We are frequently asked about the Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division (MVD for short) points system because we handle a lot of traffic cases. A primary concern when someone is charged with a traffic violation is to keep points to a minimum and to avoid a driver license suspension.
Accumulation of MVD Points
There are two important time frames in the MVD points system. The first is the most recent 12 months. Accumulate between 8 and 12 points in a twelve month period, the MVD will take corrective action, which means either an order to attend Traffic Survival School (TSS), or, in rare cases, the MVD may simply suspend the driving license. If eligible for Traffic Survival School (typically that means, not having attended TSS in the last 24 months) and the MVD orders Traffic Survival School, that can avoid a license suspension. If ineligible for Traffic Survival School, that typically results in driving privileges being suspended for 3 months. Accumulate between 13 and 17 points in a 12 month period, Traffic Survival School is not an option, and driving privileges will be suspended for 3 months. Accumulate between 18 and 23 points in a 12 month period, typically driving privileges will be suspended for 6 months.
The next important time frame is the most recent 36 months. Accumulate 24 points or more in a 36 month period, driving privileges will be suspended for a year.
For purposes of calculating points over a particular time period, the MVD uses the date of the violation, not the date the court entered a judgment of responsible or guilty. Because of this, it is possible that a violation that was not resolved for a significant period of time could result in a corrective action because, once resolved, there is a 12-month period (or 36-month period) that contains too many points, even if that is not the most recent relevant time period.
When do points appear on my driving record?
You only get points when you have been found responsible or guilty of a traffic violation. Courts use the word "responsible" for civil violations, and "guilty" for criminal violations. For convenience, we're just going to say "responsible" here. When you are found responsible for a traffic violation, the court transmits that finding to the MVD. This usually occurs within 24 hours. The MVD will then add that violation to your driving history.
The violation is added to your history when MVD gets notice, but the date on your driving history will show as the date of violation. If you get a copy of your driving history, you will not see anything about points. You just have to know how many points are associated with a particular violation.
Some common violations and their associated points
Most minor moving violations are two points, including but not limited to:
unsafe lane change
failure to yield
HOV lane violations
following too closely
improper position for a turn
No Point Violations
Traffic violations that are not moving violations do not have points. This includes documentary violations like expired registration or insurance-related violations.
When do points expire?
We handle hundreds of traffic cases each year, so it’s probably no surprise that we are frequently asked, “when do those points expire?” This question is often asked when defendants are considering their options, whether to take defensive driving or just pay the fine, or to take a plea offer, or to hire an attorney to challenge an alleged traffic violation. To understand the answer to this question, it is first necessary to learn about the MVD points system in Arizona, and how information is reflected on a driver’s Motor Vehicle Record (MVR).
The images above show the current format of a 39-month Arizona MVR (motor vehicle record). When a driver is found guilty or responsible for a traffic violation, the court reports the judgment to the MVD, which is then reflected on that driver’s MVR, where it stays, indefinitely. The points assessed for the violation are now reflected on the MVR. Prior to April 2020, points were not shown.
As to the original question, about when these points expire. As discussed above, there are two time periods that matter: 12 months, and 36 months. Accumulate too many points within any 12 month or 36 month period, and the MVD will issue a corrective action notice. Once a violation is older than 12 months, the associated points matter much less, and once the violation is older than 36 months, the associated points hardly matter at all, even though the violation will still be reflected on the MVR.
If you are concerned about the number of points on your record, you may request a 39-month MVR online here. A 5-year or 10-year MVR is available, if you want to make a trip to the MVD in person, but the 39-month MVR should cover everything that could likely impact your license status.
Drivers Under 18 Years of Age
The MVD points system is not the same for drivers net yet 18. If a driver under 18 is found responsible or guilty of a traffic violation, it will automatically result in an order to attend Traffic Survival School, even if that is the only violation on the driver's record. A second traffic violation for an under-18 driver will result in a 3 month suspension, and a third violation for an under-18 driver will result in a 6 month suspension.
There are a number of other crimes that are not related to driving but that when committed by someone under 18 years of age result in a license suspension, such as certain drug and alcohol related crimes and certain crimes involving graffiti.
As with any legal matter with potentially serious consequences, such as those possibly impacting driving privileges, it is always a good idea to seek competent legal advice before making any decisions.