Traffic Ticket FAQ in California

If you have received a traffic ticket in California, don’t wait until it’s too late to take care of it. Most of the time, resolving a ticket is simple. Keep reading to find out what steps you will need to follow to take care of your ticket.

What do I do if I get a traffic ticket in California?

Receiving a traffic ticket is stressful, but you do have a few options.

After being issued a CA traffic ticket, you must decide how you will plead. You have the following plead options:

  • Guilty.
  • No contest.
  • Not guilty.

If you plead guilty or no contest, you will need to pay the ticket before the appearance date posted on your citation.

If you opt to plead not guilty, visit our page that covers fighting a traffic ticket for detailed information on how to proceed.

Regardless of your plea, be sure to notify the court of your intention before the appearance date expires. Failure to contact the court could lead to the suspension of your driver’s license, fines (called a civil assessment), and even a warrant for your arrest.

What do I do if I get a California fix-it ticket?

If you get a fix-it ticket or correctable violation, your traffic ticket will indicate whether you must pay for the violation or provide proof of correction. If it's the latter, you must:

  • Get an authorized person—such as a police officer, DMV agent, or court clerk—to sign the Certificate of Correction part of your ticket.
  • Appear in court before the citation’s deadline date with proof of correction and payment for the dismissal fee.

The court will then dismiss your case.

Can I enroll in traffic school to reduce the number of California driver’s license points on my record?

If you want to get your traffic ticket dismissed, you may have the option to attend traffic school.

You can attend a state-approved traffic school if:

  • You possess a valid driver’s license.
  • Your citation is for a moving violation.

In most cases your courtesy notice, sent by the court, will indicate if you are eligible to attend. Upon completion of traffic school, the court may dismiss the ticket. If this is your first violation, points will probably not appear on your driving record, but it’s up to the court. Before enrolling, be sure that your chosen traffic school is court-approved. If there’s any doubt, contact the court for a list of approved traffic schools.

Why is it a good idea to order a driving record?

It’s important to keep up with your driving record, especially if you have already accrued traffic ticket points in the past.

By regularly auditing your driving record, you can make sure there are no unaccounted points. This is especially important after receiving a traffic citation. Always make sure your driver’s license is not suspended or you could get hit with higher insurance rates.

Do I have to appear in court?

You should be able to settle most traffic infractions by mail, but if you’re not sure, contact a lawyer or call the court clerk.

Regardless, you can always request a traffic trial.

How many points will I get if convicted?

How many traffic ticket points—and how long those points stay on your record—vary based on infraction.

  • Traffic ticket points usually range from 1 to 2 points.
  • Point duration (the amount of time points that stay on your driving record) ranges from 36 months to 10 years.

What do I do when issued a red light photo enhancement ticket?

The photo citation that arrives in the mail will provide detailed information on how to pay or fight the fine. Most county court websites provide online links for viewing your photographs. Or, in some instances, you may be given a phone number to call to arrange for an appointment to see your photos.

Your citation will also provide information on how to proceed if you’re not the person in the photograph.

Are traffic fines the same throughout the state of California?

Yes and no; basically traffic ticket fines vary.

The state sets a traffic infraction bail and penalty schedule for counties to adhere to when assessing traffic penalties. However, multiple counties have the green light to exceed state-set fines. Plus, additional penalties, fees, and assessments may be levied at either the county or state level, as explained in California’s Vehicle Code and our page on traffic ticket fines and penalties.

Will my driver’s license be suspended if I accumulate too many points on my driving record?

California has implemented a Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS). Under this system your driving privileges will be suspended for the following point totals:

  • 4 points in 12 months.
  • 6 points in 24 months.
  • 8 points in 36 months.

Points can add up fast. The state assesses:

  • 1 point to traffic violations and at-fault collisions.
  • 2 points for more serious violations like DUI, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle with a suspended license.

For a detailed points list, visit our page on California’s Point System.

Do I need a lawyer?

If you got a traffic ticket, a lawyer is not necessary.

However, California will allow you to represent yourself in traffic court. Hiring a traffic ticket lawyer is advisable if the addition of another traffic violation point on your driving record will result in the loss of your driver’s license. The court does not assign lawyers for traffic infractions.

Hiring a traffic ticket lawyer for a misdemeanor traffic ticket is highly recommended. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will assign you one.

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