When you see the blue and red flashing lights in your rearview mirror, the first thing you might do is check your speed. However, that is not the only traffic violation a police officer might be stopping you for. Arizona’s traffic laws tell you what you could receive Arizona traffic tickets for, including speeding, running traffic control signals and driving recklessly. The penalties for traffic tickets include points against your license, which you should be able to prevent by attending a defensive driving course, and the possibility of mandatory traffic violator school if the nature of your violation was serious enough.
Arizona Criminal Traffic Violations vs. Arizona Civil Traffic Violations
Arizona divides its traffic violations into civil and criminal violations. In a nutshell, parking violations are usually a civil traffic citation, while criminal violations include actions such as driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol, driving recklessly, vehicular manslaughter, speeding in a school zone, driving without insurance and / or on a suspended license, and vehicular manslaughter.
The penalties for the two different types are very different. With civil traffic tickets, the fine is usually $500 or less. However, if you have previous traffic violations or you pay the civil traffic ticket late, the fine could be higher. With criminal traffic violations, the fines are higher and could include jail time.
Traffic Penalties and How to Mitigate Them
Certain traffic infractions could cost you hundreds of dollars. Additionally, you must make an in-person court appearance or return the form you receive by the appearance date on the form, or the Arizona traffic court will suspend your license and send your case to collections. When it goes to collections, you’ll incur additional collection fees. The state could also issue a warrant for your arrest and impose a late fee for non-payment.
If you receive a traffic ticket, it doesn’t pay to ignore it or forget about it, as it just gets worse — you’ll be out more money and could face jail time. You can often negotiate the initial fine if you go to court and you agree to take a defensive driving course.
If the citation has “criminal” marked by any of the charges, you must make an in-person court appearance. Finally, if you are a minor, you must bring a parent or guardian with you.
Traffic penalties include:
Arizona breaks speeding into two categories: Speeding and excessive speeds. Pursuant to ARS §28-701.02, excessive speeding includes:
- Driving faster than 35 mph when you are coming up on a school crossing; and
- Driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit or driving over 45 mph when no speed limit is posted.
A ticket for excessive speeding is a Class 3 misdemeanor and is a criminal traffic violation. If you receive a criminal infraction, you cannot attend a defensive driving school to mitigate the criminal offenses.
Arizona Statutes §28-701 defines speeding and the exceptions. If the circumstances and conditions warrant driving slower than the posted speed limit, you could receive a ticket for speeding, even if you are below the posted speed limit. For example, when approaching an intersection, in a construction zone, or during inclement weather.
This section also dictates specific speeds in certain circumstances, including:
- 15 mph when approaching any school crossing;
- 25 mph in a residential or business district;
- 65 mph in other locations.
Driving at a Reasonable Speed
Furthermore, you must drive at a reasonable speed that may not be the posted speed limit when going around a curve, crossing a railroad crossing, approaching an intersection or the crest of a hill, when pedestrians are present, during inclement weather, and driving on narrow winding roads.
If the speeding ticket states it is a civil infraction, you can mitigate the charges by attending a defensive driving course.
Arizona requires that all drivers have insurance or an alternate method of coverage, including self-insurance as dictated by the statutes. It is a civil violation to drive without some form of financial responsibility.
If you can prove that you had insurance on the day you were stopped, the court will dismiss the case. Otherwise, in most cases, the penalty for the civil citation is $500 for the first violation. The traffic court could also suspend your license for up to three months.
For a second violation within 36 months, the fine is $750 and license suspension for six months. For a third violation in 36 months, the fine is $1,000 and license suspension for a year.
You can mitigate these penalties by proving that you did not have more than one civil infraction for a violation of this statute in the past 24 months – you must provide your driving record to do this, or you purchased a six-month policy that meets certain requirements.
Traffic Control Devices
Arizona Statutes §28-644 dictate that everyone must obey traffic control devices unless a police officer tells you otherwise. It also states that you cannot drive in the space between the road and an exit or entrance ramp if it has two solid white lines that guide traffic. The exception to this is if you break down and are getting out of the way of traffic.
Fines could be up to $180. You can mitigate this civil penalty by taking a defensive driving course.
Arizona Statutes §28-710 defines a construction zone as a “state highway work zone.” Most of these areas have temporary speed limit signs, which denote a speed limit when workers are present. If you violate the posted speed limit and receive a civil traffic violation, the penalties are the same as the penalties for speeding when workers are not present, plus an “additional assessment.” Half of the fine goes to an Arizona state highway work zone safety fund, and the other half goes to the Arizona state highway find.
If the penalties are civil, you can mitigate them by attending a defensive driving course. If you receive criminal traffic violations, you cannot mitigate them by attending the course.
Arizona Statutes §§28-721 through 28-735 contain several traffic laws that carry a civil infraction fine of up to $180, with the exception of §28-735, which carries additional penalties.
- §28-721: Driving on the right side and shoulder.
- §28-722: Passing.
- §28-723: Passing on the left.
- §28-724: Overtaking on the right.
- §28-725: Limitations for overtaking on the left.
- §28-726: Restrictions for driving on the left side of the road.
- §28-727: No passing zones.
- §28-728: One-way roads and rotaries.
- §28-729: Roads divided into two or more lanes.
- §28-730: Following too closely (tailgating).
- §28-731: Driving on divided highways.
- §28-732: Restricted access to roadways.
- §28-733: Blocked roads.
- §28-734: Driving through safety zones.
- §28-735: Overtaking bicycles. You must leave a safe amount of space between your vehicle and a bicycle. If you crash into a bicyclist and cause “serious physical injury,” the fine is a civil penalty of up to $500. If you cause the death of the bicyclist, the penalty is a civil fine of up to $1,000. The exception is when a bicyclist is driving in a traffic lane when there is a bicycle lane available.
If a vehicle is newer than 1972 and carries 10 or fewer people, it must have an integrated shoulder or lap belt, and passengers must use them while the vehicle is moving. The only exceptions are someone with a written statement from his or her doctor stating that the person has medical reasons for not wearing a seatbelt and mail carriers.
The civil penalty fine for a violation of this statute is $10.
Vehicles must be registered and must display the appropriate license plate; otherwise, the drivers and / or owners are subject to a civil penalty of $300. However, if you are operating the vehicle but are not the owner, the court might dismiss the case.
You can mitigate any penalties by obtaining the proper registration and license plates.
Additionally, if you fail to register a vehicle for the first time in Arizona – such as when you move to the state, you will have to pay a penalty of $300. You won’t be able to mitigate the fine by providing proof of registration after the fact. However, you might be able to mitigate the fine by taking going to driving school.
If you are involved in an accident, you must stop and call first responders and offer “reasonable assistance” to anyone injured in the accident. Failure to provide your license and registration to the drivers of other vehicles involved in the accident and the police, or to help others in the accident if you are not injured, is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you refuse to help those injured in the accident, the police could charge you with a Class 6 felony.
If the accident causes physical injuries or death, you must wait at the scene until the police arrive. If someone other than the driver who was involved in the accident leaves the scene, that driver could be charged with a Class 3 felony. If a driver leaves the scene of an accident with physical injuries or death, the police could charge the driver with a Class 2 felony.
In addition to the criminal violations, you could face a driver license revocation for five years if the accident caused severe injuries. If the accident caused a death, you could be looking at a suspended or revoked license for up to 10 years, not including any time you spent behind bars.
Do NOT Leave the Scene
If the accident did not cause serious physical injuries or death and the driver leaves the scene, the driver could be charged with a Class 5 felony.
You can receive a restricted driver’s license if your driving record remains clean during the time of the license revocation and you pay full restitution.
Attending an Arizona Defensive Driving Course
Not every infraction can be mitigated by attending traffic survival school. Most, but not all, civil infractions can be mitigated. You cannot mitigate the penalties of criminal traffic citations by attending the school.
When attending defensive driving, you also have the benefit of reducing additional points on your license, which means that your insurance won’t increase as much.
Attending the defensive driving course is easy. Register for the course and fill out the personal information screen, including the citation number and the due date. We don’t charge you until we confirm that you are eligible to take the class. That means you don’t have to worry if the charge on your citation is a civil or criminal violation. We’ll let you know if you qualify for the class. That normally takes 24 to 48 hours.
To confirm whether you are eligible to take the course, just send a copy of your driver’s license and the front part of your citation. You can upload the documents on a desktop or text the documents to us. You can also email your documents to us.
We also work with the traffic court, so if you don’t have a copy of your ticket, just call the court and ask it to fax or email your ticket to us. Once everything checks out, we’ll let you know whether you qualify or not, and if you do, when to start the course.
Note that if your violation is serious enough, think DUI or any collision that involves serious injury or a fatality, you may be court ordered to attend Arizona Traffic Survival School to avoid the suspension or revocation of your license.