What’s the Difference Between a Citation and a Ticket?

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She works as an associate editor and writer for 4autoinsurancequote.com for over a year and enjoys creating content that offers expert advice on car insurance topics.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs...

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Reviewed byLeslie Kasperowicz
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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The word ‘citation’ has several different meanings. In most jurisdictions in the United States, however, there is no difference between a citation and a ticket when it comes to vehicle-related penalties.

Citations and tickets are documents stating that you have been charged with a traffic offense. If you get caught speeding or running a red light, for example, then you may be issued a citation or a ticket. You must send payment to the court along with your ticket. If this is your first citation, then your insurance rates may not rise. If you have two or more citations or a stricter insurance company, then your insurance might rise after a single citation.

More serious offenses – like a DUI or DWI – can force you to appear in court and enter a plea. You may face larger fines or even imprisonment.

difference between citation and ticket

Violations Versus Citations

There is no discernable difference between a citation and a ticket. However, there is a technical difference between a violation and a citation:

  • A traffic citation charges you with one or more traffic violations; you may receive a citation or ticket for speeding, for example
  • A traffic violation is the specific rule you broke; if you were caught speeding, for example, then you ‘violated’ traffic laws by going over the speed limit

If you commit a traffic violation, then you will receive a citation or ticket. This citation refers to the traffic law you are charged with breaking. The citation also explains the next steps to take – like any court appearances you are required to make or fines you are required to pay.

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Will a Citation or Ticket Affect My Car Insurance Premiums?

A single citation or ticket could affect car insurance premiums. Some car insurance companies sharply raise insurance premiums after a single traffic offense – like a speeding ticket.

Insurance companies have different policies regarding which offenses affect your rates. Some insurance companies ignore all speeding tickets and ‘minor’ citations, for example, when calculating insurance premiums. Other insurance companies raise rates sharply after any type of citation or ticket.

If you have a clean driving history and receive a single citation or ticket, then your insurance premiums may not rise at all – especially if it’s a minor citation like a speeding ticket.

A more serious citation – like a DUI – will likely raise insurance premiums even if you have an otherwise clean driving record.

Ultimately, insurance companies have different policies regarding clean driving records. Some drivers lose their clean driving bonus after a single citation. Others will have their premiums remain unchanged after a single citation. If your insurance company is trying to raise insurance premiums after a single citation, then you may wish to compare car insurance quotes with other providers.

Some Jurisdictions Have Different Definitions for Citations and Tickets

In most cases, a citation and a ticket are the exact same thing when dealing with law enforcement officials and vehicles. However, some jurisdictions do have a difference between citations and tickets.

  • In some jurisdictions, a law enforcement official only gives a citation after the offender has received multiple tickets
  • In some jurisdictions, a citation requires the offender to appear in the court of law; with most tickets, however, the offender simply needs to pay a fine
  • In some jurisdictions, citations are only handed over for more severe violations or repeated violations; if you have received multiple speeding tickets, for example, then you may receive a citation

In other words, citations can be more serious than tickets in some jurisdictions. Citations may require an appearance in court, while a ticket can simply be paid by check or online payment.

In other jurisdictions, of course, a citation and a ticket have no discernable difference.


There’s no difference between a citation and a ticket in most jurisdictions in the United States. The two are the same thing: a citation or a ticket is a document explaining that you committed some type of traffic offense – like speeding.

In some jurisdictions, however, a citation is more serious than a ticket: a citation requires you to appear in a court of law while a ticket can simply be paid. You might receive a citation after receiving multiple tickets, for example. Or, you might receive a citation for a serious driving offense – like a DUI.

Whether you call it a citation or a ticket, it can have a serious effect on your insurance rates. A single speeding ticket or DUI can cause insurance prices to rise 50% or more overnight, for example. If you have received a traffic citation or a ticket, then you may want to compare car insurance quotes online today to ensure you continue paying competitive rates.

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