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

Legal Assistant Criminal Law, Resources

Don’t you just hate it when you dash into a store for what seems like 5 minutes, only to later return to your car and find a parking violation ticket neatly tucked away under your windscreen wiper?

The worst part is – you never see it coming. You don’t even understand why you got it in the first place. Until, of course, you read the reason and realize that you’ve parked outside the designated zone. Or maybe you were in a hurry and didn’t realize that you had parked outside the defined, delineated space.

You could get a parking ticket for any number of reasons. And let’s be honest – every time you get one, it’s for breaking a parking rule you were previously not aware of. Either way, now you’re stuck with a fine that you have to pay, which can be a bit of an inconvenience, to say the least.

Nonetheless, it’s not the sort of thing you should ignore. This article explores what happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket.

How Do Unpaid Parking Tickets Affect You?

If you’re one of those drivers who consider parking tickets a reprimand for poor parking practices, well, it’s a serious citation. And, ignoring it doesn’t do anything to make the problem disappear. If anything, it aggravates it.

park ticket vending machine

While the specific punishments for ignoring citations vary by city and state, the one thing you can be sure of is – you’ll end up having to deal with a situation that’s much worse than the initial small fine you were slapped with. Here’s what could happen.

You Attract More Penalties

Parking tickets come with deadlines attached to them. These could be anywhere from two weeks to a month. If you miss the cut-off date, the amount you were initially supposed to pay could go up significantly.

In California, for instance, you may have to cough up an extra $300 over and above the fine on the ticket.

Your Car Could Get Booted

You can run from the government, but you can’t hide forever. Remember, law enforcement has your license plate on file. If they run it and discover that you have two or more unpaid parking tickets, your car could get towed even if it is legally parked at the time.

The State Could Seize Your Vehicle Entirely

If you thought getting your car booted was bad enough, you could end up losing your car entirely as a result of outstanding parking tickets. The state could seize your car and auction it to recover the amount you owe in fines.

You Might Have to Go to Court

Some cities like Memphis, TN, for instance, issue parking tickets with court dates on them. If you pay the fine within the designated time frame, there’s no need to show up to court. If you miss the deadline, on the other hand, you’ll need to clear your schedule for your court appearance.

This begs the question – Can you go to jail for unpaid parking tickets? Well, you could, if you ignore the court notice. The judge could issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

cars parked at underground parking space

You Might Have to Deal With Debt Collectors

If the thought of being inundated with endless phone calls and demand letters from debt collectors makes you cringe, listen up. That’s precisely what could happen if the city’s enforcement bureau hands your case over to collection agencies. They might even show up to where you live.

It Could Affect Your Credit Score

If your case is handed over to a debt collection agency, this will likely show up on your credit report. And, you know what that means for your credit score.

You Might Not Get Your Registration Renewed

The city could get in touch with the DMV to either suspend your vehicle registration before it expires, or they may refuse to renew it entirely until you pay what you owe in parking ticket fines.

Can My License Be Suspended for Unpaid Parking Tickets?

This is a very real threat that many people often take for granted. You might not even be aware of it until you’re stopped by the police, who then proceed to inform you that you’re driving with a suspended license resulting from your unpaid tickets. This is a serious violation and one that’s not easy to straighten out.

You might also ask – Can I renew my license with unpaid parking tickets? The short answer is – no, you can’t. You have to pay all the citations and fees required before you’re allowed to renew it.

The first step to wiping your slate clean is – know how to check for unpaid parking tickets. This usually involves entering your vehicle license plate number in an online database on your state’s official website.

What Happens if You Lose Your License?

Losing your license is not only a major hassle, but it can also be a serious security risk. So, you need to get proactive to prevent someone else from getting their hands on it and using it for fraudulent activities.

Some states require that you first file a police report. Even if it is not a requirement in the state you live in, it’s always a good idea to do so to protect yourself in case someone starts using it fraudulently.

Next, visit your state’s DMV website to determine the appropriate steps you need to take. Submit all the paperwork required and pay the associated fee, which could range anywhere between $15 and $30, depending on your state. Finally, wait for your replacement license to arrive.

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

close up of parking meter

Just as with parking tickets, failing to pay a speeding ticket could get your driver’s license suspended, your car towed, and insurance premiums increased. You may also not be able to renew your vehicle registration and driver’s license once they expire.

The next question you might ask is – How long does a speeding ticket stay on your record? Although the precise time varies by state, it is usually three years once you’ve been convicted of a traffic violation or any other minor infraction like running a red light or getting a speeding ticket.

Pay off Parking Tickets as Soon as You Get Them

Now that you know what happens if you don’t pay a parking ticket, the best thing to do would be to pay the fine as soon as you can. This prevents an otherwise small violation from turning into something bigger that could lead to the suspension of your license, or worse, a possible jail term for ignoring a court summons.

If you wish to dispute a parking ticket you were issued, get in touch with a competent parking ticket lawyer to help you fight the citation you received.