We get lots of calls from people asking this question. There really is not a good answer for it. Here is how it all plays out:
The DMV will place a hold on your driver’s license when it receives a notice of an unpaid ticket.
At some point, the ticket times out. In Louisiana, however, there is no definitive point when it expires.
Getting a traffic ticket is like a two-way street–You have an obligation to show up, or otherwise, deal with the ticket. The municipality has some obligation to find you, if you do not show for court. In other words, if the town does not do anything, the ticket basically times out at some point.
There is no fixed time period for a town to automatically throw out old tickets. Most towns do not usually actively look for people who missed court dates on speeding charges and minor traffic offenses. If you do not resolve your ticket, the municipality basically leaves you alone, but asks the DMV to suspend your license.
That does not mean the next police officer that stops you for a charge will not also give you a ticket for driving under suspension. Most people are motivated to take care of old tickets to avoid the one-year mandatory suspension. There is also the possibility that your next traffic stop will mean an arrest. This can happen, but usually it does not until the person has at least two or three other bench warrants.
I have seen prosecutors argue that the ticket never expires and not showing up in court makes someone a fugitive from justice. Despite that, I have gotten stacks of tickets thrown out that were a decade or more old. Most judges I have appeared before seem to throw out anything more than around 10 years old.
In reality, the town usually needs the police officer to show up in court to prove the ticket. People retire, lose their jobs, and move away. With an old ticket, it is often impossible for the town to carry their burden to trial. That still does not stop the DMV from continuing a hold on your license. The hold will usually stay in place until they get some paperwork saying the ticket is resolved.
If you have an old ticket and the DMV has your license suspended, you will have to deal with the municipality to get it resolved. It could take a court appearance to avoid hundreds of dollars in fines the town probably added, due to an old bench warrant.
Regardless of how old it is…the burden is on you to deal with it quickly.
Written By: Greg Gouner