NMA Email Newsletter: Issue #10

The Non-Resident Violator Compact

Last week I discussed the requirement where ticket recipients are asked to sign the traffic citation at the time it is issued. This generated a few questions for which the answers may be of general interest.

Before adoption, by most states, of the Non-resident Violator Compact (NRVC) a non-resident of the state in which he was stopped for a traffic violation was required to immediately post bond in the amount of the ticket, often requiring a trip to the local courthouse, or surrendering his driver’s license, which would only be returned after the fine was paid. This was done because once the nonresident left the ticketing state there was no way that state could actually enforce the ticket or force the payment of the fine. Another little glitch was the practice of paying the fines at the roadside, directly to the friendly police officer. Somehow the whole incident was forgotten about before the end of the shift.

This system didn’t serve anyone particularly well and the solution was the NRVC. The states that signed up for the compact agreed to two basic principles: Non-resident drivers would be treated exactly the same as resident drivers. That is, typically, when issued a citation, the driver is required to sign a stipulation that he will either attend court or pay the ticket. The second principle requires that the state that issued a license to its resident would suspend that license if another state notified it that that person had an outstanding citation that had not been paid on time. The suspension could not be lifted until the complaining state confirmed that the ticket was paid.

For the most part, this system has worked moderately well, although some states still do not participate. (Wisconsin is one of those; to compensate, state troopers carry charge card readers to take the bond at roadside.) However, there are instances where record keeping errors or ancient tickets resurface in some faraway place and DMV robots suspend licenses.The victims have no knowledge of the suspension—until they get stopped for another violation and get hauled off to the police station and have their car impounded. Sometimes it’s less dramatic and they just can’t get their license renewed. Untangling the mess can take weeks or months and usually involves sending cubic dollars to the state that called for the suspension.

Just in case you’re wondering, the NRVC is not the same as the Drivers License Compact. That’s a topic for another day. PS if you’re in a state where the legislature is trying to pass a law legalizing ticket cameras for traffic enforcement or garner federal funds by shoving through a primary seat belt law, be sure and express your opinion to your state legislators.

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