Running a stop sign can be three points on your license. A DUI can be four points. And speeding can be anywhere from two to six points, depending on how fast you were going.

Every state has a system for assigning point values to different kinds of traffic offenses, and they can often function in very different ways. So where do these points come from, and how can points affect your license?

PD or DMV?

Most traffic ticket points systems are implemented by the state’s motor vehicle department to keep track of the driving records of all licensed drivers in the state. The points are not assigned or tracked by the police, but the two departments do communicate back and forth.

The police will alert the DMV regarding the traffic charge if you are convicted or plead guilty or no contest. The DMV will then assign the points to your license. If you accumulate a certain amount of points over a specified amount of time, the DMV could suspend or revoke your license.

If your license is suspended or revoked, the DMV will alert the police, and if you’re caught driving without a valid license, you could face heavy fines or even jail time.

Points on Your Permanent Record

So how many points before they take your license? That will depend on your state’s specific license points system. For example, California will suspend or revoke your driver’s license if you accumulate 4 or more points in 12 months, 6 in 24 months, or 8 in 36 months. While Vermont will suspend your license if you rack up 10 or more points in a 2-year period.

You should also be aware that getting a new license in a new state may not erase your points history. Some states share driver history, so tickets in your old state may follow you to your new one. Most states won’t count points from infractions older than three years, but the ticket itself will remain on your driving record.

Some states will erase some points if you attend traffic school. If you have accumulated a several points in a short time, or are facing an expensive fine, you should talk to an experienced traffic ticket attorney near you.