You have two options when it comes to having a trial:
If you say "not guilty," the judicial officer will give you a date for a trial. The judicial officer may also ask you to pay the fine (which at this stage is called "bail"). The court will hold on to your bail payment. IF you are found not guilty, the money will be returned to you. (Note: For most infractions, you can write a letter to the court to ask for a trial. You will still have to pay the fine shown on your ticket and should enclose this payment with your letter.) You can hire a lawyer for your infraction case. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can represent yourself, but the court will not give you a lawyer. Click for help finding a lawyer.
If you have a misdemeanor or felony case, the judicial officer will ask you if you have enough money to pay for a lawyer. If you cannot afford to pay for your own lawyer, the court will give you a lawyer for your case.
Your Traffic Trial
In most cases where your ticket is for an infraction a judge or judicial officer will hear your case instead of a jury. If the offense may be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor under California Penal Code sections 17(d) and 19.8, you can ask that an infraction charge be tried instead with a jury as a misdemeanor. But, unlike infractions, jail may be part of the sentence in a misdemeanor case. Talk to a lawyer before you make this decision to make sure you are doing what is best for you.
If you need an interpreter, let the court clerk know at least 1 week before your court trial.
At your trial, the police officer will state why he or she gave you the ticket.
You or your lawyer can:
If you are found not guilty, the court will return your fine (the "bail" that you paid when you asked for the trial).
If you are found guilty, you must pay the fine. If your fine is less than the bail amount you paid when you asked for the trial, you will get the difference back. If your fine is more, you will have to pay the additional money. In misdemeanor or felony cases, you can also go to jail.
If you disagree with the court’s decision, you can try to file an appeal. Read the Information on Appeal Procedures for Infractions (Form CR-141-INFO) for instructions on how to appeal infractions. Get more information on appealing a traffic court decision.
The court will mail you back instructions and trial by declaration form. The top portion of your Request for Trial by Written Declaration (Form TR-205) should be filled out by the court clerk with important information. Read it carefully! Once you get the form and instructions, you can fill out the paperwork.
Your Trial by Written Declaration
In most cases, people who are charged with an infraction of the Vehicle Code or a local ordinance can ask for a trial by written declaration. This means that instead of going to court to fight your case, you and the police officer give the judge statements and any evidence in writing.
You can have the trial by written declaration if:
Evidence can include:
The "Notice to Appear"; A business record or receipt; A sworn declaration of the arresting officer; A written statement or letter signed by the defendant; and/or Any written statements or letters signed by witnesses.
For more information on trial by written declaration, read the Instructions to Defendant (Trial by Written Declaration — Traffic) (Form TR-200).
To have a trial by written declaration:
For your written statement, you can use a form called Declaration (Form MC-030) and, if you need more room to complete your statement, a form called Attached Declaration (Form MC-031. If you do not use these forms, make sure you write, at the end of your statement: "I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that this statement is true and correct." Print your name, and sign and date the statement. You can also use these forms if you have witnesses that want to write statements.