The Delaware Guide to Dealing with Traffic Tickets

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

No matter if 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 a Delaware 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?

  • Hire an attorney?
  • Talk to the court?
  • Take a driver safety course?

(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.

I Ignored a Ticket and it Was Fine, Until it Got Awkward (and Expensive)

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 Delaware 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:

  • Spend time researching traffic lawyers and hire one. Once you’ve paid the required fees, the attorney will:
    • Request a contested hearing
    • Request discovery for your case
    • Represent you in court
    • Negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges dropped or reduced 

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
  • A contested hearing
  • Permission to take a driver safety course

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 Delaware may allow you to dismiss your ticket by completing a defensive driving 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 you have dismissed a ticket with a driver safety course before and, if so, when?
  • Was your ticket written for excessive speed over the posted limit? (Generally 25+ MPH over)
  • Was your ticket written in a school or work zone?
  • Do you hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)?

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:

  • The type of course you will need to take
  • The date by which that course must be completed
  • If you will need to provide any other documentation
  • If there are additional fees you may owe

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just like playing “Mother May I” when you were a kid, DO NOT start a defensive driving 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 Delaware Defensive Driving Course

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

  • Delaware traffic law
  • Safe driving techniques
  • How to avoid an accident
  • How to handle an emergency
  • How to share the road safely with others

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.

Delaware drivers who complete defensive driving may be eligible for one of the following benefits:

  • Traffic ticket dismissal
  • Fulfillment of a court order
  • The possibility of lower insurance premiums

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 Delaware will dismiss tickets with defensive driving if you meet their qualifications.  Each court is individual in its requirements, but generally, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must hold a valid Delaware driver’s license
  • You must not have more than one current violation
  • Your citation must not have been received while driving a commercial vehicle

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 defensive driving 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

Delaware Approved Defensive Driving

Delaware defensive driving can be completed online or in a classroom. The most important point here is that the course must be approved by the Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles (DE DMV).

For most busy folks, an online defensive driving 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 Delaware drivers. Start your search with some of Delaware’s top online providers.

Best Delaware DMV Approved Defensive Driving Schools

Website Name Phone
MyImprov.com $20 Online by Improv 800-660-8908
IDriveSafely.com I Drive Safely 800-723-1955
UrbanTrafficSchool.com Urban Traffic School 888-299-8911
DriveSafeToday.com Drive Safe Today 800-991-0310
AmericanSafetyCouncil.com American Safety Council 800-732-4135
AllStarDriverEducation.com All Star Driver Education 800-967-7719
DrivingUniversity.com Driving University 877-937-4846
NTSI.com National Traffic Safety Institute 800-733-6874
DelawareDriver.com DE Online Defensive Driving 888-714-7456
Safe2Drive.com A&A Safe2Drive 800-763-1297
TrafficSchoolOnline.com Traffic School Online.com 800-800-3579
DelawareSafety.org Delaware Safety Council 302-276-0660
DelawareDefensiveDriving.com Delaware Defensive Driving 888-940-0716
AARPDriverSafety.org AARP Smart DriverEnglish 800-350-7025
DefensiveDrivingGroup.com Defensive Drivers Traffic School 877-883-7290
OnlineTrafficEducation.com Aaron’s Defensive Driving 888-308-9005
DummiesTrafficSchool.com Dummies Traffic School 877-382-3700
DriveSafeOnline.org Drive Safe Online 877-265-2170

 

Sometimes the Choice Won’t Be Yours

The Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles has taken a hard line against aggressive driving and has elevated the consequences for a conviction. Drivers with citations that qualify as being aggressive will be required to take a specialized behavioral modification/attitudinal-driving course that must be completed within 90 days of conviction.

An aggressive driving conviction may result from a driver committing three violations of the following types:

  • Failing to yield
  • Disregard for stop and go signals
  • Tailgating
  • Passing on the shoulder
  • Unsafe or excessive speed

The course is kind of like defensive driving on steroids. It is bigger and badder, mostly in terms of how much more it costs and how much longer it takes to finish. At least it’s available to be taken online, offered by many of the providers listed above.

A Final Word

Ticket dismissal is not the only reason to take defensive driving. Find out how taking a course can keep you safer and put money in your pocket.

What’s Good about Driver Safety Classes?

More Questions? We Have More Answers!

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

How long is the Delaware defensive driving course?

If you are taking Delaware defensive driving for ticket dismissal or a first-time insurance discount, the course is six hours long. If you are taking the insurance refresher course, it only lasts three hours. If you have been court-ordered to take the aggressive driving behavioral modification/attitudinal-driving course, pack a lunch. You won’t be done for eight hours.

If I complete a Delaware defensive driving course, will I receive an insurance discount?

YesSB 178 mandates that any Delaware driver who completes a driver safety course must be extended a discount of up to 10% on certain automobile coverages for three years. Further, if another course is completed within 180 days from the end of the three-year discount, the percentage increases to 15% and is extended for an additional three years. Not a bad return on the investment of nine total hours of your time and less than $40 bucks out of your pocket!

How many points is a speeding ticket in Delaware?

The number of points assessed for a speeding ticket conviction depends on the speed you were traveling.

  • For 1–9 miles per hour over the posted limit—2 points
  • For 10–14 miles per hour over the posted limit—4 points
  • For 15–19 miles per hour over the posted limit—5 points
  • Speeding 20 mph or more over posted limit —5 points*

So what’s up with this “*” business..?

  • Drivers convicted of traveling 20-24 mph over the posted limit will receive an “advisory letter” from the state.
  • Drivers convicted of driving 25 mph over the limit will have their license suspended for one month, with an additional month added for every 5 miles per hour over 25. This suspension can be waived for a 25-29 mph conviction upon completing a behavior modification/attitudinal-driving course. For drivers caught at 30 mph over and above, the suspension is mandatory.
  • Drivers convicted of driving 50 mph over the limit (or 100 mph on the highway) will have their license suspended for one year.

How many points does it take to lose your license in Delaware?

Drivers in Delaware are in danger of having their licenses suspended based on the number of driving record points they accrue over a 24 month period.

If during a 24 month period a driver accumulates—

  • 12 points: The driver will receive a letter advising them of their need to take a behavior modification/attitudinal-driving course. Failure to do so will result in a two month suspension.
  • 14 points: Mandatory four month license suspension. Reinstatement requires the completion of a behavior modification/attitudinal-driving course.
  • 16 points: Mandatory six month license suspension. Reinstatement requires the completion of a behavior modification/attitudinal-driving course.
  • 18 points: Mandatory eight month license suspension. Reinstatement requires the completion of a behavior modification/attitudinal-driving course.
  • 20 points: Mandatory ten month license suspension. Reinstatement requires the completion of a behavior modification/attitudinal-driving course.
  • 22 points: Mandatory one year license suspension. Reinstatement requires the completion of a behavior modification/attitudinal-driving course.

How can I remove points from my Delaware license?

There are two ways to remove points from your Delaware driving record. One takes money and a little time, the other takes no money and a lot of time.

The first way is to complete an approved Delaware driver safety course. These courses are six hours long and can be found for less than $30 bucks. Taking one will remove three points from your record.

Points also come off your record over time. Points are expunged after 24 months of conviction-free driving. In fact, if you can keep your nose clean for just 12 months, the points from the last 12 months will only count half.