Traffic Tickets in California
When a peace officer signals you to pull over, do so at the next safe spot on the shoulder or roadside. The officer will approach the passenger side of your vehicle and ask for your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
In most cases, the officer will write you a traffic citation and ask you to sign it before he gives you your copy. By signing, you are not admitting guilt; you are simply agreeing to appear in court. The appearance date is noted on the front of these traffic and speeding tickets.
If you just plan on paying the fine and perhaps attending traffic school to wipe points on your record, there's no need to go to court. You can take care of your ticket by mail or online; all the contact information should be printed on your ticket. If it's not, call the traffic court in the issuing county.
You don't have to go to court unless you plan to contest the ticket, or got a misdemeanor violation.
Some traffic and speeding tickets can be resolved by attending traffic school.
You may then have the option of attending traffic school to erase the points on your license. Many are even offered online.
You will be charged a traffic school fee, which is usually the same amount as the fine would be. Then, submit your completion certificate to the court. If you're usually ticket-free, the points shouldn't even show up on your record.
If you had a more serious infraction (a 2 point infraction), you won't be able to take traffic school to dismiss the charges.
If you wish to contest the ticket, you must go to court in the county that issued it. So if you got zapped for speeding on the way home to Los Angeles from Tahoe, you'll have to trek back up for your trial.
To cut down trips to the court, you can request a trial through the mail instead (use certified or registered mail) at least a week in advance of your appearance date. You'll get some forms back, to explain why you want a trial.
If you do go in for your first court session, it's called a "preliminary hearing" and lets you enter a plea.
After you request a trial, a date will be assigned, and you may present your case at that time. If the charge is serious, you might consider hiring an attorney who specializes in traffic violations.
You will also be required to pay a bail amount when you request a trial (even through the mail), so be prepared to pay something on the day you appear at your preliminary hearing.
Infractions are tied to a point amount and once you get too many points on your driving record, or in some cases when the violations or speeding tickets are extreme in nature, the courts or the DMV can suspend or revoke your driver's license. If you do not know the status of your license, you can order a copy of your driving record.Other Topics in This Section