Do You Really Need to Disclose Speeding Tickets on Law School Applications?

Law School Expert Blog

I get a huge number of questions about what needs to be disclosed on law school applications, and applicants are especially annoyed when schools want to know about traffic tickets. Some schools do ask about this as part of their character and fitness questions on applications. If they do, you must disclose the following information to the best of your abilities:

  • date of the traffic ticket and the exact offense
  • where it occurred
  • how it was resolved

It’s not necessary to say you were late for an exam or to offer any other excuse for why you were driving over the speed limit. If you have a number of tickets to explain in your law school applications, hopefully you can put some distance between the last one and the current date.

Very rarely would someone be rejected from law school simply based on having to disclose two or three speeding tickets, but five or more might show a disregard for the law that could concern law schools.

18 Responses

  1. Ann, How specific do you need to be on the moving violations? Obviously, the first answer to my own question is to read the instructions, but I have one app that wants specifics that I cannot provide. Here is the scenario: As you know I am “old” :). I have only had two moving violations in my driving career. One at 16 and one two years ago. Obviously, I remember CLEARLY the one (for speeding) two years ago. I remember the charge from age 16 (failure to yield right of way). I DO remember the jurisdiction and the “arresting” officer’s name because we later dated (very interesting story but probably not the one the law school wants :). Anyway, I paid a fine but I have no idea how much or even the exact dates. I really only remember because it was my first ticket–therefore traumatic–but it WAS 22 years ago. I doubt anyone even has a record of it anymore. How far must I go to fulfill “specific” instructions? Do I need to draw attention to the obvious–that it’s so long ago that I don’t remember and can’t get the info or can I just list it with the approximate dates and they’ll GET the gist on their own?

    1. I have a similar question to the original poster – I have been driving for 25 years. I can remember getting a ticket on the LIE, and I have the very vaguest of notions when it happened (sometime between 2001-2004) but I don’t remember specifically and have no way of finding out. I want to disclose it, but I don’t know how bad it will sound that I don’t remember when it happened. What’s the best way to disclose it? Thanks!

      1. Suzannah, it’s a common problem and not a big deal. Just say something along the lines of “To the best of my recollection, in my 25 years of driving, I have only received one speeding ticket. It is no longer on my driving record but I believe it was approximately 10-12 years ago in Long Island and that I paid the fine promptly…”

  2. Ann, thank you for bringing this topic up. I was not even aware of this practice. From your admissions experience, what does really play a role in admission process? The actual information or the ability to air it all? Interesting enough, nobody is seeing this as another information hook spun as “must be candid to be in our school”. Where do we as applicants draw the line? Granted I have no record as such, but in my opinion this application inquiry might be crossing the line.

  3. Ann,

    Thank you so much for all of your advice. I have a similar question regarding the amount of information to disclose to law schools. I have come across applications that have asked me to list the other law schools to which I have applied or intend to apply. All but one mark the question as optional. How do law school admission officers view answers to this question? Are they able to get the information from other sources? Thank you in advance for your help.

    1. Hi Liz,
      I talk about this in my book, but basically there’s no point in being evasive. It’s a marketing question. Unless you have a 150 LSAT and you list top 5 schools or you list all schools on the opposite coast from the one where you’re applying, you should be fine. It’s a marketing question more than anything else and it would appear insincere to make it look like you’re not applying to other schools.
      Have a great weekend!

  4. Hey Ann,

    I was charged with 2 reckless driving tickets in Virginia, a state with crazy laws that make misdemeanors out of what are speeding tickets in most if not all other states (my reckless driving charges were for 55mph on a 30mph street and 84mph on a 65 mph highway). The first one I was able to reduce to a regular speeding ticket in court; the second one I was also able to do that for, but only after driving school and community service.

    Do these need to be reported as misdemeanors on all apps? Or are they traffic violations to only be included on some?

    Thank you for everything, your book is carrying me through applications!


  5. I have had several speeding tickets and some of them I have no idea when they occurred. Is this something that I would have to look into before applying? How serious are these questions?

  6. Hi Ann,
    I am currently applying to law school, and I unfortunately have 3 traffic tickets from a few years ago, which I am having to disclose. Two of those tickets I had an attorney go to court on my behalf, so I am not fully clear on all of the details on what happened. I was told one thing by the attorney’s office and another by the actual court, so it has been confusing. I have been going with what the court says since they are the one’s with the record. However, with one of the tickets, when I called to find out what the plea entered for the ticket was, they said it was a pre-trial negotiation, and that she had nothing listed on her end. And my attorney’s office says something different. But since, I have been unable to confirm either I am unsure what to put in the addendum, outside of that I am unsure of what the exact plea entered is, and that I paid a fine. Any suggestions?

      1. Hi Ann,
        I realized I put to much personal detail in my post. If I could please have it removed that would be great. Thank you so much for the advice.

  7. Good Morning Mrs. Ann Levine, Esq.,

    Today I have received my very first citation. It was a warning and I am so stressed over this because I immediately went to the courthouse and paid the $20.00 to have the citation dismissed. I am wondering if I just ruined my chances of being admitted into Law School behind a traffic violation? The officer gave me a warning being that I am an out of state student and just said drive slower Chris. Youre a good kid and everything will be fine. He gave me a written warning citation for not being able to provide a copy of my registration and insurance on the spot, but afterwards I showed the documentation to the court and they dismissed everything and stated it would not show up on my records or go against my license. What am I to do in regards to disclosing the information to potential law programs and should I stress behind this?

  8. Hello,

    My name is Jack W. and I had a question regarding these same sort of issues, but a bit different. I recently submitted some applications to a variety of schools, but completely forgot about an accident I was involved in when I was 14/15, and I am unsure if I should reach out and let the schools know about the mistake. Some are clearly phrased to not care about such things, but others are trickier and I wanted to be sure before I muddy the water with perhaps unnecessary info that could cause confusion and possibly hurt my application as I appear very foolish for such a mistake. Though it may be better to get ahead of the issue! The question that gives me most concern is this:

    Criminal/Civil/Military Infractions: Have you ever been cited, arrested, charged, convicted or sentenced for any criminal, civil, or ordinance violation, at the federal, state, or local level? This includes, for example, any adult, juvenile, or military violations, as well as any forfeitures.

    For a bit of detail, I was 14 on a learner’s permit, and I was with my mother in the car, when I slid on some ice and hit a turning car. There were no injuries, and no major damage besides a hefty dent. A police officer arrived, and took basic info, but as I was 14 my mother did the majority of the talking. After that, I heard nothing, never went to court, never signed anything as far as I can remember, never heard anything about civil or criminal charges. To make matters worse, my mother soon after passed away and all records of this incident seem to have vanished in the chaos, and all my father can recall is that, he thinks, we had to pay for the damages via my mothers old insurance (essentially a third party claim process as far as we know). I looked up my driving record for more info, but my country record office has informed me that they destroy records of accidents after 7 years so there is no record of the event in their system, and while I believe I reached out to the right insurance we have no record of what insurance she had and the ones I reached out to had no information. So as far as I know, the accident resulted in no civil or criminal charges, but I really have no idea of knowing if this is the case and I would assume that an accident automatically produces some of those kinds of charges.

    So is it wise to reach out to the school that had the above question and mention this incident? Would it even lead to being “cited, arrested or charged” if I never had to sign anything or go to court? Particularly if, from what I can gather, it was resolved entirely through undisputed insurance claims? Is an accident considered a “minor violation” if it contained no impairment or reckless behavior? How would a traffic accident typically be classified? Essentially, should I reach out to schools that ask questions like this or am I worrying too much and would only make it worse by reaching out, particularly if the question does not actually pertain to such an issue?

    Thank you for your time, your site alleviates an enormous amount of stress, and have a great day!

    Jack W.

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