If you have gotten a speeding ticket or been in an accident you worry about how many points you might get. We are not the lawyers to help you. Our law firm handles personal injury cases for victims. But we do provide these questions and answers about Maryland point system and how it impacts your insurance rates to provide information for people looking to understand exactly what they are facing.
Traffic Points, Tickets and Auto Accidents – FAQs
Any licensed driver in Maryland (or any other state in the U.S.) is probably all too familiar with traffic “points” or points on your driver’s license. The concept is very simple. Anytime you are convicted or plead guilty to a traffic law violation, the Motor Vehicle Administration assess a certain number of points against your license. The points stay on your record for a period of 2 years (from the date of conviction or guilt adjudication). If the total number of points on your license at a given time exceeds certain thresholds you will be subject to various penalties and requirements.
For instance, under the Maryland system if you exceed 5 points you will be automatically required to complete a driver education class. Exceed 8 points and your license will be suspended. Collect 12 points and your license will be revoked. Minor moving violations will get you 1 point. Speeding in excess of 10 mph and other major moving violations carry a 2 point assessment. More serious offenses can get you anywhere from 3 to 12 points at a time.
Most people completely understand the basics of the point system, particularly when it comes to common things like a speeding ticket. But there is a lot less understanding of how the point system works in other contexts, specifically when it comes to auto accidents and auto tort lawsuits. Below are simple answers to some of the most common questions about traffic points and auto accident cases.
Can You get Points for Getting in an Accident?
Yes. Normally if you get a traffic ticket it is because you literally got caught in the act. You ran across a police officer on the road and he tagged you on radar or he directly witnessed you running a stop sign. This has led to a common misconception that a police officer has to actually witness a traffic violation in order to give you a ticket. This is actually not true and it is something many people learn the hard way when they are involved in an auto accident.
Just like with any other crime, the police can charge you with a traffic violation (and issue a ticket) based on witness statements and circumstantial evidence. So let’s say you are going 17 mph over the speed limit when you run a stop sign and hit another vehicle. The police respond and conduct an accident investigation. Based on witness statements and an examination of skid marks and the placement of the vehicles, the investigating concludes that you were likely speeding and you almost certainly ran a stop sign. This is enough evidence for him to give you a ticket for speeding and a ticket for running the stop sign. If you are convicted or plead guilty you will get the points for these violations just like you would if he caught you on radar.
If You are At-Fault for an Accident Will You Automatically get a Ticket?
No. In most cases, if you are determined to be “at-fault” for an auto accident it basically means you violated some type of traffic law (e.g., failure to yield, failure to follow traffic signal, etc.). If police respond and investigation and decide that you are at fault, they can potentially issue you a ticket for whatever traffic violation you committing in causing the accident. They are not required to give you a ticket, however, and the officer typically has discretion whether to issue a citation or not. More often than not the officer will probably opt not to add insult to injury and leave his citation book in the squad car. Of course, this changes if you act like a jerk at the accident scene or the officer learns you were doing something extra dumb or reckless when the accident occurred.
If You Don’t get a Ticket for the Accident Does That Mean You are not “At-Fault”?
No. When the police respond and investigate an accident, they will make a determination as to who was at fault and that will be reflected in the police accident report. The at-fault driver is almost always guilty of a traffic violation, but as explained above it is basically up to the officer’s discretion whether to actually give you a traffic citation in an accident. So just because you don’t get slapped with a traffic citation doesn’t mean you’re not responsible or legally liable for causing the accident.
If You Contest the Ticket and Avoid the Points, Does That Mean You’re not Liable for the Accident?
No – unless you are found not guilty (which never happens). If you have been to traffic court in Maryland before you probably already realize it is not exactly a truth-seeking forum. In fact, most traffic court cases do not even involve a dispute about what did or did not happen and whether there is adequate proof of the traffic violation. Instead, it is more about apologies, explanations, and getting the judge to go easy on you.
A good result in traffic court is getting your speeding violation reduced from over 10 mph (2 points) to under 10 (1 point). If you get this sort of result, it won’t have any impact at all on whether you are held civilly liable for the accident. The only way traffic court may impact civil liability is if you fully contest the evidence of the violation and the judge finds you not guilty of the alleged offense. But this almost NEVER happens in traffic court so it’s hardly worth mentioning.
If You Don’t Contest the Ticket and Just Take the Points Will That Count Against You in a Civil Auto Tort Case?
Not really. What really matters is what the police report says regarding who is at fault for the accident. If the police accident report says that you were at fault, it won’t really matter whether or not you check the guilty box on the back of the citation and just take the points.