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Fact vs. Fiction: California Traffic Tickets

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We here at Bigger & Harman distinguish fact from fiction pertaining to California traffic tickets. California ranks as one of the highest states in traffic ticket revenue collected in 2018. How much they collected is not important because the fine is a one-time expense and once it’s paid, it over, right? Actually no, the fine is just the “tip of the iceberg.” The real cost is the rise in insurance premiums. Depending on your offense, it could be 20 times more than what the base fine for your traffic ticket was. Nobody likes to pay fines.

“And we was fined fifty dollars and had to pick up the garbage... in the snow.” Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

Did you ever play 20 questions as a kid? Maybe you were traveling with your parents North on I-5 to see your grandparents. Or, perhaps it was on I-395 or 15 heading up to the ski resorts at Mammoth.

Your parents or grandparents could probably answer the question, which now infamous route was James Dean traveling on when he had his fatal accident? If you answered Route 46, (then 446), headed to Salinas, you would be correct. Another trivia question about Dean’s demise would be, which police department issued him a speeding ticket that day prior to the accident? If you said the Bakersfield Police Department, you’re two for two.

OK, here’s another one. Off which interstate route is the Bodie Gold Mine Ghost town? I-395. We just thought you would enjoy a little fun before we get to the pressing questions about California traffic tickets.

The Myth of the California Base Fine

The base fine for a California traffic ticket is misleading. The state legislature writes the “not to exceed” amount into the CA Vehicle Code (CVC), and then levies ten surcharges, assessments, and fees, (some state, some county) on top of the base fine making it five to seven times higher. So, that base fine of $100 for that camera-enforced red-light ticket becomes $475-$500 depending on the county.

The Real Expense of a California Traffic Ticket

However, as we said, that’s just the beginning. The average Californian pays $1960 annually for auto insurance. An 18-24-year-old male pays much more than that, around $4,000-5,000. All these figures depend on several factors the insurance companies use to determine your “risk category.” Among those are age, gender, the zip code where you park your car, how far you drive to and from school or work, and many more.

Proposition 103 & California Traffic Tickets

The second most substantial factor after age is your driving record. According to Proposition 103, voted into law by the people of California in 1988, the insurance company, after considering all those factors, must provide a “good driving discount.” Drivers are eligible for this discount regardless of age. However, you must have a nearly clean driving record for three consecutive years without suspension. You are allowed to have one minor infraction within that three-year period.

That’s why you should always consult an attorney about paying the fine and accepting traffic violators school (TVS).

But it does depend on your ticket and the circumstances. You must plead not guilty either way! Though guilt or innocence has no real relevance in whether you should challenge a traffic ticket or not. The Bureau of Judicial Statistics (BJS) determined ninety-five percent of traffic ticket recipients that hire a traffic attorney get the ticket dismissed or receive a reduced charge. Yet, only five percent hire a lawyer and make the State prove their accusation.

Myth: TVS Is Like a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”

Anyone who has ever played Monopoly knows about a “get out of jail free card.” So, is TVS like a get of jail free card? If you guessed yes on this one, you would be mistaken. Kind of like the old joke, “I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken. We’re sad to say, TVS is not it.

First, as we stated earlier, you must plead guilty to the offense you were accused of committing. Not only that, but you must pay the full amount of the fine, plus you have to pay the county clerk for the privilege of attending, usually around $65. And then, you must pay the tuition, complete the course, and get it to the DMV and court clerk before the court-ordered date of completion.

All DMV-approved courses send the completion certificate to the DMV and the court clerk for you; however, it is wise to keep a copy for your records just in case. Here is a list of DMV-approved courses.

Let’s say you received your picture in the mail attached to a red-light traffic ticket. The fine is $475-500, plus the $65 fee, and the tuition. When you add that up, it’s around $600, which is certainly not a “get out of jail free card.” However, your attendance, if eligible, will mask the conviction from your insurance company and employer (not CDL holders). Once again, ask a traffic ticket attorney for guidance.

Are you eligible for TVS?

This is not one of those yes or no answers. To be eligible, you must have:

  • A valid California driver’s license
  • Not been operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)
  • Not used TVS to mask a traffic ticket within the previous 18 months (from conviction to conviction)
  • Not have received a ticket with a mandatory court appearance, which includes speeding over 100 mph, misdemeanors, and felonies
  • Not have been drug or alcohol-related, which requires a mandatory court appearance as well

Although you can get knowledge about driving defensively in the course, attending TVS does not benefit you any other way for a correctable, non-moving violation such as a broken taillight.

Barstow Traffic Court in San Bernardino County, CA

When you receive a California traffic ticket going to or coming from Vegas on I-15 or anywhere in the Barstow area, contact Bigger & Harman,(661) 349-9300,for advice and counsel.

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

Send us an email, attorney@biggerharmanlaw.com.