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Although “Driving Is a Privilege, not a Right,” Drivers Do Have Rights

There are many things to consider when trying to resolve an old traffic ticket. Most who pay their fine without consulting a traffic ticket attorney wind up paying far more than they should, especially if there was a failure to appear (FTA). Depending on the age of the ticket, the law enforcement officer (LEO) who initially stopped you might not be on the force any longer. Quite possibly, they were promoted, retired, or moved to another county or state. However, if the LEO is on official duty elsewhere and notifies the court, your case might get postponed to another date.

Another item to consider is that the penalty and/or fine does not increase if found guilty, so why wouldn’t you contest the ticket rather than pay the fine? Particularly when the alleged violation occurred some years ago. Witnesses such as the LEO may not be available to testify.

The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution requires, “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Although a traffic infraction is not a “criminal prosecution,” CA government code requires that "the procedures governing" an adjudicatory hearing shall include"…the right to cross-examination and to confront adversary witnesses."And, although the state will not provide an attorney free of charge, you can and should consult with a traffic ticket attorney before deciding how to proceed on an old traffic ticket.

How to Pay an Old Traffic Ticket

California does not have a statewide website to find your traffic ticket or any information such as the fine or penalties. However, it does have the website, Find My Court. If you know the county or zip code you can search this way. You know your ticket was in Tulare County, so you will click Traffic, which will take you to the Tulare County Traffic Court site. You will need to enter your Driver’s License (DL) number to find any pending citations for your DL. While there you find an old traffic ticket for speeding 12 mph over the speed limit.

Next, you should consult with a traffic lawyer. Since it was a minor infraction with only one Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) point, you are eligible to attend traffic school to mask your ticket from your insurance company, and the fine, if convicted, is less than $250. In this case they might advise it would not benefit you to go to traffic court.

But, if your failure to resolve your traffic ticket before the court date led to an FTA, you might have been charged with another violation under CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear. When you signed your traffic ticket, you promised the people of California to appear in court or resolve the ticket before the court date.

What to Do about an Old FTA

If the court issued you another ticket for an FTA, you must get the FTA resolved before you can proceed. An FTA is a serious charge and in many cases a misdemeanor crime. The best way to continue is to consult with a traffic ticket attorney. They can query the court about removing the FTA and can also request the court to lift the civil penalty of $300 if you had a valid reason for not appearing.

Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) Points

The DMV is responsible for administering the NOTS program under CVC 12810, Issuance and Renewal of Licenses. Under this program, minor infractions and at-fault collisions are assessed one NOTS point upon conviction, and two points for major infractions such as speeding 100+ mph, misdemeanors such as speed contests, and felonies such as a hit and run with injuries.

When a driver gets assessed four NOTS points within a one-year period, six within a two-year period, or eight within a three-year period, the DMV will issue an Order of Suspension and Probation, which you must contest at a DMV Hearing. When a driver does not request a DMV Hearing, the suspension will go into effect 34 days after mailing.

Traffic School

Even an old traffic ticket will be assessed one or more NOTS points if convicted or the driver pays the fine. As stated above, a minor infraction might not make sense to go to court to challenge it. However, always ask a traffic ticket lawyer before deciding to pay the fine.

If you have used traffic school to mask a traffic ticket within the previous 18 months; you have a mandatory court appearance; you do not have a valid CA DL; you were driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) at the time you received the ticket; or your ticket was drug or alcohol-related, you cannot attend traffic school to mask the ticket.

Many drivers believe hiring a traffic ticket attorney would be too expensive. In most cases, this is not true. The increased insurance premiums alone could cost $1500 over the three-year period the conviction will remain on your driving record, plus the fine.

Tulare County Traffic Ticket Attorneys

When you have an old traffic ticket that remains unresolved, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español 661.349.9755. More often than not, we can get an old ticket dismissed or reduced. We regularly appear in Porterville and Visalia Traffic Courts to assist drivers to resolve an FTA and traffic tickets.

“Had an old ticket that I failed to follow up on and faced a bunch of fines. Bigger and Harmon took my case and had the ticket dismissed. It was very fast and painless from my end. Thanks guys!” – Jay Z., Oakland, CA

You may also correspond with us by email,

Our Facebook page has links to articles pertaining to traffic law, how to get a Real ID DL, and tips. Read Avvo and Nolo, two prominent lawyer referral websites or Yelp to see what the Tulare community is saying about our legal services.


The CA DMV Portal

The 2018 CA Driver Handbook .pdf

CVC 40508, Release Upon Promise to Appear

CVC 12810, Issuance and Renewal of Licenses

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