What Happens When You Don’t Pay a Parking Ticket?

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You walked out of that work meeting, or after your coffee stop, or the morning after your night out with friends and saw the dreaded paper fluttering under your windshield wiper. Whether the paper is blue or green or white or pink where you live, seeing it causes a nearly universal sense of dread.

Ugh. A parking ticket.

Since parking tickets, unlike traffic tickets, don’t go on your record, it can be easy to ignore it. After all, what’s going to happen if you don’t pay one ticket? It’s not like they’ll send the cops after you…

Actually, what happens when you don’t pay a parking ticket varies based on where you were when you received the ticket. Different states, municipalities, and towns have their own laws.

The absolute worst thing to do is to ignore it, or pretend that it is going to go away. These situations only tend to escalate, but at each stage you generally have a solution that will let you handle it without it going any further or it getting any worse.

You Owe More Money

The first thing that usually happens when you don’t pay a parking ticket by the date indicated on the ticket itself is that you owe more money. Most places add to the cost of the ticket every 15 or 30 days. A ticket that was originally $50 can end up costing you $1000 or more if you don’t pay it on time. Sure, this might seem like a money grab by the government, but it’s perfectly legal. If you don’t pay now, you’ll pay more later.

Most fines have a timetable that they operate on where a certain amount of time passes and a certain additional fine will be levied. These additional fines and the amount of time you are given do have set limits, and both the amount of the fine and the time frame you have to handle them are published. You should familiarize yourself with this data because it gives you an idea of how the whole process will roll out. They are legally binding, and made publicly available, so you have no excuse for not following the instructions.

If you cannot afford that initial fine things are only going to get harder as it increases.

Your Vehicle Gets the Boot

Once you owe more than a certain dollar amount in parking tickets or have been issued more than a certain number of them, your car can get booted. This means that authorities place a device on your wheel that keeps the car from moving. The device will remain locked in place until you pay off your tickets to have it released. It’s a way of holding your car — and your life — hostage for the money you owe.

The authorities have to have recourse to get not only the money that you owe for the initial parking ticket, but any efforts that have been made to recoup those losses have cost money and must be paid for.

At this point in time your vehicle may be seized and it may be auctioned off to pay for all the costs that you have incurred. It may not even go for anywhere near the value of what you paid for it, and you may now be stuck in a situation where it is hard for you to replace the vehicle.

This could threaten you livelihood and cause untold problems; all of which could have been avoided if you had just paid for the ticket.

Collection Agencies Might Get Involved

No one likes to receive calls from collection agencies but you should get used to it.

Once the parking enforcement bureau that enforces the fine has reached the limit of what they are able to do in terms of pursuing the amount of the fine and any additional fees that you incur from late payment, one of the first courses of action that they might take is to hand off the fine to a collection agency.

As well as notifying credit bureaus which is going to affect your credit score, you are going to have them calling you and mailing you incessantly. Of course you can ignore their calls for a long time, but it is going to be sat there affecting you for a long time.

If it does get to this stage, again, communication is going to be the best course of action, and you may be able to make an arrangement with the collection agency. They will often take a smaller payment just to settle out.

You Can’t Register Your Car

In some places, parking fines that haven’t been paid for a certain amount of time or that reach a certain dollar amount get reported to the DMV. They can place a hold on your registration until you pay off the fines. This means that you won’t be able to update the tags on your car next year until you’ve paid all the parking tickets off.

If you get caught without registration you can end up being given points on your license, or it might drive up your car insurance rates. You may even get another fine, and a possible court appearance. All avoidable by paying that ticket.

You Have to Go to Court

Some locales will send you a court summons if you don’t pay your parking tickets within a reasonable length of time. This means that you won’t be able to resolve the issue without standing before a judge. Most of the time, the judge will simply tell you to pay the tickets then and there. However, they can charge you even more money or take the opportunity to publicly lecture you about leaving your tickets unpaid.

Some places actually have the court date already printed on the ticket, and there is a paid by date, which if you comply with you do not have to attend. If you want to dispute it there are also things that you can do before the paid by date as well.

If you do somehow miss it and you realize that you have made a mistake it is a good idea to reach out to them immediately to make sure that no further action is taken against you. A decision may have been made in your absence, but it also possible that there is more you can do to handle it just by talking to someone at the courthouse.

You Can Get Arrested

If you don’t go to court, or sometimes if you accumulate more than a certain dollar amount in fines, you can get a bench warrant issued in your name. This means that, if you are pulled over, get into an accident, or have any other interaction with a police officer where they look up your name or your license plates, they can arrest you. You will have to deal with the humiliation of being arrested in the middle of the street, and then you’ll have to pay the tickets you ignored.

So what you need to do is reach out to them and provide them with your name, Driving License number and social security number, and they may ask you to pay right there and then, or they could even send the sheriff out to arrest you. You are definitely going to want to contact an attorney.

Your License Gets Suspended

It might seem like overkill, but some states will suspend your driver’s license for too many unpaid parking tickets or when you owe more than a particular amount. If you want to keep driving, you will have to pay the tickets off. A few places will keep the suspension active for a year, even if you get the tickets taken care of. If you want to maintain your right to drive, make sure you pay your tickets.

Getting your license suspended because of your parking ticket can lead to a whole other set of problems that you don’t want to experience.

This depends on what state we are talking about – for instance in Michigan a parking ticket count as a civil infraction, for which you can be convicted, and then have the license suspended.

Did you know that you can also get your license revoked for even an out of state ticket?

Driving around with a suspended license puts you at threat of being arrested for driving with a suspended license.

You Could Lose That Money During Tax Season

If you have been lucky enough to avoid paying the ticket, paying late fees, and managed not to get pinned down by any of the debt collectors that have been calling you, you are still not necessarily out of the woods.

You may not have received any follow up after the court summons, and have had no bench warrant issued, but there are other departments through which the city can pursue you for the money you owe.

Taking all this risk just avoid paying something that can seriously snowball and have far-reaching consequences does not make much sense. Paying the parking ticket is just so much easier.

When it comes to tax season, and you are expecting that big refund, your plans may have been put on hold. The city can ask for the money you owe to be taken out of your state tax refund.

Increased Car Insurance Premiums

By the point this is having an impact on your premiums you have obviously let the payment of your parking ticket slide for way too long. You have failed to handle it at several points where it frankly would have been less of a headache.

The more of a risk you are, generally the more you are going to pay for your insurance premiums. The fact that you have taken this long to handle a simple parking ticket, means you really do not have much room to be surprised.

Non-moving violations or parking tickets themselves are not the thing that makes you more of a risk, it is instead suspended licenses and the failure to pay that has the negative effect on the perception of you as a risk. This can affect both your credit score and your premiums.

Your Credit Score Tanks

Many places resort to collection agencies to try and get you to pay your tickets. They will report you after you don’t pay for 3, 6, or 12 months. After that, the collection agency will be on your back. They may call you, your friends, your loved ones, your coworkers, and anyone else connected with you, in order to harass you into paying the tickets.

At that point, though, the damage has already been done. As soon as the credit agencies get wind of your name attached to a debt that has been reported to collections, your credit score will tank. How far it drops depends on a number of factors, but it will end up significantly lower, even if you pay the collections agency right away. A lower credit score makes it harder to get loans and, if you do get them, you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Protect yourself and avoid embarrassment by paying your parking tickets as soon as you get them. You can choose to fight them, too, if you think the rules were incorrectly enforced. The key is that you take care of the ticket instead of neglecting or ignoring it. Sure, it’s a pain, but it’s not nearly as painful to pay now as it is to suffer the consequences later.


Getting a parking ticket can be an upsetting experience, but it is not hard to handle it if you follow the instructions that are provided to you at each step of the journey. If you miss one of these steps the one thing that you can always do is reach out to the authorities that are handling the parket ticket, at whatever stage, they will able to tell you how to resolve the situation.

Burying your head at any point is definitely not the way to go – all it is going to do is exacerbate the problem. Not being able to pay immediately is something that you can negotiate. Each of the departments that can become involved has the sole goal of having the parking ticket paid.

If you get confused there are people who can help you. Educating yourself on the process is something you can do.

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