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Are All Traffic Courts the Same?

Although all California traffic courts use the same rules to determine base fines and other penalties, not all operate the same. The day and time of traffic court may not be the same and the hours of operation at the court clerk’s office may not be the same either. Despite base fines being the same as determined by the state legislature, what a county charges in fees and penalties may differ. Some traffic court judges might use their discretion to consider a person’s income when applying fines, while others might not.

One traffic court judge was rumored to have said when asked to consider a driver’s income, “You are no different than anyone else in this court, I am the only special person here, that’s why they call me ‘your honor’.” Fortunately, most of our Central California Judges are too kind to say something like that. But despite that, your fine may still be unreasonably high.

Speeding 100+ MPH Special Consequence

There is a stipulation in CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 22348, Speed Laws that states, “The court may also suspend the privilege of the person to operate a motor vehicle for a period not to exceed 30 days…” In some traffic courts, the judge uses it for every conviction of speeding over 100 mph, first offense or not and one judge in Hanford has said he will increase the fine by $100 for every mile per hour over 100.

The Difference Between Big City Traffic Courts & Small or Medium-Sized Courts

Some big city traffic courts are so busy even their night courts are crowded, while the small and medium-sized city may not even offer night court. Most big city traffic court clerks’ offices are open from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. While in Mono County if you go there after lunch on Friday, the court customer window is closed. Therefore, you won’t be able to clear a “fix-it” ticket or pay cash for your fine. Also, their hours are 8:30 am to 4 pm, Monday through Thursday and Friday until noon. This is an improvement over their previous schedule of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings only and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons only. And, don’t bother calling, you won’t reach anyone as their budget does not allow a paid employee to answer the phone, though they say this will change in December of 2017. Yet, they continue to collect the same fines as every other county in Central Valley. Your best bet is to go in person during the hours noted, email superiorcourt@monocourt.org or consult their website, http://www.monocourt.org/.

Big city traffic courts more often use temporary judges or “Judge Pro Tem” to clear an overload of traffic tickets, whereas smaller cities rarely use them unless there is a death. Although you can object to a Pro Tem, there is usually a small window of time for you to do so and without an attorney, you may not even know when that time is. These Pro Tems are lawyers that have at least ten years’ experience, and since they are lawyers, they are usually more lenient than a regular judge, though you have no way of knowing.

The Big Difference

Although many of the differences in traffic courts revolve around their budget and the number of cases, the big difference is most often attributed to the sitting judge or traffic commissioner. Like it or not, it’s their court, and the only recourse the people have when convicted of an infraction is the voter’s ballot. Voting for or against the judge themselves or the Governor that appoints them. Another avenue of recourse is an appeal, but don’t expect a new trial. The appellate will only look at the proceedings to determine two conditions: were there legal errors made, and did those mistakes affect the outcome. You can find more information on how to file an appeal here.

Consult a Central Valley Ticket Attorney

California traffic courts are as different as the personalities of the judges, court clerks, and other staff that run them. While smaller courts do not have the budget to provide all the services a big city court offers, we must assume they are doing the best they can. However, no matter which traffic court your ticket will be processed through in Central Valley, call Bigger & Harman, who represent their clients in all Central Valley traffic courts, or have an associate in that county, (661) 349-9300, or send an email: attorney@markbigger.com.

Julian Gabbay wrote on their Facebook page, “I recently got a speeding ticket driving from San Francisco back to Los Angeles, and I hired Mark Bigger to help fight the case. The first thing I noticed about Mark right when I hired him was that he was extremely honest and empathetic. He understood the situation, which made me feel comfortable hiring him. He is also very thorough and works hard. My case ended up being dismissed in the end because of the case he built in my defense.”

When you require the expertise of a full-time traffic attorney, look no further than Bigger & Harman of Bakersfield. Read comments left by their clients on Avvo or Yelp. Avvo is one of the preeminent legal websites in America.

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