How Do Cities Determine the Prices for Traffic Violations?

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Most states set a range for each type of fine, such as for speeding, and they fine more money in more severe cases, notes MarketWatch. Processing surcharges and penalties add to the total fine, depending on the circumstances of the individual offense.

In California, traffic fines are calculated using a formula that combines a base fine, which is typically 25 to 30 percent of the maximum fine allowed by state statute, with fees associated with the operating costs of the judicial system, explains California Courts. These penalties are then disbursed to city, county and state funds. Likewise, according to a 2012 MarketWatch article, certain fines in the state of New York begin at $300 if the traffic violation generates more than six new points on the offender's license, and an $85 penalty is charged on all moving violations, regardless of the circumstances.

Often, the actual cost of the traffic ticket can be lowered after the ticket is issued. U.S. News and World Report advises readers to challenge their tickets in court, as technicalities can often result in fines being reduced or dismissed. MarketWatch notes that alternative plea deals, including traffic school courses, can also minimize the total costs of tickets, especially for people with few offenses on their records.