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What happens when a foreigner gets a speeding ticket / traffic fine in the United States? I've heard that the issuing officer will demand payment on site or will confiscate the drivers license. That sounds a little too extreme to be true but on the other hand I'm not sure how they would enforce punishment for these infractions on people who can just leave the country.

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I've heard that the issuing officer will demand payment on site or will confiscate the drivers license. That sounds a little too extreme to be true - I don't see what's so extreme here. This is definitely also the case in France (where I've actually been stopped by the police before), and I think also in Belgium (of which I am a resident, so no hands-on experience here as a tourist). And concerning the enforcement: they just won't give you your drivers license back before you payed (and they will escort you to an ATM if you don't have the money with you)... – fretje Jul 15 '11 at 13:27
... so "leaving the country" is just no option. – fretje Jul 15 '11 at 13:29
I have deleted some comments left on this question earlier that were left because it was closed as 'off-topic'. For the sake of keep the discussion on-topic for now, that back-and-forth exchange is not needed. – Ankur Banerjee Jan 22 '12 at 18:06
@fretje In France, confiscation of the driver's license (technically it's a “rétention” for 72 hours at most, pending a decision) seems possible only for DIYs and driving more than 40 kph over the speed limit. As far as I understand, it's a separate measure meant to get a dangerous driver off the road, not a way to enforce penalties like regular traffic fines. – Relaxed Aug 23 '13 at 23:53
up vote 10 down vote accepted

According to the "Foreign Visitors Driving in the U.S." page on

The laws in each state vary from one to another. It is your responsibility to know and obey the laws of that state while driving.

Searching for "confiscation of driver's license" on google, I found answers to the question "Can police confiscate your drivers license for a speeding ticket?" and it seems that the answer vary by state. So, as we say here, you mileage may vary.

BTW, If you are not paying a traffic fine in the USA, a Failure to Appear warrant will be issued for your arrest. This means that if you are ever pulled over by the police after the warrant has been issued, you will be thrown in jail and will have to work your way through the justice system.

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I wasn't asking about dodging fines, I was asking if the drivers license would be confiscated. – theycallmemorty Jan 23 '12 at 18:36
Tried to improve the answer. Bottom line, it varies by state. If you give us the state, we can further answer. – David Segonds Jan 24 '12 at 20:15
@theycallmemorty The answer to that question is yes. In a lot of states you can have your license confiscated with mandatory court appearance for reckless driving. – Karlson Jan 24 '12 at 20:52

protected by Ankur Banerjee Aug 23 '13 at 8:48

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