What To Do When Your Teenager Gets a Ticket

For many young people, earning a driver's license is a right of passage. It is a ticket to freedom and opportunity. It is also often a ticket to tickets. It does not take much to get a ticket. Anyone who has driven on a road has likely seen (and committed) numerous violations. Car accidents are common and can be destructive and deadly. The State of Connecticut has enacted numerous laws to keep our roads safe. Young people have additional requirements. New drivers are restricted in when they can transport passengers and also have curfews, which can trigger suspensions for first offenses. Young people also have stricter driver reeducation requirements.

In addition to motor vehicle violations, individuals under the age 21 face driver's license suspensions for tickets for possession of alcohol and marijuana. Often the suspension consequence is not known after a ticket is paid and a suspension notice from DMV arrives in the mail. Even after reinstatement, a suspension remains on a driver's history.

One question I am asked a lot is what to do about tickets. Here is a quick guide for what to do when your teenage daughter or son receives a ticket.

  1. Determine if it is a ticket or a summons. A summons looks like a ticket but it is really an order to appear in court. Summons can be issued for both infractions (not crimes) and misdemeanors (crimes). A summons should have a court date and location. Believe it or not I have had clients who thought a summons was a ticket and did not appear in court. Reckless Driving for instance, is a misdemeanor but is often issued on a summons rather than a custodial arrest.
  2. Be mindful of the Return Date. You must pay or plead Not Guilty by the Return Date. Failure to pay or plead could lead to an administrative driver's license suspension (14-140) or an actual criminal charge of Failure to Respond to Infraction. The same thing could happen if you fail to appear in court when ordered to do so.
  3. See what the charges are. If it's a motor vehicle violation, the statute would begin with a 14. Alcohol and marijuana violations start with 30 and 21a respectively. Look up the statute and see what the penalties are.
  4. Contact an attorney. Although a ticket might seem minor, this step is important because suspension requirements are not always clear and can also depend on other facts. Feel free to email me a picture of your ticket. With some follow-up questions, I can figure out what can happen and what we could do about it.
  5. Plead not guilty and go to court.

As I mentioned earlier, you might not know something causes a suspension until after the suspension notice arrives. It actually might not be too late. If within the right amount of time, you could move to reopen the ticket, which would stop the suspension, and then resolve the ticket in court in a manner that would avoid the suspension. This is a situation for which you really should have an attorney.

I handle tickets in many of Connecticut's courts. I can usually figure out what is going on through an email or phone conversation and can send you a fee agreement and online payment option instead of having you come to my office.


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