Ticket Fines and Penalties in CaliforniaPage Overview
Traffic fines in California are difficult to pinpoint due to additional penalty assessment fees and surcharges that vary by county. Consequently, a 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 for what-to-do options.
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
(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 »
(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 infraction, points may be added to your 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.
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 CDL.
California Point System
A conviction for a moving traffic violation will bring points to your 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 violation:
- 1 point is assigned to violations like speeding, making an unsafe lane change or an at-fault accident.
- Two points are assigned for more serious violations like reckless driving, hit-and-run, DUI or driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Not all convictions lead to a suspended, revoked or canceled 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 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
- Failure to stop as required at a railway grade crossing
- Driving above the posted speed limit
- Reckless driving
- Engaging in lewd conduct and prostitution in a vehicle within 1,000 feet of a residence
- Assaulting a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian on a highway (road rage)
- Any felony or misdemeanor offense
- Fleeing a law enforcement officer
Drivers 21 years old or younger have less leeway. In addition to the violation listed above, the court and/or DMV will suspend your driving privileges:
- If you receive a traffic ticket and fail to appear in court
- If you get a traffic ticket and fail to pay the fine
- If you have a 3rd at-fault collision or conviction (or any combination) within 12 months
- If you are convicted of using alcohol or a controlled substance
- If you are between 13 and 18 years old and convicted of being a habitual truant from school
You must notify your employer within 30 days of conviction of any traffic violations (this does include parking tickets). Even if you get ticketed while driving your own car, you still must notify your employer. If the conviction occurs out-of-state, use aReport 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 one and one-half the normal point count. 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―15 years
- Collisions―10 years
- Railroad grade crossings―4 years
You will lose your CDL for 1 year for the following first offenses:
- First conviction for a DUI―1 year
- BAC of 0.04% or higher while operating a commercial vehicle―1 year
- Refusing a DUI test―one 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 vehicle in 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 change and driving a commercial vehicle without the proper class CDL and/or endorsement. A conviction of any of these violations will result in the loss of driving privileges for:
- 60 days for a second conviction of any of these offenses within a three-year period
- 120 days for a third or subsequent conviction of any of these offenses within a three-year period
You will be disqualified from operating a commercial vehicle for life if convicted a second time for any of the following offenses:
- 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 Topics in This Section