute your traffic citation rather than just paying the fine, you must appear in court and enter a plea of "not guilty." After you enter your plea, you can try to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney. If you are unable to reach an agreement, a trial will be scheduled. The trial is your chance to tell your side of the story to the judge or a jury. The judge will also hear testimony from the officer who issued the citation, and any witnesses you or the prosecutor may call to testify.
Your citation will tell you the deadline for paying the fine, or the date you have to come to court if you want to dispute the citation. Do not ignore the date. If you do not pay the fine before that date or come to court on that date, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest and can suspend your driver's license. Be sure to contact the court if you need to reschedule the court date, or cannot meet the deadline.
Some justice courts have web pages with information about traffic matters. The Utah City and County page on the state's website (utah.gov) provides link to local government pages. Look for a link that says something like Justice Court or Municipal Court.
Traffic matters and getting ready for a trial can be complicated. Visit the court's Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low-cost ways to talk to an attorney.
Appeals from Justice Court to District Court
An appeal of a justice court decision goes to the district court, and results in a trial or hearing de novo. De novo means the matter is tried all over again. This is different from other appeal procedures, in which the appellate court does not hear evidence. A Notice of Appeal must be filed with the justice court within 30 days of the entry of a justice court order or judgment.
- Notice of Appeal From Justice Court (criminal/traffic cases) - PDF | WordPerfect
- Utah Rule of Criminal Procedure 38 and Utah Code Section 78A-7-118 describes the process for appealing a justice court decision in a criminal case.
- Utah Rule of Criminal Procedure 27A governs the process to request a stay of a sentence pending an appeal from justice court to district court in a criminal case.
Violations Reported to the Driver License Division
Conviction of some traffic offenses - such as speeding - are reported to the Utah Driver License Division (driverlicense.utah.gov) within ten days of the conviction or payment of the fine. Some non-moving violations, such as lack of registration, are not reported. Chapter 1 of the Uniform Fine/Bail Forfeiture Schedule provides information about whether or not a conviction must be reported to the Driver License Division.
Utah shares information about traffic violation convictions with all states and all Canadian provinces.
Utah's Point System
The Utah Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) assigns points for moving traffic violations. The points are based upon the relationship between types of traffic violations and traffic accidents. If you get more than 200 points on your driving record in a three year period, you could have your driving privileges suspended. Drivers under 21 who get more than 70 points face the same penalty. Utah Administrative Rule R708-3 (rules.utah.gov) describes the penalties associated with accumulated points.
|Speeding (depending on severity)||37 - 75|
|Failure to Yield Right-of-Way||60|
|Following too Closely (tailgating)||60|
|Wrong Side of Road||60|
|Wrong Way on One-Way Street||60|
|Other Moving Violations||40|
NOTE: Except for speeding tickets, the judge can vary points up or down by 10%.
SOURCE: Utah Driver Handbook (publicsafety.utah.gov)
Requesting Your Driving Record
You can request a copy of your driving record from the Driver License Division by completing a form and paying the appropriate fee. More information is available at https://secure.utah.gov/mvr-personal/public/index.html.
Clearing Your Driving Record
If you drive one year without being convicted of a moving traffic violation, half of the points on your driving record will be removed. If you drive two years without a moving traffic violation, all of the points on your record will be removed.
You can also remove 50 points from your driving record once in a three year period by attending an approved defensive driving course. Defensive driving courses or traffic safety schools are established or approved by each government and court jurisdiction. Contact the court in the area in which you received the ticket to ask if it has a list of approved programs.
If you have lost your ticket, contact the law enforcement agency that issued it. For tickets issued by the Utah Highway Patrol (highwaypatrol.utah.gov), choose the area on the map where you got the ticket to get information about the local office.
For a city or county citation, visit the Utah City and County page on the state's website (utah.gov) for links to local government pages. Look for a link that says something like Police or Sheriff's Department.
Utah's Drunk Driving Law
In Utah, you can be charged with drunk driving if:
- You operate a motor vehicle and have a breath or blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.
- You operate a motor vehicle and alcohol, regardless of concentration, or any drug has impaired your ability to safely operate the vehicle.
Utah's Driving Under the Influence laws are found in Utah Code §41-6a-501 through §41-6a-530.
Possible penalties for a first drunk driving conviction can include:
- At least two days in jail
- At least 48 hours of community service
- At least $700 in fines and fees
- At least 90 days suspension of driver's license
A first or second time drunk driving offense can be charged as a class A or B misdemeanor, depending on whether someone was hurt, or if there were minor passengers in the vehicle. See Utah Code §41-6a-503.