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Everything You Need To Know About California Traffic Court

California Traffic Court: A Comprehensive Guide

The most prevalent type of California Traffic Ticket is a speeding ticket—. However, police officers can issue more than four million fines each year due to the many ways under the California Vehicle Code that motorists can breach the law.

The fact that California has the most licensed drivers contributes to the high number of tickets issued. More drivers mean more tickets, which means more money for the government. Traffic ticket fines and assessments are becoming increasingly difficult to pay in a jurisdiction where taxes are already excessive.

Here’s the ultimate guide on dealing with the California Traffic Court and all its ups and downs. If you get pulled over in CA for speeding, don’t worry —there are many options available for you to get out of the situation.

Welcome to the Everything You Need to Know About California Traffic Court Guide.

First Of All: Must You Go To Court For a Traffic Ticket?

If you want to avoid the possibility of going to court, then it’s alright, as there are many options you can consider before going to court.

You can avoid going to court by:

  • Mail a check for the fine.
  • Pay for traffic school or do both
  • Trial by mail.

As a result of pleading guilty and paying the fine, you may see a rise in your insurance costs. However, in case you fail to appear in court or pay the fee, your license may be revoked, and the court may file a misdemeanor charge against you and issue an arrest warrant.

Keep reading to know more details on fighting your traffic ticket and what to expect from the California Traffic Court.

If Your Courtesy Notice Says “Mandatory Appearance”

A warrant will be issued for non-attendance if the courtesy notice indicates that a misdemeanor infraction requires an obligatory appearance.

Traffic Misdemeanors

A traffic misdemeanor is a more severe driving infraction, such as driving without a license, driving while intoxicated, speeding excessively, and so on. A traffic ticket can also lead to a charge of a more serious crime. If you get pulled over due to speeding and the officer believes you’re driving carelessly, you could be facing a misdemeanor ticket. You could be punished with a failure to appear misdemeanor if you get a speeding ticket and decide not to pay your fine or appear in court by the deadline.

Getting a Lawyer

Your license might be canceled and your insurance premiums could skyrocket. You are making the right decision by defending yourself in court against violations. Call a lawyer so they can link you with a network of skilled traffic attorneys who will fight your traffic citation from start to finish.

How To Contest a Traffic Ticket

You don’t have to appear in court for arraignment if you choose to contest your ticket. Even if it’s by mail or in person at the traffic clerk’s office, there are options to do it. Even so, you must deposit the bail money with your request to set a trial date without going before a judge in either scenario

Ticket Snipers

At Ticket Snipers, you’ll have a fast and trusted team at your disposition. Call us and save money and time while fighting a traffic ticket. There’s no need to face this inconvenience by yourself. You don’t have to deal with the California Traffic Court if you have us by your side. We’ll fight your ticket. So if you’re wondering what to do, you can call us to guide you in the ticket contest.

Failing To Pay The Fine Or Show Up For Court

Your driver’s license may be suspended if you do not pay your fine within the time frame set by the court. It’s also possible that you won’t be able to renew your vehicle’s registration.

If you do not pay your fine when you ought to, a “civil assessment”—which can be of up to $300 may be added to your fine—your case may be submitted for collection—or the court may issue an arrest warrant for you. For “failure to pay,” the court can charge you with a misdemeanor or infraction. You will avoid these additional fines if you appear in court to reply to your ticket. It will also provide you the chance to present the court with any financial hardship or ability to pay difficulties you may have. Remember, even if your case has been committed to collections, you can request an ability-to-pay determination at any time.

If you receive a “civil assessment” but have “good reason” for not appearing in court or paying your fine, you may be eligible to have it canceled if you ask the court in a timely manner.

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If Your Courtesy Notice Does Not Say “Mandatory Appearance”

You may not need to appear if you contacted the court prior to your “Notice to Appear” date to handle the ticket and took action on it (e.g., pled guilty and paid, sought an arraignment date, posted bond, and requested a trial without arraignment, or requested a trial by declaration). Make sure to confirm with the court that your appearance is not required when you speak with them.

Your Options For Resolving Your Ticket

Regardless of whether it’s for speeding, running a red light, or any other traffic violation, most drivers will eventually be ticketed. Getting a ticket isn’t going to have a major impact on your life, but dealing with a ticket, on the other hand, does involve some time. In many cases, you’ll be saddled with hefty fines and higher insurance premiums as a result.

The following are some options for resolving your traffic ticket:

Pay The Full Amount

You can accept responsibility for your actions and pay a fine. You must enclose a copy of the citation with your payment to the court. If the warning concerns correctable activities, such as an expired registration, you should attach proof of correction. If the problem is still not figured out, you should appear in court to determine the appropriate penalty.

A traffic infraction could also result in the revocation of your driver’s license. If you have a clean driving record, your insurance premiums or driving privileges may be affected; if you have a history of many offenses, your driving privileges may be suspended. Paying the fee rather than going to court will avoid having to appear in court, particularly if the citation includes alcohol, speeding, or reckless driving. Also, if you got involved in an accident, you will be required to appear in court.

Request a Payment Plan

For those who can’t afford to pay the full amount, you should request a payment plan. Due to the high cost of traffic citations, many counties in California have implemented the CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 40510.5, Installment Payment of Bail Forfeitures, as an alternative payment option. It’s simple to use, and it’s just like any other payment plan out there. Instead of paying the fine in full, a person who receives a traffic ticket might enter a traffic ticket payment plan.

In most California counties, the clerk of the court is authorized to begin the process. Using this method, they avoid having to appear in court for the ticket. Paperwork stating that you understand the conditions and payment schedule of the plan must be signed before entering into a repayment process.

Request That Your Bail Is Converted To Community Service

As previously indicated, if you’re having difficulty paying your fine because of financial hardship, don’t forget to ask the court for a payment plan or a decrease in the penalty via community service. If you fulfill certain financial requirements and are unable to pay the bond on your citations, the Court provides a community service work program for you, and administrative fees of $50 apply to those who are eligible.

Plead Not Guilty

If you want to enter a written not guilty plea and set a court date, you can do so by mail or in-person with the clerk. Unless you request separate arraignment and trial dates, your case will be scheduled for arraignment and trial on the same day. A traffic bail deposit is necessary to take advantage of this convenience (see 40519(b) of the Vehicle Code). In this case, your bail will be refunded if you are proven not guilty at trial.

  • Set a Trial Date

If you want to enter a written not guilty plea and set a court date, you can do so by mail or in-person with the clerk. Unless you request separate arraignment and trial dates, your case will be scheduled for arraignment and trial on the same day. A traffic bail deposit is necessary to take advantage of this convenience (see 40519(b) of the Vehicle Code). In this case, your bail will be refunded if you are proven not guilty at trial.

  • Set a Trial By Written Declaration

By opting for a trial by written declaration, you can avoid any court appearances. Instead of appearing in court to defend your charge, you and the citing officer submit written testimony and any evidence (see 40902 of the Vehicle Code). To employ this process, you must first post the bail amount. Your bail will be restored if you are proven not guilty. This option must be used on or before the “date to appear” on your citation.

Things To Know About Your Traffic Ticket

Sometimes we know how to handle firsts, and sometimes we don’t. If there comes a time when you get a traffic ticket, there’s no need to panic. 

Next are some basics on what cautions to take if it ever happens to you, and what you should look out for.

The Court That Will Decide Your Case

While small traffic infractions are technically crimes in the majority of states, they are rarely prosecuted in criminal courtrooms. Criminal courts are normally designated for more serious misdemeanor and felony offenses that are punishable by imprisonment. 

Criminal court hears only the most serious driving-related charges, such as driving while intoxicated (DUI), reckless driving, and vehicular homicide. Drivers who incur tickets for minor traffic violations will appear in traffic court.

Traffic courts are less formal than other types of courts. In general, there is no right to a court-appointed attorney in traffic court. As a result, unlike in criminal court, you will observe a large number of persons representing themselves without legal representation.

Locating Your Traffic Court

Your ticket’s bottom date is the “promise to appear” date, which is not a court date, but rather a ‘due’ date for resolving the citation in some way, whether that is through payment or scheduling a contested court hearing.

People are required to appear in court for only a small percentage of citations. The courtesy notes accompanying these citations will include the phrase “Mandatory Appearance.” After this, getting the information on the location of your traffic court will be easy.

How To Respond To The Ticket

To most people, paying a California traffic ticket is better than trying to fight them, mostly when it’s a minor traffic violation. There are, however, moments when it’s worth fighting it. For example, it may be worth fighting a ticket if the traffic ticket leads to too many points on your driver’s license or results in higher insurance premiums.

Your Ticket’s Due Date

Find your traffic ticket number, or citation number, on your copy of your traffic ticket—at the top right side of the ticket. It may take the court 30 days or more for the law enforcement agency to receive the citation and enter it into the system. A reminder of notice will be generated and sent to the address listed on the citation. The appearance date is at the bottom of the speeding or traffic ticket. If you misplaced your ticket, you can look it up on a California Court website by using your name. You must close your case or appear on or before the due date. Use the public access site of the Court of Justice to search for your photo citation and get payment information.

  • Missing Your Citation’s Due Date

If you disregard your ticket (or do not respond to it), then your situation will only get worse. Your fine will get additional penalties. If the court decides that you can prove to the court that paying for the ticket will cause a financial hardship to you or your family, you may ask the court to consider your situation. The court may decide, after reviewing your case, if they accept to reduce the amount of the fine or the fee, if they approve a payment plan, or if they order community service. All courts may not offer all of these options; however, not all fines or fees may be eligible for ability-to-pay cases, and the court may decide you still owe the total amount. If you do not appear in court or pay the fine, your driver’s license may be revoked, and other penalties will apply.

If You’re Found Guilty In Traffic Court

In most places, minor traffic infractions such as speeding, running a red light, or distracted driving do not carry the right to a jury trial. Therefore, if you contest a traffic ticket, your guilt will almost certainly be determined by a single judge rather than a jury. Non-jury trials are frequently referred to as “bench trials.” Each jurisdiction operates slightly differently. However, here are some fundamentals of what happens in traffic court.

Traffic Appeals

A traffic appeal occurs when a party that loses a case in trial court (for example, a party who is found guilty of a traffic offense in trial court) asks a higher court—or the appellate court—to reconsider the trial court’s judgment. Almost always, the appellate court considers only two factors: (1) if a LEGAL error was made in the trial court; and (2) whether this error had an effect on the case’s final conclusion.

What Happens After An Appeal

The appeal court cannot reverse a trial court’s decision solely because its judges disagree with it. The appellate court evaluates solely what occurred in the trial court in order to determine whether a legal error was made during the initial trial; for example, to determine whether the trial court judge applied the incorrect law to the facts of the case. The trial court has the authority to hear the evidence and make its own determination. The appellate court may reverse the trial court’s decision only if it discovers a significant legal error in the trial court processes that affected at least part of the case’s conclusion. Bear in mind that filing an appeal does not extend the date for paying your fine or serving any portion of your sentence. To obtain a stay of your sentence, you must petition the trial court for a “stay” of the judgment, which includes the fine order.

Filing The Paperwork For An Appeal

If you intend to utilize an “appeal statement,” you must first create a proposed statement. If you do not have an attorney, you must complete and file a Proposed Statement on Appeal (Form CR-143). Within twenty days of filing the Notice to Appeal, you must serve and submit the proposed statement to the trial court. Alternatively, you may file your proposed statement concurrently with your Notice of Appeal.

Your Driving Record

All issued tickets will include a monetary penalty, and California’s fines are among the highest in the country, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Some tickets will also result in points being added to your driving record. Moving offenses result in a penalty of one or two points, depending on the infringement. Non-moving offenses and failed equipment do not result in a penalty.

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DMV Points After An Infraction
Unless you complete traffic school, the points from your violation will show on your record. If you present documentation of course completion from a licensed traffic school—before the deadline, of course— the new points will be hidden from your insurance provider. Remember that points on your driving record can result in your insurance company raising your premiums or canceling your policy entirely. And it will be determined by the type of infraction you received.
  • Will Traffic School Eliminate Your Violation?
Yes! Traffic school is an option, but you must first obtain court clearance and complete a number of standards. Attending these institutions removes the violation from your record, so insurance providers are unaware of the situation.
  • Will Enrolling In Traffic School Reduce Your DMV Points?
In this case, the court should be able to tell you if traffic school is an option for you and which schools are licensed. If this is your first ticket, you should not receive any points on your record, and the judge has granted you permission to attend traffic school.
  • How Many DMV Points Will Get Your License Suspended?
A specific number of points will result in the suspension of your license. If you acquire 4 points in a year, the California DMV will automatically suspend your driver’s license for 6 months.
Ordering A Copy Of Your Driving Record
You can order a copy of your driving record by any of the following means:

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Traffic Court Tips

Are you going to traffic court soon and don’t have any idea on how to prepare yourself? The following are some traffic court tips you can put into practice if you ever find yourself in the situation of fighting a traffic ticket and which postures should you take:

Prove That An Element Of The Traffic Offense Is Missing

In essence, the elements are the things that the state must establish in order to obtain a conviction. To establish a distracted driving violation, for example, two essential factors must be established: 1) the person was driving, and 2) the person was using a forbidden electronic device (like a cellphone).

Whatever offense you’ve been charged with, the judge is supposed to rule you not guilty if the state cannot show even one element. Therefore, if you believe the evidence is deficient or absent for any element, you should probably draw the judge’s attention to the shortfall.

Don’t Rely On Weak Arguments Or Lies

Don’t go for the old trick of exaggerating your case or even lying. It never works. Don’t rely on weak arguments like saying you didn’t see the stop sign in clear weather or that your cellphone was off when none of those things are very believable. Both the judge and the officer who ticketed you have years of experience dealing with those types of excuses. Concentrate on any of the other tips we have for you here.

Dispute the Officer’s Version of Events

In some instances, disputing the police officer’s version of events may be a wise course of action. Generally, this method is viable in instances where a cop must make a subjective determination regarding whether you violated an offense element.

Prove That Your Conduct Was Necessary

Although it is uncommon, there are times when a driver may be forced to violate a traffic law in order to avoid greater injury. When this occurs, a driver may be able to overcome a ticket by claiming “legal necessity.” The critical point here is to persuade the court or jury that you were compelled to breach the law in order to avert a substantial and immediate risk to yourself or others.

You violated the law by crossing the double yellow line, but only to avoid endangering the pedestrian. The legal necessity defense may suffice in such a circumstance.

Prove Your Offense Was A Legitimate Mistake

Judges are given some discretion in weighing in on situations beyond your control. If you can demonstrate that you made an honest and reasonable error, a judge may dismiss your ticket as a “mistake of fact.” For instance, if you failed to stop at a stop sign following a severe storm because the sign was obscured by a broken branch, a judge may absolve you of responsibility.

On the other hand, a “mistake of law” will often do you no good, as it simply means you were unaware that what you were doing was prohibited. For instance, if you are penalized for speeding, failing to know the speed limit is often not a defense.

Keeping track of a case number for a traffic violation is no easy task, less so if you happen to be “not guilty,” that’s why we are always ready to help you in dealing with California Traffic Court issues and more. It is essential to know all the information possible but also know that you can rely on our experts at Ticket Snipers. We hope this guide will help you understand more about how the California Traffic Court works.

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