Types of Violations and Infractions
In Pennsylvania, traffic and motor vehicle violations can be broken down into four different categories:
- Driver Licensing Infractions
- Driving Infractions
- Vehicle Licensing Infractions
- Pedestrian and Miscellaneous Infractions
Driver Licensing Tickets
Anyone operating a motor vehicle on a highway or roadway in Pennsylvania has to have a proper license (75 Pa. C.S. § 1501)
You can’t drive in Pennyslvania unless you have a valid driver’s license. And the license has to be appropriate for the type or class of vehicle that you’re operating. So, even if you have a license to drive a car, you can’t operate a motorcycle unless you have a Class M license.
You have to carry your driver’s license with you and show to to a police officer when they ask for it (75 Pa. C.S. § 1511)
Pennsylvania law requires that drivers have their license available on demand when they are driving in the commonwealth. If you happen to forget it, you have 15 days to present the license at the police headquarters or, if a citation was already filed, at the court office where the citation was filed.
You have to apply for a Pennsylvania license within 60 days of taking up residence in the state (75 Pa. C.S. § 1501 and 1502).
Under the law, only people who are properly exempted from the state’s licensing requirements can operate a motor vehicle without a Pennsylvania driver’s license. Under the law’s definitions section, anyone who lives in Pennsylvania for more than 60 days out of the year and doesn’t have and declare residency in another state is considered a Pennsylvania resident. So, anyone who has moved to Pennsylvania has to apply for a PA driver’s license no more than 60 days after establishing residency in the commonwealth.
You can’t drive with a suspended license
Under Pennsylvania law, your driver’s license can be suspended for a number of things. The obvious ones are things like getting too many points on your license or driving under the influence. You can also have your license suspended for failing to respond to a citation, failing to keep your vehicle insured, and failing to renew your registration.
You can’t present an out-of-state or foreign license to evade a Pennsylvania license suspension.
Even if the Interstate Driver’s License Compact wasn’t a problem (and it is), Pennsylvania law specifically bars anyone whose driving privileges have been suspended from trying to do an end run by using a foreign or out-of-state license.
When most people think of a traffic ticket, this is what they’re usually thinking about. Someone getting a ticket for driving or parking their car in a way that the law says that they shouldn’t. Another way to describe these are as “moving” or “operating” violations. No matter what you call it, they call describe the same thing: Getting a ticket for moving your car the wrong way.
Moving violations include:
- Failure to obey traffic control devices —> Not following signs and lights
- Not driving on the proper side of the road
- Driving in the wrong direction
- Failing to yield
- Driving faster than the posted speed limit
- Going faster than the statutory maximum speed in an unposted area
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Speeding in a school zone
- Speeding in a construction zone
- Driving too slowly and impeding traffic
- Careless driving
- Reckless driving
- Failure to switch lanes for an emergency vehicle
- Failing to switch lanes for a parked police car
- Illegal passing
- Parking in a no-parking zone
- Driving Under the Influence of a Drug or Alcohol
Non-moving violations include:
- Failure to wear a seatbelt
- Having an improperly restrained minor
- Using a mobile phone or device
Motor Vehicle Registration, Inspection , and Licensing Infractions
Pennsylvania requires that vehicles be 1.) properly registered; 2.) properly insured; and 3.) fit to be operated on public roadways. The motor vehicle code is very specific about how cars are supposed to be registered and what’s considered to be the bare minimum for how the car looks and operates.
Important detail: Never forget that operating a vehicle that isn’t properly registered and insured can lead to a driver’s license suspension.
Things to look for:
- Illegal tint
- Lift-kits that are too tall
- Inoperable lights
- Improper lighting kits
- Lights that are restricted to emergency services and law enforcement
Punishments and Consequences for Traffic Tickets
In Pennsylvania, you can get a fine, a license suspension, and a license revocation for motor vehicle code violations. Keep in mind that, in addition to the one-time punishments you may get for getting a traffic ticket, there’s also a system of points that can lead to you being ordered to appear for a hearing, attend driving school, or lose your license.
How do driver’s license points work?
For certain infractions, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (also known as PENNDOT), will add points to your driver’s license. Points are basically like demerits.
The first time you end up with six points, you have to go to driver school. If it’s your second or subsequent time accruing six points, you have to appear for a departmental hearing and you may lose your license.
Other consequences for motor vehicle violations
Going too far over the speed limit:
If you are convicted of going 31 miles per hour or more over the speed limit, you are required to appear for a PENNDOT hearing. At that hearing, the officer can 1.) make you go to driver school; 2.) send you for a vision, physical, or mental evaluation; and/or 3.) suspend your operating license for a maximum of 15 days. Just remember: If you don’t appear for the departmental hearing or fail to complete driver school successfully, your license will be suspended for 60 days.
Going 26 miles per hour or more over the speed limit before you’re 18 years old
If you’re convicted of going over the speed limit by 26 miles per hour or more, your driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days for a first offense and 120 days for a second or subsequent offense.
Getting six or more points on your license before you’re 18 years old
If you end up getting six or more points on your driver’s license before your 18th birthday, you’ll automatically have your license suspended for 90 days for the first accrual of six points and 120 days for each subsequent accrual of six or more points. And remember: If the offenses all happened before your 18th birthday but the convictions didn’t happen until after you turn 18, you’ll still end up with the Section 1538 suspension.
A special issue for young drivers:
If you’re convicted of going 26 MPH or more over the speed limit and you end up accruing six or more points on your license before your 18th birthday, you’re going to get hit with the 90 day suspension and the 120 day suspension.