The Arizona Guide to Dealing with Traffic Tickets

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: October 14, 2023

Whether you’ve been driving for six months or 60 years, getting tickets is a fact of life. Now you’ve found yourself with one. Whether this is your first citation or you’ve had a few, what you do next is what matters.

After receiving an Arizona traffic ticket, you are faced with some choices. Do you just pay it and put it behind you? Do you fight it? Do you hire an attorney? Do you “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” and hope they can help? Or, do you just ignore it and hope it goes away?  Once you know your options step by step, you can pick the one that works best for you.

Let’s take a look at how you might attack the problem of getting a ticket. Of course, you should start by weighing your options but, after that, what’s next?

(I’m going to save you a little suspense here. That last step, the “safety course” one? That one is almost always your best choice, but, who knows? One of the others might work just as well.)

You Got a Ticket. Now What?

Drivers react differently to getting tickets. Some get angry or indignant. Some are gracious, accepting the citation as an invitation to learn better for next time. Others view the infraction karmic-ly, figuring that even if they didn’t deserve the ticket this time, they probably got away with it (or worse) a dozen times in the past.

It’s not important if you experienced one of these reactions or something completely different. What is important is what you choose to do next. All you know is that you want to deal with this inconvenience with as little effort and expense as possible.

You could choose the zero effort and expense route and do nothing. I tried that once. It did not go well.

You could just pay the darn thing and chalk the fine up to hard-earned experience. This option is fairly low on the effort scale but fairly high on the expense side. And it won’t just be expensive now; it’ll be expensive later when your insurance renews.

You may feel that your ticket represented an attack on your driving superiority, and now you’re out for justice. What will it take to beat your ticket with an attorney?

Hire a Lawyer and Fight, Fight, Fight

Maybe you’ve seen billboards with pictures of smiling (or sometimes scowling) attorneys promising to join in your traffic-related crusade. Is this your best answer in terms of time and expense?

The internet is crawling with attorneys ready to go to war for you over your traffic ticket. Don’t believe me? Google “fight ticket with Arizona attorney” and see how many results you get.

Most of these sites will boast of a 90%+ success rate, and many will make promises like

“Full refund if we are unable to keep the ticket off your record!”

Some of these will claim they’ll pay for your ticket as well.

These sites will also offer statistics encouraging you to employ them by implying you’d be stupid not to.

“One in four tickets is issued in error, yet only 5% of drivers contest their traffic tickets.”

Do you want to be in the 95% of suckers who don’t?

If you’re the type who likes to drive fast all the time, this may be an option. Many law firms have monthly memberships that will allow you to have

“Unlimited back-and-forth with traffic lawyers. Chat with certified lawyers until you’re satisfied. About any legal issue—from big to small, and everything in between.”

The fight-it-with-a-lawyer option works like this:

Factoring in the time spent shopping for a lawyer, this option is fairly moderate on the effort scale. But, depending on what the firm charges, it may remain pretty high on the expense chart. At least your insurance won’t go up if the attorney manages to keep the ticket off your record.

But Your Honor, You Have to Understand…

You could skip hiring an attorney and head to the courthouse yourself and request one of three things:

A mitigation hearing is one where you request leniency because the fine represents an excessive financial burden. If you are successful, the court may reduce your fine, put you on a monthly payment plan, or allow you to work off your debt with community service.

A contested hearing is one you attend with the purpose of getting the conviction overturned.

Requesting permission to take a driver safety course is exactly what it sounds like.

For most minor violations, traffic courts in Arizona may allow you to dismiss your ticket by completing a traffic school course.

These decisions are made on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of your violation and your previous driving history. The court’s considerations include things like:

If the answer to these questions is no, you’re generally good to go.

If the court does grant permission, you will be given information as to how the process works, including:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just like playing “Mother May I” when you were a kid, DO NOT start a traffic school course before receiving permission. You’ll wind up paying for a second one and starting all over. Also, while most courts will accept an online course, you’ll want to make very sure your court will.

Taking Your Arizona Defensive Driving Course

All driver safety courses follow the same basic curriculum. Your course will touch on topics such as:

At the end of the course, you will be required to pass a test over the presented material to be awarded a completion certificate. This certificate of completion can then be submitted to your court, keeping the conviction and associated points off of your driving record.

Arizona drivers who complete traffic school may be eligible for one of the following benefits:

You can find defensive driving courses taught both live in classrooms and online.  Online is often the more convenient option because it can be worked on wherever and whenever the student has the time.

Most courts in Arizona will dismiss tickets with a driver safety course if you meet their qualifications.  Each court is individual in its requirements, but generally, you will need to meet the following criteria:

If you meet these requirements, you may be eligible for ticket dismissal. In some cases, depending on the severity of your violation and previous driving history, you may be required to take traffic school as a part of your sentencing.

In either case, you will receive procedural instructions from your court about which course you must take, the date the course must be completed, and any additional fines, fees, or documents you may need to submit.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on individual circumstances, some drivers may not be approved for ticket dismissal with a driver safety class, but it never hurts to ask!

If Your Court Says Yes

Arizona Approved Defensive Driving

Arizona defensive driving can be completed online or in a classroom. The most important point here is that the course must be approved by the Arizona Supreme Court.

For most busy folks, an online course makes the most sense. Taking your course this way allows you to complete it all at once or a piece at a time, whenever you have the time. Online defensive driving is fast becoming the first choice for many Arizona drivers. Start your search with some of Arizona’s top online providers.

Best Arizona Supreme Court Approved Defensive Driving (a.k.a Traffic) Schools

If you’ve done any looking at all, you know there are WAY more than three online traffic schools in Arizona. If you are curious, we have a review of these three and a list of all current Arizona traffic school providers.

An Arizona Exclusive: Traffic Survival School

Arizona has another driver safety course called Traffic Survival School.  It’s kind of like traffic school on steroids.  Traffic Survival School is designed for drivers who have accumulated too many driving record points or have committed a serious driving offense. It is often used to prevent license suspension and may be required by the court as part of your traffic offense sentence.

The following actions will result in the required completion of an Arizona traffic survival course:

  • Accumulation of eight driving record points in a 12 month period
  • Running a red or flashing red light
  • Have been convicted of either reckless or aggressive driving
  • Have been convicted of a traffic violation that involved a fatality or serious injury

If you are younger than 18 years of age, you will be required to complete a traffic survival course for ANY moving violation. Failure to complete the course could result in drivers license suspension.

Remember, in Arizona, defensive driving courses and traffic survival school are NOT the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. Be sure to understand clearly which course the court wants you to take before enrolling. The course is available online from many of the providers listed above.

A Final Word

Ticket dismissal is not the only reason to take traffic school. Find out how taking a course provides other benefits, like keeping you safer and putting money in your pocket.

What’s Good About Driver Safety Classes?

More Questions? We Have More Answers!

If this is your first time taking an Arizona traffic school course, or it’s been a minute since your last one, here is some more useful information just in case.

How long is traffic school in AZ?

The Arizona Supreme Court requires that a traffic school course be four hours in length. It can be taken in a classroom (if you have four hours to kill) or online if your schedule doesn’t have that kind of opening. Taking traffic school from the online providers listed above will allow you to complete the course completely at your own pace and schedule.

How do I know if I’m eligible for traffic school in Arizona?

As long as you haven’t dismissed a ticket with a traffic school course in the last twelve months, the sins of most minor moving violations will be forgiven by taking one. Be sure to check with the court before enrolling in any course and, providing you weren’t too naughty out on the road, you should be good to go.

Can you do traffic school online in Arizona?

Yes. Arizona drivers have enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of online traffic school since 2003. If you have received permission from the court to take a traffic school course, you can enjoy it, too, from any of the providers listed above.

How many points is a speeding ticket in AZ?

A speeding violation will add three points to your driving record. If you add eight points or more to your record in twelve months, you may be required to attend a Traffic Survival School (TSS) course, or you may face license suspension.

How long do points stay on an Arizona driving record?

Points stay on your Arizona driving record for twelve months. Most minor moving violations carry a penalty of two to three points, but some citations carry enough to result in an immediate suspension of your license.