By Erin Gerstenzang

One of the first things drivers worry about when they receive a traffic ticket is what the financial cost of this ticket will be. Depending on your prior experience with traffic courts, you may be surprised by how quickly the fines and surcharges can add up. Although the surcharges are mandated by state law, the base fine can vary dramatically from court to court. This is primarily because most traffic offenses can carry a fine amount of anywhere between zero to $1000.00.

For example, on a simple failure to maintain lane ticket, the maximum fine is $1000.00 and the minimum fine is zero. The surcharges are then calculated as a percentage of the base fine.

850What factors can affect the fine amount?

Fortunately most courts in Georgia will generally accept fines set at approximately $300 or below for these types of routine traffic offenses when the individual has a clean driving record. However, it is not entirely uncommon for judges or prosecutors to insist on the maximum fine of $1000.00 for certain drivers and/or offenses.

Although there are a few courts with a reputation of imposing the maximum fines on a regular basis, you will normally only see fines approaching $1000.00 when the case presents unusual circumstances. Sometimes, if the driver has an extensive driving history, the fine will be increased. For example, some judges will require $100.00 for every prior offense to be added to the base fine.

If a driver has been particularly unpleasant towards court personnel or the ticketing officer, the court or prosecutor may insist on a higher fine. As a result, always remember to be very careful and courteous when addressing all individuals associated with the court, whether by telephone or in person.

How do I resolve my FTA Status Featured ImageIf the prosecutor reduces my citation, will the fine automatically be lowered as well?

Many drivers are surprised when they go to court and negotiate a reduction of the original charge to a lower speed, or a non-reportable offense, but are then told that the fine will be increased. This is a common practice amongst prosecutors in courts across Georgia. The prosecutor recognizes that there can be important and compelling reasons to reduce traffic offenses, which often depend on the individual circumstances of the driver and the facts that led to the citation. As a result, when a driver requests a reduction, the prosecutor may find it appropriate to impose a higher fine amount.

In addition to a higher fine, the prosecutor may also want the driver to take a defensive driving class. This is to ensure that while the driver may be avoiding a permanent record of the original citation, he or she will not likely forget the investment of time and money that was required to resolve the ticket.

If this is my first speeding offense, what are the maximum fines that could be imposed?

All fines refer to the base fine, so remember that additional surcharges will be added on. However, O.C.G.A. 40-6-1 sets a cap on the amount of fine that may be collected when it is the driver’s first offense. There is no fine imposed if you are driving 5 mph or less than the speed limit. If you are driving more than 5 mph but no more than 10 mph, the fine should not be more than $25.00. Between 11 and 14, the maximum fine is $100.00. The fine for speeding 15 mph to 18 mph is $125.00. Between 19 mph and 24 mph the maximum fine is $150.00. And finally, a citation for 24 mph through 34 mph will be capped at $500.00.

If this is not the driver’s first offense, than the normal $1000.00 maximum fine will apply for most traffic offenses.