What Happens If I Do Not Pay My Traffic Ticket or Court Fines?

The penalty for unpaid court fines will increase over time. If you have an unpaid traffic ticket or court fines, you should take action before the situation escalates further. If you can’t afford to pay, courts have several options for helping you handle the situation. The outcome in these options typically depends on whether you’re choosing to disregard the fine or you truly can’t afford to pay.

Unpaid traffic ticket or court fines can lead to added fines and late fees

Like many other kinds of debt, the longer you neglect unpaid court fines, the larger they become. Once a fine reaches the point where it is considered delinquent or in default, courts might start charging interest and add late or failure to pay fees. If you contact the court and make them aware of the situation before delinquency or default, you may be able to arrange for a payment plan or an extension of your due date.

If you miss your court date related to the fine, you might get a failure to appear fine each time you miss court. If you continue to ignore court notices, your fine can quickly escalate from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

Unpaid traffic ticket and court fines get referred to collections

Courts use debt collection agencies to attempt to recover unpaid fines. These collection agencies often add interest charges. If you disregard them long enough, they may choose to sue you, which will cost you even more. Also, debt in collections shows up on your credit report as a negative item. This can hurt your report and ability to borrow money for years.

Courts may offer community service to pay off fines

Numerous courts have options available for people who can’t afford to pay their fines. One of these could be working off the fine through community service. You could be more likely to receive this option if you make an effort to contact the court on your own.

Remember, you can go to jail for unpaid traffic ticket and court fines

Putting people who owe these fines in jail isn’t generally a court’s first choice. In most cases, it would cost more to arrest you and keep you jailed than you owe in fines. But it can happen, and ignoring your fines is likely not worth the risk of losing your freedom. Certain situations may make jail time more likely:

  • If you’ve repeatedly missed court dates or avoided paying, then a judge can issue a warrant for your arrest.
  • If paying the fine was a condition of your parole or probation, not paying violates the terms of your conditional release, and a judge may send you back to jail.
  • If you made an arrangement to do community service instead of paying the fines, but you keep missing your scheduled community service hours.

It truly is in your best interest to pay your fine on time or dispute it in court. For more information, consult with a qualified attorney to discuss your personal situation and how you should proceed.