Traffic Tickets in California

Written By | Doreen Almirol | 20+ years CA DMV Licensed Driving Instructor


California’s vibrant cities and expansive roadways are both a blessing and a challenge for drivers. Unfortunately, the fast-paced nature of the state’s traffic can sometimes lead to moving violation tickets.

Whether it’s a speeding ticket, running a red light, or another infraction, knowing how to handle a moving violation is crucial. This guide will walk you through the steps to take if you find yourself facing a moving violation ticket in California.

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1  |  Stay Calm and Pull Over Safely

If you’re pulled over by law enforcement, the first step is to remain calm. Pull over to a safe location, turn off your engine, and stay in your vehicle. Being cooperative and respectful can set a positive tone for the encounter.

Once stopped, provide requested documents promptly (driver’s license, registration, and insurance), and avoid arguing or admitting guilt. The side of the road is not the place to contest the ticket.

2  |  Understand the Violation

Once you receive the ticket, carefully read and understand the details of the violation. Note the type of infraction, the location, and any additional information provided by the officer. This knowledge will be crucial as you proceed.

3  |  Options for Dealing with the Ticket

In California, you generally have three options for dealing with a moving violation:

Pay the Fine

You can choose to pay the fine, accepting the points on your driving record.

Fight the Ticket

If you believe you were unfairly cited, you have the right to contest the ticket. This involves pleading not guilty and appearing in court. Consider seeking legal advice to understand the best approach for your specific situation.

Consult with a Traffic Attorney:

If you’re considering contesting the ticket, consulting with a traffic attorney can provide valuable insights. An attorney can help you understand the potential consequences, navigate the legal process, and present a strong case in court.

Attend the Court Hearing:

If you choose to contest the ticket, attend the scheduled court hearing. Dress appropriately and be prepared to present your case. Bringing any relevant evidence, such as photographs or witness statements, can strengthen your argument.

Follow Up on the Outcome:

After the court hearing, follow up on the outcome. If the ticket is dismissed, congratulations! If you’re found guilty, understand the consequences, such as fines, points on your record, or potential increases in insurance premiums.

Traffic School

Attending traffic school is an option to reduce points on your driving record and prevent insurance premium increases.

Check Your Eligibility for Traffic School:

Before deciding on a course of action, determine whether you are eligible for traffic school. Certain violations may disqualify you, and there are usually time restrictions on how often you can attend traffic school.

4 | Contact the Court

Once you’ve decided on a course of action, contact the court listed on your ticket. If you choose to pay the fine or contest the ticket, the court will provide instructions on the next steps. If you opt for traffic school, inform the court of your intention to attend.

5 | Enroll in Traffic School

If eligible, choose a state-approved traffic school. Many now offer online courses for convenience. Enroll and complete the course within the specified timeframe.

6 | Submit Required Documentation

After completing traffic school or choosing another option, follow the court’s instructions for submitting any required documentation. This may include a completion certificate from the traffic school or other relevant forms.

7 | Monitor Your Driving Record

Keep an eye on your driving record to ensure that any points associated with the violation are properly addressed. This is especially important if you attended traffic school to prevent points from affecting your insurance premiums.

Receiving a moving violation ticket can be a stressful experience, but understanding your options and taking proactive steps can help you navigate the situation effectively. Whether you choose to pay the fine, contest the ticket, or attend traffic school, being informed and organized is key to resolving the matter and maintaining a clean driving record in the bustling roads of California.

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