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How to Fight a Traffic Ticket in California

A traffic ticket is a notice to appear in a traffic court issued to persons charged for traffic violations. In California, the patrolling officer on duty is the law enforcement agent that issues the traffic tickets to the offending party. The state issues three different types of traffic tickets:

  • Infraction ticket: the law enforcement agent issues this ticket when the offense is a minor traffic violation. Minor traffic violations include speeding and ignoring traffic signs. The officer on patrol usually stops the vehicle and asks the alleged party to get off the car. The officer proceeds to check that all vehicle papers and driving licenses are valid and current. The ticket reads a notice to appear in court to pay the required fine or contest it before a judge. If a vehicle user in this category is found to default in vehicle and license documentations, the offense is reviewed upward as a misdemeanor. There are also infraction tickets issued solely for photo citations taken by the road surveillance cameras, or the need to fix a part of the car ( also called 'fix it' tickets). Fix-it tickets do not have the option of a court appearance. Instead, the ticketed individual is mandated to pay a certain fine and submit the evidence of payment to the authorities.
  • Parking ticket: this category of tickets is for parking violations and does not have an option to appear in court. As is with 'fix it' tickets, they are not filed with the court, but the value of the fine increases with delay in payment.
  • Misdemeanor traffic tickets: these are reserved for serious traffic offenses such as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving under Influence (DUI), or driving without a license. Misdemeanor traffic tickets have a mandatory court appearance and a fine as part of the penalty for the offense. Persons convicted of a traffic misdemeanor in California may be punished by jail terms of up to one year, and hefty fines (up to $5000).

All alleged individuals must sign the ticket to demonstrate compliance with the order. Refusal to sign may warrant an arrest and custody.

Traffic tickets that are resolved by paying fines result in points in a driving record. This is especially true of tickets filed with the Superior Court of the county where the event took place. Points on a driving record may lead to the loss of vehicle insurance covers or the termination of driving privileges. Driving records constitute a part of criminal history information in California; therefore, points on a driving record may negatively reflect the individual's credibility. Persons who think they have reasons to proceed to fight a ticket stand a chance of overturning a traffic conviction on their record.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Is it Worth it To Fight a Traffic Ticket in California?

When it comes to fighting a traffic ticket in California, the benefits outweigh the risk, considering the long-term effects of a traffic conviction on a driving record. Traffic convictions may lead to a withdrawal of vehicle usage rights, the loss of vehicle insurance, and severe traffic offenses, and the possible acquisition of an inmate record. Persons who are eligible to fight a traffic ticket must have overwhelming evidence of the allegation's innocence. Get the services of an attorney to ascertain the facts of defense. The process may cost the individual in terms of time and money. In terms of time, court appearances may require the individual to take time off from work. The cost of hiring an attorney is an added consideration. However, if a traffic conviction gets overturned in court, the decision eventually pays off.

Ways to Fight a Traffic Ticket in California

To fight a ticket in California is to plead 'not guilty' to the alleged charges. Individuals seeking redress must indicate his or her intentions by requesting a trial. A court arraignment is conducted to prepare the alleged person for the trial. A request may be made either by a written declaration or in person. An alleged party may opt for an attorney representation or self-representation. Either representation has the right to cross-examine the ticketing officer, present witnesses, provide evidence in any form acceptable by the court, and debate the case based on traffic laws. The judicial officer presides over traffic infraction cases, while a jury reviews traffic misdemeanors. To prepare for a traffic court appearance:

  • Study the ticket, note all details- the courthouse address stated in the ticket, the offense indicated, and the details of the penalty stated in the citation. An inaccurate ticket can lead to the dismissal of a traffic court case.
  • Consult with an attorney about the traffic laws of the state
  • Collect all evidence and rehearse all statements. Get the consent of witnesses to attend the trial
  • Have ready bail fees for payment at the court office. Persons not guilty will be refunded bail fees and all payments
  • Attend the court hearing. It is crucial to arrive early

After the trial, persons convicted have a right to request a retrial if they are not satisfied with the ruling. Requests must come in within 20 days after the verdict. Fill the Trial De Novo Form and submit to the office of the courthouse clerk. A retrial allows individual rights to attorney representation, a public trial, submission of evidence, and witnesses' presentation. He or she also has the right to remain silent. In the case of a traffic infraction trial, dissatisfied persons can appeal to the State Appellate Court for a retrial. Use the Appeal Procedure Information Guide to obtain more information.

How to Fight a Traffic Ticket Without Going to Court

Yes, state residents can fight a traffic ticket without appearing in court. § 40902, California Vehicle Code gives its citizens the right to contest traffic tickets remotely by the written defense. This rule does not apply to misdemeanors, but infractions only. Note the following when requesting for trial by a written declaration:

  • Ensure the written statement is submitted within the due date
  • Ensure the ticket does not contain a mandatory appearance
  • Requests for trial by a written declaration may be made in person or by mail at the courthouse clerk's office stated in the ticket. Mailed applications must contain a self-addressed stamp with a return address. The courthouse office responds by sending request form to the requester.
  • Complete the request form and prepare to pay a bail fee deposit. Fees vary by county in the state.
  • Prepare all written statements, both personal and that of witnesses, if any.
  • Compile all evidence ( this could be a photo or a video clip )
  • Make copies of all documents and send the original to the courthouse clerk

The court issues a notification to the ticketing officer to submit a written declaration concerning the citation. All documents from both parties are forwarded to the judicial officer for review.

How do You Get a Traffic Ticket Reduced in California

At times, financial constraints may get in the way of a ticketed individual paying his or her ticket fine. Such an individual is required to appear in court to request a reduction of ticket fine. Bring along substantial evidence of financial constraints such as financial statements, monthly expenditure reports. If the court is satisfied with the evidence and deems it fit, the court issues a notice to have the ticket fine reduced or offers community service as an option. Community service is also an option for persons who plead guilty at trial. Persons who plead against a conviction in court may have the cost of the fine reviewed by deferment or reorganized into a payment plan that is convenient for the individual. If a person is discharged and acquitted from a traffic offense, all traffic fines he or she has paid will be refunded.

Can you Get a Speeding Ticket Dismissed in California

A speeding ticket is a minor traffic infraction, as defined by California traffic laws. Minor traffic infraction tickets are filed with the court. Therefore, a court appearance is required for the possibility of dismissal. Dismissal happens under three circumstances:

  • The case is dismissed without filing charges
  • The defendant challenges the ticket and overturns the conviction in court
  • The trial acquits the alleged party

What Happens if You Plead Guilty to a Traffic Ticket in California

To accept to pay a traffic ticket without contesting the charges is another to plead guilty. For every ticket fine paid, the court closes the case, but a conviction appears on the alleged individual's driving record as driving points. Driving points can lead to a rise in insurance costs and eventual forfeiture of vehicle insurance cover. Other problems that may arise from points on a driving record are loss of driving privilege and suspension of vehicle registration. Driving records are part of the documents looked up in criminal history checks in California. Driving points reflect poorly on the record owner that may affect the individual for life.

How to Find a Traffic Ticket Attorney in California

Fighting a traffic ticket by self-representation in California comes with the risk of losing the case. There are local traffic ticket attorneys in the state that provide expert legal consultation and representation services at a fee to persons seeking assistance. Many of them have online visibility and can easily be contacted via the information on their websites.

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