What is a police citation?

If you’ve been pulled over while driving, you may wonder, “What is a police citation?” A police citation is the same as a traffic ticket from a cop. If you have received a police citation, you may have to pay a fine. You could also accrue points on your driver’s license and may face jail time, depending on the severity of the violation. In addition, once you’ve received a police citation, you may need to purchase high-risk car insurance.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Dec 30, 2021

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Things to Remember

  • A traffic citation is the same thing as a traffic ticket
  • Police citations received while driving can have serious consequences, such as fines, license suspension, and even jail time
  • If you’ve received a police citation, you may need to look for high-risk auto insurance in your state

Everyone dreads being pulled over by police while driving a vehicle. Whether it’s for speeding, texting while driving, or driving under the influence, it can be a frightening experience.

If you’ve recently been pulled over, or you’re a new driver, you may be wondering, “what is a police citation?” Keep reading to learn more about what a citation is and what you need to do if you’ve received one.

People who have received multiple citations may need high-risk auto insurance. If you need high-risk coverage, be sure to shop around online to find cheap auto insurance rates.

You can use our free quote tool above to find and compare rates for high-risk drivers in your area today.

Is a citation a ticket?

The citation vs. ticket debate is pretty common, but there is actually no difference between a ticket and a citation. So, if you’ve been pulled over for a traffic violation and received a ticket, you received a citation.

Most people receive traffic citations when they don’t follow traffic laws. Some of the reasons you may receive a traffic citation include:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Driving without a license
  • Reckless driving
  • Running a stop sign or traffic light

You could receive a traffic citation for more than one of the reasons listed above at the same time. For instance, you may have been a distracted driver that ultimately ran a stop sign. If that’s the case, you can expect your traffic ticket to be more severe.

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Is a citation a charge?

A traffic citation is not linked to any criminal charges. This is the same with traffic tickets. But a traffic citation for an illegal activity could eventually mean that you face a hefty fine, community service, and even jail time.

Some of the most serious examples of this would be leaving the scene of an accident for which you were at fault, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or being in an accident where someone was seriously injured or killed.

If you are driving and are involved in an accident — regardless of the severity of the impact itself — you cannot leave the scene until law enforcement arrives. You must also remain at the scene until an officer dismisses you.

Driving under the influence of an illegal substance or alcohol could also mean a criminal charge. This is especially true if it’s not your first offense.

And finally, if you’re involved in a car accident in which someone is seriously injured or killed, you can expect a charge to be filed against you that results in one or more negative outcomes.

But receiving a traffic citation is not the same as receiving a legal charge in any way. If you are charged with a crime, you will be notified by law enforcement, and you may have to take legal action.

What should I do if I get a police citation?

If you receive a police citation, follow any instructions that law enforcement gives you.

You can ask questions if you’re confused by the situation or need help understanding what’s going on. Once you receive your citation, you can call the number listed on the ticket to ask further questions.

You will be given a date and time to show up to traffic court if you need to. Be sure not to miss your court date. Showing up could reduce any fines you’re responsible for and diminish the points on your license.

Citations are different from one infraction to the next, so be sure to read the fine print of the ticket you receive.

Does a citation go on your record?

A traffic ticket or citation is likely to go on your driving record, but there are instances in which this may not happen.

Judges can dismiss tickets when you show up to traffic court. Or you may have the option to pay the fine for your traffic citation and have the points stay off your driving record.

If your citation does lead to points on your driving record, it’s up to your state as to how long those points remain. In some states, more serious citations, like those for a DUI, could stay on your record for over a decade.

If you have a lot of points on your driver’s license that ultimately impact your record, you may find that most insurance companies are unwilling to do business with you. In this case, you may need to find high-risk car insurance.

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What is high-risk auto insurance?

High-risk car insurance is a way for drivers with poor driving records to still get coverage. Most companies that offer auto insurance for high-risk drivers provide only the state’s minimum car insurance requirements.

If you’ve accrued a lot of points on your driver’s license, you’re probably in high-risk territory. Insurance companies can perform a police citation lookup to check for driving infractions and get the specifics about your driving history.

High-risk insurance can also cost a lot more than car insurance for a premium or standard driver. Take a look at the table below to see how one speeding ticket can impact car insurance rates in three different states:

Impact of Speeding Ticket on Auto Insurance Rates

StateClean driving recordAfter one speeding ticketPercent increase
North Carolina$1,325$2,05455%
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If you’re looking for car insurance as a high-risk driver, you’ll want to research online before you buy any specific coverage.

Be sure to compare plans and rates from multiple companies — large and small — to see the average for high-risk car insurance rates in your state. Then you’ll be able to find a company that offers the coverage you want at a reasonable price.

No matter your driving history, you can always shop around online to see what car insurance rates are like in your area and what you should expect to pay for coverage.

In fact, you can use our free quote tool below to find and compare auto insurance rates from several companies in your area.

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Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

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