California County Seat Locations

California County Seat Locations County-by-County

Your Right to Ask For a Change of Venue to the County Seat If you are issued a traffic ticket in California, you have the right to contest the charge. Ordinarily, the ticket will notify you to appear in the court that is closest to the location where the offense occurred. You may have the right to ask for your case to be heard in the county seat instead of the location specified in the ticket. When that right exists, you might gain a strategic advantage by asking for a change of venue to the county seat.

When are you entitled to a change of venue?

Section 40502(b) of the California Vehicle Code allows you to ask for your case to be heard in the county seat of the county in which the offense was convicted if your place of residence or employment is closer to the county seat than it is to the court location specified in the ticket. This law does not allow you to move the case to a different county, but it does give you a chance to have the case heard in a more convenient location.

CHANGE OF VENUE In California if you live or work closer to the county seat than to the court which would normally have jurisdiction, you may demand a change of venue to the county seat per California Vehicle Code section 40502(b), the place specified in the notice to appear shall be any of the following: (b) Upon demand of the person arrested, before a judge or other magistrate having jurisdiction of the offense at the county seat of the county in which the offense is alleged to have been committed. This subdivision applies only if the person arrested resides, or the person’s principal place of employment is located, closer to the county seat than to the court or other magistrate nearest or most accessible to the place where the arrest is made.

Why would you ask for a change of venue?

There are two strategic reasons to ask for your case to be heard in the county seat if you are entitled to do so. First, if you live in the county seat, you gain “home field advantage” by having the case heard there. Magistrates have a history of being friendlier to local residents than they are to people who do not live in their community. Second, and of greater importance, the officer who issued the ticket will need to travel outside of his or her usual jurisdiction to attend the trial. Some officers do not want to do that if it takes them away from their normal patrol duties. Some police departments will not authorize overtime hours to make the trip. Asking for a change of venue may therefore lead to a dismissal because the officer does not show up for the trial.

How do I ask for a change of venue?

Tell the police officer who stopped you that you want the trial to be held in the county seat. It is best to make that request before the officer writes the ticket so that the officer designates the county seat as the place of trial. If the officer does not tell you that you are being issued a ticket until after the ticket is written, make sure to make the request before you sign the ticket. If the officer refuses to change the venue, contact a traffic ticket expert to learn what you should do next. If the change of venue is improperly denied, that denial can be the basis for a defense that leads to dismissal of the ticket. If the officer agrees to change venue to the county seat, contact a traffic ticket expert to learn how your case can best be defended. Many cases are won when the officer fails to appear at trial.


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