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What Happens if You Don’t Pay a Parking Ticket?

You’ve probably learned in grade school how a small lie can spiral into a big lie over time. The only way to solve it is to do the right thing and tell the truth before it gets too big to handle. Parking tickets fines have the same principle wherein if you don’t do the right thing and handle it, it will get bigger and more severe in terms of penalties. Those tickets you would find under your windshield wipers mean that you have parked where it isn’t allowed. At first, the reason for the ticket may not be clear, but upon reading it, it all becomes obvious. This guide looks at the effects of not paying a parking ticket and what the simple disregarding of fines can lead to.

What Warrants Parking Tickets?

What warrants a parking ticket is parking where you shouldn’t. This can be in a handicap spot when you don’t have the certifying tag or a closed-out spot.

Times when you are likely to be issued a parking ticket are:

  • Parking for a short period without paying - We all have those errands where we think “I’ll be in and out” and leave our cars without paying the meter. It’s too common to come back after doing so to a ticket underneath the wipers.
  • Parking in an unmarked area - Empty areas may look enticing, but the odds are if there are no signs suggesting parking, then there usually is no parking allowed. Unfortunately, some drivers don’t find that out until it’s too late. Double-check the area for signs to be sure that parking is permitted there.
  • Parking without paying the meter - This was briefly touched on in the first point; you must always pay your parking meters or fees. Some parking meters use apps and digital payments to help people who use their spots stay on top of their fees.
  • Exceeding the amount of parking time paid for - Nowadays, parking meters have apps that utilize digital payments and real-time tracking of how much time people have left on their parking spot. You may be able to pay whenever their time is almost up without heading back to their car, preventing you from going over the time.
  • Parking by a signpost - Signposts that indicate parking areas don’t mean that the parking area starts where they are. Parking is typically allowed a couple of feet from the sign. The best way to think about this is that you’re not allowed to park in front of a hydrant; you’re also not allowed in front of a sign.
  • Parking the wrong way - While parking on the street or in a lot, your car must be facing a certain way. Cars parked in the wrong direction are worthy of a parking ticket. Always pay attention to the direction of traffic if you are unsure of which direction to park in.
  • Parking outside the allotted space - If you’re going to park, always park correctly. A misaligned car taking up multiple spaces isn’t just parking ticket worthy but also rude to other drivers.

Where do You Pay For a Parking Ticket?

Before talking about what could go wrong if a parking ticket goes unpaid, let’s talk about how to handle paying it so it doesn’t come to that. A lot of counties and municipalities have websites where you can make the payments digitally. In order to have your exact citation pulled up, you will have to provide the citation number listed on the ticket and the license plate number of the vehicle it was issued to. There are also county clerk locations you can personally go to pay the ticket in person. It helps to take care of the citation no more than 30 to 90 days (depending on the state) after it was issued. At the same time, there may also be a number you can call to make payments over the phone. All these methods are designed to be accessible and quick, so you won’t be subject to the consequences of not paying a ticket. However, it’s not impossible to miss a ticket payment, so always stay on top of it.

What Is The Time Frame to Pay For a Parking Violation?

As previously mentioned, every state has a different time frame for paying parking tickets. They also have different penalties based on the number of ticket citations. Many states like Florida and Illinois have a 30-day time frame for paying tickets since they were issued. California, meanwhile, has a time frame of around 21 days. Many states are under the impression that the ticket will be paid within the next month.

What Happens When Parking Tickets Are Left Unpaid?

Unresolved tickets can turn into something more severe than just a one-time fine. This doesn’t cause insurance rates hikes or a mark upon your driving record. Leaving a parking ticket unpaid has various consequences from state to state. Some may add an additional late fee with added interest to the original ticket amount. Others may come with additional fines altogether. California is an example as they charge $300 for drivers who were late on their parking ticket payment.

Along with more fines and money to shell out, unpaid parking tickets can also result in:

  • Booted car - Since law enforcement is able to get your license plate number from the DMV, they actively seek out vehicles with outstanding ticket balances. These cars can either be towed or booted to be kept out of service. Even if you are parked legally somewhere, they can still boot your car if you have unpaid tickets. This is more likely to happen the more unpaid tickets you have. The number of tickets it takes to get a car boot varies from state to state.
  • Towing and seizure of car - Several parking tickets and an outstanding fine are grounds for your car to be towed and taken to an impound lot. Some states even put the car up for auction in order to make up for the fines they are owed. Of course, this leaves you without a vehicle, and dodging the parking ticket doesn’t seem so smart anymore. This typically happens after four to five parking tickets.
  • Credit score affliction - While a single parking ticket won’t impact your credit score, a series of unresolved ones can do some damage. This would be when the credit card company or bank is involved in delinquent parking ticket payments. Debt collectors may become involved at this point.
  • License suspension - With the possibility of losing your car, there is also the possibility of losing your driver’s license as a result of an unpaid ticket. This is never the case for just one parking ticket, as some states like California have laws against it. However, combine that unpaid parking ticket with traffic violations and its grounds for a license suspension.
  • Insurance rates increase - A single parking ticket won’t cause your insurance rates to increase. Several parking tickets that go unpaid, however, can result in insurance rates going up.
  • Denial of registration renewal - If you were to go to your state’s DMV to get your car registration renewed while you have a series of unpaid parking tickets, then they will most likely deny your request until they are taken care of.
  • Tax refund omission - Parking ticket fines can be taken out of your tax refund by the city if you are found to be dodging tickets over a long period of time.
  • Deal with debt collectors - Law enforcement has the option of sending debt collectors to you until the ticket(s) are paid. Debt collectors are notorious for constant phone calls and even turning up at your home sometimes. It can be very unpleasant to deal with.

Can You Get Jail Time For Unpaid Parking Tickets?

The short answer is no. Copious amounts of parking tickets will not land you in jail. Tickets are a civil violation rather than a criminal. The worst the penalties can do is strip you of all your driving privileges and registration in order to keep you off the road. Fines are the most common form of penalties wherein a fine is paid, and everything remains largely the same.

What if You Have a Ticket From Another State?

Just because you are outside or leave the state in which you were issued a parking ticket doesn’t mean that will be the end of it. The thing about police departments is that they talk to each other, so the police from the previous state will likely inform the department of the state you are now in of your outstanding parking tickets. From there, you’ll be subjected to the associated penalties and fees. This is a process known as “interstate summons” and is commonplace around the country.

What if You Take Your Ticket to Court?

Every parking ticket has a court date listed on it. If you believe the ticket is incorrect or worth fighting against in court, pass up on paying it and show up on your court date. You should always be prepared to pay for the ticket nonetheless.

A reason and how you would go about disputing a ticket are:

  • Ticket errors - Those who issue tickets aren’t perfect and can make some mistakes. Gloss over your parking ticket several times to make sure all the information is correct.
  • Specialized apps - One such app, Off the Record, is a valuable resource when arguing against a parking ticket. Handy apps such as these can be used as evidence in your case if it qualifies.
  • Parking ticket help guide - There are specialized guides that can help make your case and provide evidence. If you’re sure that there is a problem or dispute with your ticket, then guides such as these are available online.

How Much do Tickets Cost?

By now, you should be familiar with what happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket, so let’s look at the costs of such tickets. On average, parking citations cost anywhere from $50 to $100.

Here’s is a look at some parking violations and their fines:

  • $50 to $65 for parking at an expired meter
  • $60 for parking in a loading zone
  • $60 for parking during street cleaning times
  • $75 for parking in a residential area with no permit
  • $100 for parking by a light or intersection
  • $150 for parking in an alley
  • $150 for parking next to a fire hydrant
  • $150 for blocking the bike path
  • $200 for any sticker violations