Q: How do I figure out what to do with my traffic ticket?

A:     Read your “Notice to Appear.” You will find:

  • The name of the court that will decide your case;
  • The deadline to pay the ticket or go to court; and
  • What you must do to respond to the ticket.

However, if you were under age 18 when you got the ticket, this information could be sent to you later by the court.

Q: Where is the court?

A: The court's address is on your "Notice to Appear." If it is not on your ticket, you can find your court's address and contact information on your court's website.

Q: Who do I call if I want to talk to somebody?

A: For a "Notice to Appear" ticket, call the court listed on the ticket or look for the Traffic Department in the Government Pages of your phone book. Or get their phone number from the court's website.

Q: Must I go to court?

A: If you got a ticket for an infraction (like running a stop sign), you can probably do everything you need to do by mail. But talk to a lawyer if you have any doubts or call the court clerk.

You MUST go to court for a misdemeanor.

Q: How do I ask for a trial?

A: Read your "Notice to Appear." You have two options when it comes to having a trial:

  1. To ask for a court trial
  2. To ask for a trial by written declaration.

Click for more information on traffic trials.

Q: Will I get my bail back if I am found not guilty?

A: Yes. If you have a trial and are found not guilty, the court will return the bail to the person that paid it.

Q: Do I need a lawyer?

A:  You can go to traffic court without a lawyer.  If you want a lawyer for a traffic infraction (like speeding or running a red light), you can hire one. But the court will not give you one.

For a misdemeanor, like driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is a good idea to have a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, the court will give you one, so make sure you tell the judge you want the court to appoint a lawyer to represent you.

Q: Does my DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) record change when I get a ticket?

A: After you pay your fine, points may show up on your DMV record unless you can go to traffic school. If the court lets you go to traffic school and you turn in your proof of completion of traffic school to the court before the deadline, the points should not show up on your record.

If you get points on your record, your insurance company may ask you to pay more for insurance because of this, or they may cancel your policy and tell you to find insurance elsewhere. Points can stay on your record for 3 to 7 years.

Q: Can I go to traffic school?

A:     Generally, you can go to traffic school if:

  • You have a valid driver’s license, and
  • Your ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.

Your courtesy notice will say if you are eligible for traffic school.

You CANNOT go to traffic school for:

  • Equipment violations
  • Non-moving violations
  • Misdemeanors
  • Violations with a mandatory court appearance
  • Alcohol-related violation
  • Violation in a commercial vehicle
  • Violation by a driver with a commercial license

You are also NOT eligible for traffic school without approval of a judicial officer if you have gone to traffic school for another ticket that you got in the last 18 months.

There are other reasons you may not be eligible for traffic school. Talk to a lawyer if the court says you are not eligible for traffic school but you believe you should be.

For more information, visit the Traffic School page.

Q: What do I do if I get a “fix-it” ticket?

A: If a police officer gives you a "fix-it" ticket on a "Notice to Appear," the "yes" box will be checked below "Correctable Violation" on the front of the ticket. The police can give you another ticket if you do not fix the problem immediately.

When you fix the problem, get an authorized person to sign the "Certificate of Correction" part of your ticket. Take the proof of correction to the court and pay the dismissal fee before the deadline. You can check your ticket or contact the court to see if the court accepts proof of correction by mail.

The court will then dismiss your case and it will not go on your record.

Read the Correctable Violations (“Fix-It” Tickets) page to learn more.

Q: What if I got a ticket for a car registration or driver’s license violation?

A: There are many ways you can handle this problem.

One way is to go to the local Department of Motor Vehicles' (DMV) office. Ask a clerk at the DMV to help you. After you correct the problem, the DMV will sign the “Certificate of Correction” part of your ticket.

You must take or mail the signed ticket with proof of correction to the court along with your dismissal fee. Do this before the deadline on your ticket.

The court will then dismiss your case and it will not go on your record.

Q: What happens if I get cited for a car insurance violation?

A:  In California, you must have car insurance that covers you when you are driving any car. If a police officer stops you, you must show proof of insurance.

  • If you have insurance but do not have proof to show the officer, you will be charged with an infraction for driving without proof of insurance and must provide proof of your insurance to the court and pay a fee. Once you pay the fee (called a "dismissal fee"), the court will dismiss the charge.
  • If you do not have insurance, you must buy it. Then, provide your proof of the insurance to the court and pay a fine. Some courts will let you pay the fine in installments.

Q: What if I do not go to court or pay for my ticket?

A: When you sign your ticket, you promise to go to court or pay the fine.

If you do not go to court or pay your fine, your driver's license can be suspended. And you may not be able to renew your car's registration.

The court can also charge you with "a failure to appear." If that happens, the court can charge you with a misdemeanor and issue a warrant for your arrest or add an additional fee (called a "civil assessment") of up to $350.

Q: What are the fines and penalties for "driving under the influence" (DUI)?

A: If you have been charged with a DUI for the first time, you may go to jail for up to 6 months and pay up to $4,160 or more. You may also lose your driver's license for 6 months and be ordered to complete a 3-month or 9-month program. For more details about second and third offenses, visit the Payment of Fines page.

Q: How do I pay my traffic ticket?

A: When the court has decided your fine, you can pay in person at the court or by mail.  Check the ticket, courtesy notice, or court website to see whether you can also pay by phone or online. If the court allows payment online, you can pay online at the State of California website.

Q: How do I appeal if I am found guilty?

A: The Information on Appeal Procedures for Infractions (Form CR-141-INFO) has instructions on how to appeal infractions, and the Noticeof Appeal and Record of Oral Proceedings (Form CR-142) is used for a notice of appeal for infraction cases.

If you were found guilty after a trial by written declaration, you must first file a request for a new trial. Use a Request for New Trial (Trial de Novo) (Trial by Written Declaration) (Form TR-220). Also check out Instructions to Defendant (Trial by Written Declaration — Traffic) (Form TR-200).

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