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  • Ticket Fines and Penalties in California

    SUMMARY: California Traffic Ticket Fines and Penalties

    Traffic ticket fines and penalties in California vary depending on the type and severity of your offense, your driving record, and your age. Your CA traffic ticket should show the full fine amount you must pay and any additional penalties you face. For more information, contact the California court in the county you received your traffic ticket.

    Continue reading this page to learn more about the traffic ticket fines and penalties handed down in California.

    California Traffic Ticket Fines and Costs

    Traffic fines in California are difficult to pinpoint due to additional penalty assessment fees and surcharges that vary by county. Consequently, a traffic ticket with a $35 base fine may actually cost you $146. For help with fee explanations contact the county court listed on your citation.

    If you can't locate your ticket, visit our page on Lost Traffic Tickets.

    Surcharges

    The state charges a 20% surcharge on all traffic tickets. This means, for example, a $40 fine will incur a surcharge of $8.

    List of Other Additional Fees

    • State Penalty Assessment
    • County Penalty Assessment
    • Court Facility Construction Penalty Assessment
    • DNA Identification Fund Penalty Assessment
    • Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Penalty Assessment

    Pay Ticket
    (Plead Guilty or No Contest)

    • Pay the fine.
    • Pay to go to traffic school.
    • Provide proof of correction if you receive a ticket for a "correctable violation" (e.g., fixing a broken taillight or providing proof of car registration).
    • Incur points on your driving record.
    • Possible increase in auto insurance rates.

    Learn more about
    Paying Your Traffic Ticket »

    Fight Ticket
    (Plead Not Guilty)

    • A court trial by a judicial officer.
    • A trial by mail, or what is often called a “trial by written declaration."
    • Choose to represent yourself in court or hire an attorney.
    • Possibly forfeit option to plea bargain for lesser charges.
    • No penalties if found guilty but must pay court and legal fees.

    Learn more about
    Fighting your Traffic Ticket »

    Auto Insurance Rate Increase

    Depending on the traffic infraction, one of the penalties may include points being added to your California driving record, resulting in a jump in your car insurance rates. Should this be the case, you always have the option to shop online and compare car insurance rates.

    CA Traffic Ticket Penalties

    Penalties, unlike fines, are uniform throughout the state. This means you'll face the same penalty regardless if you're ticketed in Orange county or Humboldt county. Penalties include points added to your driving record and the suspension or revocation of your California driver's license. There are, however, penalty variations based on license type. A permit holder, for example, will face different speeding penalties than say a driver carrying a commercial driver's license (CDL).

    California Point System

    A conviction for a moving traffic violation will bring points to your CA driving record. The severity of the infraction determines how long the point or points remain on your driving record. In some situations, the court may waive points in exchange for completing a court approved traffic school program.

    California assigns points based on the traffic violation:

    • 1 point is assigned to violations like speeding, making an unsafe lane change or an at-fault accident.
    • 2 points are assigned for more serious violations like reckless driving, hit-and-run, DUI, or driving with a suspended or revoked driver's license.

    Driver's License Suspensions/Revocations

    Not all traffic convictions lead to a suspended, revoked, or canceled CA driver's license. To keep you in the know, these three terms are defined as such:

    • License suspension: The temporary loss of driving privileges.
    • License revocation: The termination of a person's driving privileges. A new driver's license may be obtained after the period of revocation.
    • License cancellation: The termination of a person driver's license. Any person whose license has been canceled may immediately apply for a new CA driver's license.

    A high number of traffic tickets and/or points could lead to the suspension or revocation of your California driver's license. As is, the CA DMV will suspend your driver's license for accumulating 4 points or more in 12 months.

    A court judge may suspend your driver's license, regardless of point count, if convicted of one of the following:

    • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI).
    • Failure to stop as required at a railway grade crossing.
    • Driving above the posted speed limit.
    • Reckless driving.
    • Hit-and-run.
    • Assaulting a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian on a highway (road rage).
    • Committing a felony or misdemeanor offense.
    • Fleeing a law enforcement officer.

    Penalties for Minors in CA

    Drivers with a Provisional license have less leeway when it comes to fines and penalties. In addition to the violations listed above, the court and/or California DMV will suspend your driving privileges if you:

    • Receive a traffic ticket and fail to appear in court.
    • Get a traffic ticket and fail to pay the fine.
    • Have commit a 3rd offense of an at-fault collision or conviction (or any combination) within 12 months.
    • Are convicted of using alcohol or a controlled substance while driving.
    • Are between 13 and 18 years old and convicted of being a habitual truant from school.

    Penalties for California Commercial Drivers

    You must notify your employer within 30 days of conviction of any traffic violations. Even if you get ticketed while driving your own car, you still must notify your employer. If the conviction occurs outside of California, use a Report of Out-of-State Traffic Conviction by a Commercial Driver (Form DL 535) to notify your employer.

    CDL Points and Violations on Driving Record

    Any violation you receive while operating a commercial vehicle carries heavier fines and penalties. Plus, many of these violations will remain on your driving record for extended periods of time. Some of the longer violations include:

    • Major violations (DUI, hit-and-run)―55 years.
    • Out-of-service violations and disqualifying actions―15 years.
    • Collisions―10 years.
    • Railroad grade crossings―4 years.
    • Minor convictions - 3 years

    Suspended CDL

    You will lose your CDL for 1 year or longer for the following offenses (1st offense):

    • First conviction for a DUI―1 year.
    • BAC of 0.04% or higher while operating a commercial vehicle―1 year.
    • Refusing a DUI test―1 year.
    • Leaving the scene of an accident―1 year.
    • Driving a commercial vehicle with a suspended, revoked, or cancelled CDL―1 year.
    • Negligent driving causing a fatality―1 year.
    • Using your vehicle in a felony involving a controlled substance―1 year.

    Serious Traffic Violations

    Some of these include reckless driving, following too closely, driving 15 MPH or more above the posted speed limit, improper lane changes, and driving a commercial vehicle without the proper class CDL and/or endorsement. In addition to a heavy fine, conviction of any of these violations will result in the loss of driving privileges for a minimum of:

    • 60 days for a 2nd offense within 3 years.
    • 120 days for a 3rd offense (or subsequent offense) within 3 years.

    CDL Disqualifications

    You will be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle for life for subsequent convictions of any of the following offenses:

    • DUI.
    • Leaving the scene of an accident.
    • Refusing a DUI test.
    • A BAC of 0.04% or higher while operating a commercial vehicle.
    • Driving under the influence of a controlled substance.
    • Negligent driving causing a fatality.
    • Driving a commercial vehicle with a revoked, suspended, or canceled CDL.

    Check California's Commercial Driver Handbook for a full listing of traffic violations and subsequent suspensions.

    Other fines and penalties may apply.

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