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California Traffic Tickets and Violations
If you were pulled over and got a traffic ticket in California, don't sweat it. While getting a moving violation is never a walk in the park, there are ways to move through the California traffic ticket process quickly and painlessly — and even keep points off your driving record. We've simplified the process to take the mystery out of resolving California traffic tickets.
When you are pulled over for a California speeding ticket or another traffic violation, you can expect a few things to occur. First, the officer will ask to see your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. If you cannot present these 3 items, you could already be in trouble. All 3 of these are ticket able offenses, so the first rule of thumb is to have these documents with you when you get behind the wheel.
- Infraction: This covers all the basic California traffic violations, from speeding to running a red light.
- Misdemeanor: This is a more serious driving offense, like driving without a license, driving under the influence, excessive speeding, etc.
If you receive a traffic ticket, the officer will have you sign and date it and you'll receive a copy for your records. Don't throw it away! All California traffic violations are also called a "Notice to Appear." That piece of paper contains some valuable information, like your court date and citation number. Signing the ticket means you agree to appear in court (in person or by filing a plea) and pay your fine by the court date. Remember, you are not admitting guilt by signing your ticket. Keep in mind that if you do get pulled over for a misdemeanor like a DUI, you might be arrested on the spot and your car could be impounded.
Your court date, as well as court contact information, will be located on your ticket. Do not rely on the traffic court to notify you about anything related to your citation — it is not required to do so. Use your ticket to ensure you appear, or file your plea, by your assigned date.
If you plead guilty or no contest: You can simply send in a payment for your fine along with a copy of your citation to the court. When your fee is received, your case will be considered closed and the citation as well as the point(s) will be added to your driving record at the DMV. These points will stay on your driving record for 3 to 7 years. You may have the option to take a California traffic school class to mask your ticket, but you'll need to get approval from the court first.
If you plead not guilty: You will be required to plead your case in court in front of a judge or submit a written "trial by declaration" to the court. You have the option to hire an attorney to represent you or you can represent yourself. Even if you plead not guilty, you will be required to pay your traffic fines up front. If you win your case your payment will be returned to you. Remember, you may get a reduced fine or have your charges dropped, but if you lose your case you'll be required to pay court fees on top of any attorney's fees.
The California DMV point system assigns a value to each traffic ticket or accident. Traffic tickets can carry 1-2 points, and accidents can carry 1 point. These points are added to your driving record, and if you exceed a certain number of points, you may lose your driving privileges.
- 1 Point: Speeding, Running a Red Light, Unsafe Lane Change, At-Fault Accident, etc.
- 2 Points: Reckless Driving, DUI, Driving with a Suspended License, Hit and Run, etc.
You can be considered a "negligent driver" and your driver's license can be suspended or revoked for accumulating the following point values on your driving record:
- 4 or more points in a 12-month period
- 6 or more in 24 months
- 8 or more in 36 months
If you plead guilty, or you are found guilty by the court, your traffic violation will be recorded with the DMV. While one measly point might not seem like a big deal, even just one violation on your DMV driving record give your auto insurance carrier the ability to raise your premiums.
Some drivers, especially first-time violators, are granted permission from the court to take traffic school to hide the ticket from their public driving record. By keeping the violation from going on your public record, you'll prevent that dreaded insurance increase. Remember, being a safe and responsible driver is the best way to keep your record clean and possibly earn yourself an insurance discount. However, if you do get a ticket, you can mask it from your record by taking a traffic school class.