unpaid traffic tickets for passport application

Can a Passport Application Be Denied for Unpaid Traffic Tickets?

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To obtain a U.S. passport, one must complete a written application, submit the right-sized photo, provide original documents that establish one’s identity and citizenship status, and pay the fees. Once the application is submitted, the U.S. State Department will also perform a background check on the applicant, looking for any red flags that may be grounds for denial.

Many people with unpaid traffic tickets are often worried that these will prevent them from getting a passport. Failure to pay or respond to a traffic ticket in New York carries a number of serious consequences. Firstly, it means one’s license can be suspended. Secondly, it can result in a warrant for one’s arrest. A person who is pulled over with outstanding tickets could find themselves taken into custody (and possibly charged with driving while suspended). But could it affect one’s passport application? 

The answer will depend on many factors. The U.S. State Department rules on passports are as follows: 

§51.60 Denial and restriction of passports:

(b) The Department may refuse to issue a passport in any case in which the Department determines or is informed by a competent authority that:

(1) The applicant is the subject of an outstanding Federal warrant of arrest for a felony, including a warrant issued under the Federal Fugitive Felon Act (18 U.S.C. 1073); or

(2) The applicant is subject to a criminal court order, condition of probation,  or condition of parole, any of which forbids departure from the United States and the violation of which could result in the issuance of a Federal warrant of arrest, including a warrant issued under the Federal Fugitive Felon Act; or(9) The applicant is the subject of an outstanding state or local warrant of arrest for a felony; 

The above means that passport applications can be denied should the applicant have an outstanding warrant for a state, local or federal felony offense. An unpaid traffic ticket is not a felony offense. However, certain other driving-related offenses, such as DWI or driving while suspended can be charged as a felony. A person for whom there is an arrest warrant for those or any other felony offense can have their passport application denied. However, if the outstanding ticket is for speeding, a red-light violation, or texting while driving, it is unlikely to prevent one from getting a U.S. passport. 

Can I Be Arrested for Unpaid Traffic Tickets Upon Reentering the Country?

While a person with unpaid traffic tickets will most likely be able to get a passport, leaving the country without paying them would be unwise. A person could be arrested when they reenter the country if an arrest warrant has been issued for him/her over unpaid tickets. U.S. Customs and Border Protection could, in such cases, take the person into custody. Even if no warrant has been issued, it is possible for a person with unpaid tickets to be subject to a more intensive inspection.

What Should I Do About Unpaid Traffic Tickets?

If you or someone you love has failed to respond to or pay a traffic ticket in New York, contact an attorney right away for help. An attorney can offer the best chance of avoiding being arrested and, in some cases, beating or reducing the charges. The lawyers at Rosenblum Law are experienced traffic ticket attorneys who have helped many drivers in NY and NJ mitigate the potential consequences of unpaid traffic tickets. Email or call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation about your case.

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This post was written by Adam H. Rosenblum Esq.

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