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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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Feb 14, 2022

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Just the Basics

  • There is no difference between a citation and a ticket, except that a “ticket” is a less formal way of referring to the written document that outlines your violation and penalties, known as a “citation” for legal purposes
  • Make sure that you know how to respond to your citation, such as fines or court dates, and when you should follow up to avoid further action.
  • Citations or tickets can cause increases in your car insurance rates depending on the severity of your infraction.

While it is common to receive citations and tickets for driving violations, such as speeding or parking incorrectly, many people do not understand the slight difference between the terms citation vs. ticket. Some people believe there is a significant difference between citations and tickets, but it is minimal.

Read more below to learn about citations vs. tickets and how they affect your driving record and car insurance rates.

If you have received a citation or ticket, enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool above to find affordable car insurance.

What is the difference between a citation and a ticket?

To make it simple, there is no difference between a citation and a ticket.

So, what is a citation from a police officer? A citation is a written record of something you did wrong while driving or operating your vehicle, including violations that occur while parked. A ticket is just a less formal term for a citation, so “ticket” is often used in casual conversation, while “citation” is typically used for legal purposes.

Does a citation go on your record? Yes, most citations will go on your driving record unless you can successfully dispute the ticket or have the courts reduce your penalties and agree to drop the ticket. Depending on the type of citation, some can end up on your criminal record as well.

Is a citation a charge? In many cases, no, but it may be considered a type of arrest that doesn’t require the officer to go through the arrest process. Some citations, however, may also be considered a misdemeanor, which is a minor criminal charge.

A citation or ticket typically includes information regarding what you did wrong and how to make the situation right, your next steps, and how much time you have to respond. After receiving a citation, you may need to pay a fine, provide proof of insurance, or attend court.

Citations can be given for moving violations and non-moving violations. Non-moving violations are typically some type of parking ticket, but many different types of moving violations can occur. Some of the most common include:

  • Speeding. The higher your speed over the posted speed limit, the more severe the consequences of your speeding ticket. You may need to pay a fine and pay more in insurance, plus more depending on past violations.
  • Not stopping for a red light or stop sign. These types of citations typically come with a fine, but penalties will vary by what state you are in.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). DUIs and DWIs may result in hefty fines, loss of your license, and even jail time. Depending on which state you are in, a DUI or DWI could stay on your driving record for up to 10 years.
  • Not using turn signals. While this citation is typically less severe, it can still result in fines and points on your license.

Citations are typically handed out by law enforcement during traffic stops. They will explain the citation and the next steps.

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What do I do if I get a citation or ticket?

When you get pulled over, make sure to stay calm and be respectful toward law enforcement. You may need to provide your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. You should answer questions politely, and if you have a plausible reason for your actions, you can voice your side of the story. However, be aware that police officers may have proof of your violation.

If you are issued a citation, make sure you know how to follow up. Make sure you know if you need to pay a fine and when to do so. In addition, if you need to appear in court, make sure you know the court date. Shortly after receiving the citation, you may want to take a few minutes to write down any details you can remember. Include the date and time, weather, obstructed road signs, and anything else you feel may be necessary.

In some cases, drivers may choose to dispute a ticket, which means you will need to appear in court. However, if you don’t fight the ticket, you can go ahead and respond to your ticket in a directed way. You must respond by the date on your citation, or you could face additional consequences, such as misdemeanors or jail time.

If you need to pay a fine, the directions for doing so are typically included on your ticket. Most areas have a way to pay online with a traffic citation lookup, but you may also need to go to a physical place to pay it. You can usually pay with a check, money order, or credit card. In addition, you may also be able to set up a payment plan if you are having a hard time affording the ticket.

How do citations and tickets affect car insurance?

Let’s take a look at how different driving violations can affect your car insurance rates:

Average Annual Car Insurance Rates by Driving Record
Driving Record InfractionAverage Annual Car Insurance Rates
Clean Record$3,102.08
One Speeding Violation$3,641.34
One Accident$4,076.60
One DUI$4,895.38
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The impact on your car insurance rates will be determined primarily by your car insurance company. If you have an otherwise clean driving record but receive a speeding ticket, some car insurance companies won’t raise your rates. You may want to contact your car insurance company to see if there are some ways you can avoid an increase in your rates.

However, if you have more than one infraction on your driving record, there could be more significant increases in your rates. Furthermore, it gets increasingly worse depending on the seriousness of your violation and the penalties you face for those violations. For example, if you have tickets and a DUI that results in you losing your license, your car insurance will be much more expensive, and you could risk losing your coverage altogether.

In some cases, drivers with multiple infractions may have to seek out a high-risk car insurance company or provide their local government with an SR-22 form that proves they have adequate insurance.

If you need help finding affordable car insurance for drivers with a citation or ticket, enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below.