The Georgia 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 Georgia 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.

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 Georgia 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 a mitigation hearing or a contested hearing.

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.

Good luck. Hope you win.

(On the other hand, if you have a minute, you could fall down this rabbit hole to find the origins of what might be a remarkably apt quote in this situation).

As for a Georgia Driver Safety Course…

Unlike most states, Georgia does not allow drivers to dismiss traffic citations by completing a driver safety course. They do, however, offer the option of a driver safety workaround.

According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services,  O.C.G.A §40-5-86, allows Georgia residents to complete a driver improvement course to reduce the number of points assessed against their Georgia Driver’s license up to 7 points once every 5 years. It’s like dismissing a ticket retroactively.

But what’s the point? Points, that’s what

Removing Points with Georgia Defensive Driving

Convictions of traffic violations result in the addition of points to a driver’s record. The addition of points is negative for two reasons. First, the number of points on your record will be used to determine how much you pay for auto insurance. Second, if you accumulate 15 points within a two-year period, your license will be suspended.

Most major insurance companies offer some type of “safe driver discount” for policyholders who voluntarily complete a driver safety course, especially if it results in a reduction of driving record points. Insurance companies understand that better-educated drivers make safer drivers and that safer drivers have fewer accidents. With fewer claims to pay, the companies save money and will pass those savings back to you.

Check with your insurance company to see if this is an option for you. If you’re curious how much the savings might be worth, this article dives a little into the actual math.

Can Defensive Driving Lower Insurance?

In Georgia, a Georgia DDS driver improvement course can be taken voluntarily or may be required. What’s the difference?

Taking a Georgia Defensive Driving Course

Georgia law requires that a driver improvement course MUST be taken by drivers who:

A defensive driving/traffic school course may be taken voluntarily by drivers to:

Taking Defensive Driving Georgia by Court Order

After receiving a traffic citation, the court with jurisdiction over that citation may require completion of a defensive driving course as part of your sentencing. Depending on your driving history and the severity of the violation, the court order may dismiss your ticket entirely.

Check with the court about taking defensive driving in your particular situation.

Removing Points with Georgia Defensive Driving

Convictions of traffic violations result in the addition of points to a driver’s record. Thie addition of points is negative for two reasons. First, the number of points on your record will be used to determine how much you pay for auto insurance. Secondly, if you accumulate 15 points within a two-year period, your license will be suspended.

The good news is that, in Georgia, drivers are extended the privilege to complete a defensive driving course every five years to eliminate up to five points from their driving records. After you finish the course, you can submit your certificate of course completion to your local DMV office or mail it to the address below to receive your point deduction.

Georgia Department of Driver Services

P.O. Box 80447

Conyers, GA 30013

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your license has been suspended, the state requires that a defensive driving course must be completed as a condition of reinstatement. It is possible to reinstate and reduce points by requesting the privilege from the Georgia DDS in person. This means a trip to Cummings, but it may well be worth it.

No matter your situation, it may not be a bad idea to consider a course as it will serve to make you a safer and more responsible driver to share the road with.

What’s Good about Driver Safety Classes?