If you get a ticket, be sure to read it

Becky Campbell • May 2, 2012 at 10:04 PM

So you have a traffic citation and don’t know what to do with it?

First thing is to read it, said one records clerk. The citation itself contains a lot of information, including where to pay any fine associated with it, that can guide the receiver through the process to settle it.

“The easiest way to avoid a ticket is to not break the law,” said Johnson City Police Records Clerk Tina Poore.

But if a driver does find themselves receiving a traffic cation, it can be handled several ways whether given by a city, county or state law enforcement officer.

Some citations can be paid outright and the charge dismissed, others require the person to attend court. Citations can always be contested.

Clerks at the Washington County Justice Center and records clerks at the Johnson City Police Department are allowed to dismiss certain citations if the receiver complies with the reason they received the ticket.

Washington County Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn said there are a handful of citations — called compliance citations — that the Sessions Court judges allow her office workers to dismiss.

“We don’t just do this on our own. The judges have told us what charges we can dismiss,” Guinn said.

Compliance citations include ones for expired registration, no proof of insurance — which means there was a policy in effect but the driver didn’t have proof at the time of the citation — violation of the light law, window tint or violation of the muffler law.

Compliance means if the reason for the ticket is repaired, the clerk at the appropriate location can confirm the repair and dismiss the ticket.

But other tickets have other settlement requirements.

A person is required to appear in court if they receive a citation for DUI, reckless driving, violation of the move over law, open container, switched tags, any drug charges or driving on a suspended or revoked license.

And then there are the citations that can be paid, but don’t get dismissed. Those are following too close, failure to yield right of way, running a stop sign and violation of the insurance law if there was no insurance in place at the time of the citation.

The fines for traffic citations vary, although most are about $10. But court costs — which must be paid for any charge — are what drive the price of a ticket up. A traffic citation from a county officer that can’t be dismissed carries a $228.50 court cost fee and one from a state officer carries a $226.50 court cost fee.

Fines for speeding tickets vary depending on the miles per hour over the speed limit. A ticket for texting while driving is a flat $60 fine. Add the court costs and it will cost $286.50 to $288.50.

In the city, there is a $50 city court cost, which is included in the amount printed on the ticket, Poore said.

Fines in the city also vary and the amount is on the citation. Not all city traffic citations can be handled at the police department, but if it requires a court appearance, that information is printed on the ticket, said records clerk Tina Poore.

There also is the issue of red light camera tickets. If issued by Johnson City, the citation is handled through the police department or in city court. Those fines can be paid by mail as well, and the address is printed on the citation.

Most traffic citations issued in Jonesborough are handled at town hall. If someone wants to contest citations they can also go to Jonesborough Municipal Court. Compliance citations are also handled in Municipal Court, according to Police Chief Matt Hawkins.

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