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Watch Your Mailbox

Getting a traffic ticket is bad enough. Dealing with the citation can be even more infuriating.

When they write tickets in Bakersfield, and especially if the drivers ask questions about traffic school, where to go and how much to pay, most officers tell motorists to expect a letter from the court within a week or ten days. This letter answers most, or all, of these inquiries. However, and due to no fault of the officer, the courtesy notice often never arrives. Even if the address on your drivers' license is current, the wrong address may be in the computer or the court might fail to send it for no reason at all.

At the very bottom of the ticket, there should be an appearance date and contact information for the issuing court.

If you receive a citation anywhere near Edwards Air Force Base or any other federal property in Central California, you should probably look at the top of the ticket as well. That's the best way to tell if you received a federal or state traffic ticket. There is a significant difference between the two.

A CHP, sheriff or local police-issued ticket is normally handled at a nearby courthouse, but federal tickets all go to the federal courthouse in Bakersfield. Be prepared to spend the day there, because federal judges, as a rule, do not like to hear traffic cases. Moreover, the staff is generally very inflexible about the appearance date, typically because the judge only hears these cases once every three months.

If you think that you can take traffic school and get the ticket dismissed, think again. While this is an option in some federal traffic tickets, the eligibility can be more restrictive than in state courts.

In many cases, an experienced attorney can handle these matters on your behalf, saving you a trip to Bakersfield and making your life a little less stressful.