One Basic Rule for Staying Out of Jail for Traffic Tickets

Always Keep Your Address Updated With the State Department of Revenue

Why It’s Important

If you happen to forget to deal with a traffic ticket by missing court or forgetting payment deadline, you are going to get notice from two sources. The first is the court that will issue a warrant when you forget court.  The second is the State Department of Revenue which will mail you a notice if you have a failure to appear suspension (see below) on your driver record.

Most times you can avoid this issue by letting the officer know that you have moved and to put an address different from your license address on the ticket.  However, you can always avoid this issue if you simply keep the state licensing authority aware of a valid mailing address.

Staying “Off the Grid”

Some people, especially young people move many times and find it difficult to keep up with address changes.  A very few prefer that their address not be updated so that if the police come knocking, they can avoid arrest.  Not a very good reason, but it happens.  I just want my clients and the public to be aware that avoiding the police knocking on your door is really no better than the inevitability that you will be pulled over and arrested on an outstanding warrant for traffic ticket.  It’s just not worth it.

I Didn’t Get Notice is No Excuse

I been in court many times when defendants think they can get out of a driving while suspended ticket because they were not aware of the suspension.  Ignorance of a fact (like license suspension) is simply never excuse under our laws.  The judge will simply tell you what I am expressing here – you should have kept your address updated.

Failure to Appear Suspensions Always Catch Up To You

Those new to traffic tickets and interaction with police in general are not aware that if the ignore a traffic ticket, not only will a warrant be issued, but your driver license will be suspended for what the Department of Revenue or Driver Control (KS) calls a “failure to appear suspension.”

A failure to appear suspension stays on your driver record until you take care of the forgotten ticket.  While the suspension is active, it is illegal for you to drive and if you are caught driving, you will be charged with driving while suspended – the same as any person suspended for points or drunk driving.

Getting Your License Back After a Failure to Appear Suspension

You can deal with a failure to appear suspension by appearing and court to see if you can pay your fine, by posting a bond, or by hiring a lawyer to lift the warrant on your case.  In Missouri, once you resolve your case, then you need a “compliance letter” or “compliance notice” from the court.  Take that notice to a State Driver License Office, pay the reinstatement fee, and then you can drive legally.

If you have a Kansas License and a Kansas ticket, the reinstatement process takes place at the court where the original citation occurred.  You pay the reinstatement fee at court after the original fines are paid and reinstatement is automatic.  If you have a Kansas license and a Missouri ticket, get a compliance letter from the Missouri Court, send a copy to Driver Control and then call to check if you owe a reinstatement fee.

Good Luck Out There!

So there’s my basic rule for avoiding warrants and suspensions for minor traffic offenses.  Keep your address updated so you know what is going on with your case and always, always go to court when you are assigned a court date!

Explaining the Non-Points System for Kansas Drivers

I am often asked if Kansas has points and the answer is no.  Instead, Kansas uses the number of “moving violations” and the “Habitual Violator” statute to regulate dangerous drivers. I like to think of these as three-strikes laws. Namely if you have three or more moving violations or habitual violator convictions, you lose your license for a certain period.

Moving Violations:

If you have three or more convictions of the following in a three year period, you will lose your license for one year:

  • Speeding
  • Failure to obey a traffic signal
  • Driving without license in possession
  • Other offenses described in K.A.R. §92-52-9.  See also K.S.A. §8-255 (these are typically moving violations like improper lane changes, failure to signal a turn, etc.)

Habitual Violator Issues:

For much more serious traffic offenses like driving while suspended, Kansas drivers are subject to the Habitual Violator Statute, which allows for a three year suspension if a driver is convicted of three or more of the following offenses in a five year period:

  • Driving while suspended or revoked
  • Driving without insurance
  • DUI – including DUI diversion
  • Other serious offenses, as described in K.S.A. §8-285

Lastly… The important point here is that if you have accumulated too many of these kinds of traffic tickets, you should hire a lawyer to see if a conviction can be avoided so that you can keep on driving!

Missouri Point System Basics

Missouri uses a point system to ensure unsafe drivers aren’t on the roads. Points for traffic tickets are laid out by statute, but here is a simple guide:

Points for Typical Traffic Violations

  • Speeding – City/County ticket = 2 points
  • Speeding – State (Highway Patrol) ticket = 3 points
  • Driving without proof of financial responsibility = 4 points
  • Moving violation involving an accident = add 2 points (if ordered by the judge)
  • Driving While Suspended = 12 points

Racking Up Too Many Points:  If you accumulate too many points, you will loose your license from 30 days to 1 year:

30, 60 or 90 Day Suspension:  If you accumulate 8 points in 18 months, you will be suspended for 30 days the first time you do so, the second time is a 60 day suspension and third or subsequent time is a 90 day suspension.

1 year Suspensions: if you accumulate 12 points in 12 months, 18 points in 24 months, or 24 points in 36 months, you will be suspended for one year.

How Many Points Do I Have?

The Missouri Department of Revenue can let you know how many “active” points you have.  You can find out by calling: (573) 526-2407.

Points Do Go Away!

Points fall off after a certain amount of time or are reduced upon reinstatement.  For example if you are suspended for accumulation of points, when you reinstate your license, your points return to 4 total.

For the first year you drive without any new points, your total points are reduced by one-third.  After two years of no new points, the total is reduced by half and after three years, qualifying points are reduced to zero.

Remember hiring a lawyer helps you avoid points in the first place.  If you have accumulated too many points, a lawyer can even help get old convictions off your record by filing a motion with the court within a certain amount of time.

Driving Without Insurance in Missouri

You might be thinking you are saving money by not paying your auto insurance premium, but that choice could cost you big in the long run.  Missouri has some pretty tough provisions for those caught driving without insurance who end up in an accident.  Not only are no insurance traffic tickets costly point-wise (see my previous post), there are real ramifications whether you get a no insurance ticket or not.

If you have been involved in an accident and did not have insurance, you and the other driver are required by Missouri law to file an accident report with the Missouri Department of Revenue within one year of the accident.   See Missouri Revised Statute §303.040.   

That is where the fun begins.  If you didn’t have insurance, your license will be suspended by the Department of Revenue, for up to a year.  This will happen whether or not the accident was your fault.  See §303.042, 303.044

If the accident was your fault, you will be suspended AND you will not be able to get your license back until you can prove you have taken care of the damages.  This simple issue could hold your license up for years.  The other driver and their insurance company have a lot of power in this situation.  You will not get your license back until you can show you have made payment arrangements with the other party that are satisfactory.  If the damage amount is large, you could be paying that party off for years. 

Not only will you have to take care of the damages, you will have to get SR-22 insurance for 3 years in order to get your driver license reinstated.  This could cost thousands of dollars.  See what I mean about the cost?  You might think you are saving on a monthly premium, but in reality you are risking your privilege to drive and potentially thousands of dollars that you will have to pay out before you can ever get your driving privilege back.

Never Plead Guilty to Driving While Suspended (“DWS”)

Missouri courts, especially Kansas City area courts are cracking down on drivers who drive while suspended or revoked.   This means some drivers are facing felony charges and serious jail time for driving while suspended.  The only way to face felony charges in these cases is to have prior convictions for DWS and that is where I would like to start.

If you have been charged with DWS and you have been to court at least once, the judge has probably already told you in no uncertain terms to go get a lawyer.  The judge probably also told you that you face up to six months in jail on the charge and the loss of your license for at least a year.

Now, if you are one of those people who does not want to go get a lawyer and is adamant about pleading guilty to that charge, eventually the judge will let you do that.  I am writing to say – don’t do that.  Hire a lawyer who can get that charge reduced.  Pleading guilty will result in probable jail time, fines and 12 points on your Missouri license.

So you’re OK with jail time and the points?  Fine.  You should be certain your are never going to get another DWS ticket in your life because in Missouri, being caught more than twice for DWS is a mandatory felony charge.  You will do jail time and you will have a felony on your record.

You can avoid this problem by having a lawyer get the charges reduced when you get a driving while suspended ticket.  That way you will not have the prior conviction that may result in felony charges later.   Forewarned is forearmed.

NCSR – Missourians are smarter than this!

NSCR Ad on KC Star website

You can hardly read the newspaper or watch the local news with coming across some really sad ads about red light runners and their victims.   But I’m just not buying it.  Why are these ads popping up all of the sudden when the Missouri legislature is considering a state-wide ban on red light camera ticket systems?  And who is the National Coalition for Safer Roads?

Well NCSR is none other than a paid lobbyist group for American Traffic Solutions, the company that manages the red light cameras for St. Louis, Kansas City and other municipalities in the state.  These ads are only running in Missouri, where ATS has strong roots.

This group claims to be about safety, but the real fact is that its monetary interest in our state runs deep.  If red light runners where any more of a danger than the any other bad driver, there would have been an organic movement by now to demand more safety, not a company pushing its agenda.  I get that the people in these ads have suffered a real loss, but a private company shouldn’t exploit their pain to make money.

There are very few ways to vet NCSR because they have dumped a load of PR into the media to shade the fact that they are just another lobbying group.   Read more at pitch.combanthecams.com; wrongonred.com

Just my 2 cents.  I feel sorry for the cities and towns taken in by these snake oil salesmen.  They thought they were improving safety and getting some revenue, now all they have is a headache and profits handed over to a private company.