Traffic school can be a viable alternative to paying increased insurance premium after being ticketed for violating one of California Vehicle Codes (CVC). However, there are many instances when it is not allowed depending on the driver’s status and the severity of the traffic violation. So, what do you do? In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of the course and where to turn when it is not an option.
A Short Overview of California (CA) Traffic School
First, to get credit for attending a traffic school or defensive driving course with the courts or your insurance company, it must be state-certified. Unless it is specifically stated on your ticket that you must attend in person, you may choose to attend an online course. Online courses are fairly inexpensive and very convenient. The typical online course starts at $9.99 and could cost $69.99 or more, so shop around to get the best bargain for your money. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides a list of state-certified schools on their website CA.Gov.
Second, state-certified school are not only for ticketed drivers but offer new drivers and elderly drivers (age 55 and above) a chance to get a discount from their insurance company. Well actually, anyone can get the discount, but insurance companies and traffic school advertisers target these two age groups.
Finally, when you get a ticket for a moving violation infraction, you can get the penalties of the ticket erased by attending traffic school. That means no points on your license, a reduced fine (possibly just administrative fees), and no increase in your insurance premiums. The big takeaway from this (other than saving part of the nearly $500 fine) is no rise in insurance premiums. A conviction on a speeding ticket of 1-15 mph raises the average Californian's insurance rate 15% for a minimum of three years.
The Negligent Operators Treatment System (NOTS)
CA uses a system of points to track a driver's record of moving violations. Simple "fix-it" tickets are not given points. A fix-it ticket is for things like illegal parking or broken taillights. However, when you run a red light, make an illegal U-turn, or get ticketed for 1-15 mph over the limit you are assessed 1 point against your license. More serious violations, such as misdemeanors and felonies are given two points. These two-point violations include DUI, reckless driving, or speeding over 100 mph and in many cases, the state will not allow the violator to attend school due to the severity of their offense.
Some Instances When Traffic School Is not Allowed
In most cases, the courts will not allow a driver to attend traffic school to diminish the severity of a two point violation and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who get ticketed while driving a CMV will not be able to attend a defensive driving course. Additionally, if you have attended for a ticket within the last 18 months, you will not be eligible for its benefits.
What Are Some Alternatives?
Of course, the obvious answer here is to hire a traffic defense attorney. The decision to consult a traffic defender for a violation that is not eligible for relief under this system is mostly because of the severity of the crime. Yes, that's right, a crime. What else would you call reckless driving, DUI, driving over 100 mph, etcetera? Whether you knowingly broke the law or not, you committed a crime.
The course of action under California law that makes the most sense here is to start with a "Trial by Written Declaration." Many believe they can fight a traffic ticket by just telling the judge what happened. But, that is not entirely true. The judge does not want to hear, "I knew the speed limit was 70 mph but everyone was doing 80 mph and I was the only one pulled over." This is an admission of guilt. The judge will merely respond, "Guilty, next!" The judge wants to hear your defense for breaking the law; however, to rule in your favor, the judge wants to hear a plausible legal defense for your violation of California law.
What's outstanding about a written declaration trial is that it is like getting a free strike. Sure, you still want to hire a hitting instructor so you have a much better chance of connecting on the first swing, but if the judge who reviews your declaration decide you are guilty, you still have another swing.
The next swing is called a Trial de Novo. CVC 40902d states, “If the defendant is dissatisfied with a decision of the court in a proceeding pursuant to this section, the defendant shall be granted a trial de novo.” Trial de Novo in Latin means, a new trial. However, keep in mind that everything is wiped out from the first trial by declaration and it can only be used when after a trial by written declaration. Therefore, if you liked that the judge allowed you to attend a defensive driving course in the summation of the declaration, the judge in the in-person or Trial de Novo may or may not allow it, everything is new.
When you have been ticketed for a violation of the CVC and you are not able to attend traffic school, your best bet is to consult with Bigger & Harman. In Kern, Kings, Riverside, SLO, Inyo, LA or other SoCal counties, you can rely on the expert advice of one of the best traffic ticket defense teams in the state of California.
Contact the law office of Bigger & Harman for an initial consultation that is always confidential. If you want legal advice regarding a Trial by Written Declaration, simply email a scanned copy of your ticket with an explanation of what happened to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set you up an appointment. Or call 661-349-9300. En español, llame al 661-349-9755.