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Is There a Difference Between a Ticket and a Citation in California? 

In California, a citation and a ticket are basically the same thing. Many California drivers get caught speeding from time to time. Unfortunately, having great, affordable car insurance won’t keep you from being issued a ticket or a citation. Ask yourself: Do you know the difference between a ticket and a citation? 

It can be difficult to understand all the paperwork involved after you are busted for speeding, especially if you are still very flustered. Because of that, you might not know what to do next or even what specific terms mean. 

For example, how might a ticket or citation affect your driving privileges, and will a moving violation impact how much you pay for insurance? 

Breaking Down the Basics: Tickets vs. Citations 

If you’ve ever been issued a citation for speeding, you probably have a simple question: “Is this the same as a speeding ticket?” In the state of California, the answer to that question is most certainly “yes.” 

The truth is that these terms are used interchangeably by the police, and exactly what the piece of paper you were given was called doesn’t affect important details like how much you have to pay and when it comes time to pay it. With that in mind, there are slight differences between these terms that you may want to know before you next get behind the wheel. 

When Is It Called a Citation? 

As detailed above, there is no functional difference between a citation and a ticket. Strictly speaking, a citation is the written record of a moving or non-moving violation. It’s possible to get cited for speeding, of course, but you might also be cited for other moving violations, including running a red light or failing to signal. In more extreme cases, you may be cited for reckless driving, which means you drove in a way that showed disregard for the safety of those around you. 

It’s possible to get cited for non-moving violations as well. This includes getting cited for things like parking violations and tinted windows. It is also considered a non-moving violation if you are driving with an expired registration. Finally, a failure to produce your insurance paperwork (even if you are covered and just don’t have the proof on you) is also a non-moving violation. 

When Is It Called a Ticket? 

Technically, citations and tickets are the exact same thing, but a speeding ticket denotes that you are getting ticketed for a very specific thing. Comparatively, the word “citation” covers a far greater range of both moving and non-moving violations. 

The most common type of ticket that California drivers get is, of course, a speeding ticket. Because of this, there’s a tendency for most people to assume that the term “ticket” always refers to speeding tickets. In reality, the citation issued for any and all moving and non-moving violations is also a ticket. 

A motorcycle cop writes a citation for a motorist in a red sports car - cheap car insurance in California.

Different Types of Citations and Tickets 

It’s possible to get tickets/citations for moving violations, and there are plenty that may qualify. In addition to getting cited for speeding, you can get cited for running stop signs and red lights. It’s possible to get cited for failing to correctly signal. The worst moving violations are reckless driving and DUI/DWI, both of which have the potential to dramatically increase your insurance. 

As for non-moving violations, the most common are parking violations, like double parking or parking in front of a meter without paying. Tinted windows are another common violation. If the tint on your vehicle is too dark or covers too much of the front windshield, you may get a ticket.  

Other non-moving violations usually involve (ironically) something police notice while you are driving. This includes having an expired registration, having faulty equipment like a broken taillight, or being unable to prove that you are properly insured. It also includes not buckling up, which is part of why seatbelts are so important

How Citations and Tickets Affect Your Insurance 

Whether you call them citations or tickets, the unfortunate truth is that all of the violations listed above have the potential to increase your insurance premiums. The only question is how much. For example, in California, speeding tickets may cause premiums to increase anywhere between 29% and a whopping 70%, depending on several factors, including your driving record. Out-of-state tickets can haunt you in other ways. 

Arguably, DUI/DWI violations have the biggest impact on your insurance because if you are convicted, you will have to file an SR-22 with the state for a minimum of three years. This paperwork serves as concrete proof that you are more dangerous on the road than other drivers. Because of this, some carriers may refuse to insure you altogether, and the policies available may be more expensive. For example, your car insurance rates could nearly triple after a DUI. 

Legal Nuances and Consequences for Drivers 

Certain legal nuances can affect your citations. For example, if a police officer gives you a “written warning,” this won’t actually result in a fine or increase in your insurance. It’s possible to dispute speeding tickets and other citations in court, and younger drivers may be able to file as youthful offenders and have the violation removed from their records. 

Otherwise, there is a wide variety of possible consequences for citations. You will have to pay the associated fines for things like speeding tickets, and you may get points added to your license that could lead to the license being suspended. Extreme violations like reckless driving and DUI may result in immediate license suspension and, in the short term, possible vehicle impoundment. In the short and long term, you’ll need to worry about the cost of your insurance increasing. 

Proactive Measures to Mitigate the Damage 

Once you get a ticket, there are some proactive measures you can take to help mitigate possible damage. For example, you could always try to fight the ticket in court and possibly get it thrown out entirely. And even if you pay the ticket, you should still attend traffic school. 

Traffic school can often be completed online, and successful completion of the course can help you mitigate how many points go on your driver’s license. Additionally, attending things like traffic school and defensive driving courses can convince insurance carriers you are serious about being a safe driver, despite the citation. 

To get an even better premium, consider bundling insurance for more significant savings. To save as much on your premium as possible, though, you may need to switch to a better carrier. 

Choosing the Right Insurance Partner 

Now you know the difference between a ticket and a citation (or, more precisely, that there’s no difference at all). But do you know where to get the best and most affordable coverage after getting a ticket? 

Here at Cost-U-Less, we specialize in helping regular California drivers just like you. Ready to save right away and get great customer service when you need it the most? Call us at (800) 390-4071 or get a fast and free car insurance quote online. You can also find a Cost-U-Less office near you

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