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Understanding the "Base Fine" in a California Traffic Citation

undefinedDid you ever get a red-light ticket in the mail, look up the fine online, then go to pay it, and instead of the $100 quoted in the vehicle code, you had to pay $490 and another $64 for permission to attend traffic violators school (TVS)? What’s up with that?

What Is the Base Fine for a Traffic Citation?

This scenario has fooled many drivers. The “base fine” is the amount legislators decided was fair for the infraction when they approved the bill, then the governor signed it, and it became law.

However, every year, legislators take up special causes and tack on penalties, surcharges, and fees to traffic violations to pay for these. For instance, the legislature passed a “state penalty” that adds $10 for $10 of the base fine. That effectively doubles the amount of your fine. Then there is the “county penalty” that adds another $7 for every $10 of the base fine. A DNA ID Fund, which adds $5 for $10. There are night court fees added to your fine whether or not you use night court or even if your county has that convenience. Most do not have night court, and those that do only have it once or twice a month for two or three hours. There are two emergency medical service funds, a court construction fund, and many others that make the final expense for a conviction of a traffic citation five to seven times the base fine.

Oh, by the way, a paid fine is the same as a conviction. 

Whereas the base fine is only a small portion of the total, the total fine is only a pittance compared to what your insurance company will take. After your conviction, the DMV will assess a negligent operator treatment system (NOTS) point for a minor infraction conviction or an at-fault determination for an accident, which will stay on your motor vehicle driving record (MVR) for three years.

Misdemeanors and felonies like hit and run, reckless driving, driving without a license, driving with a suspended license, speeding 100+ mph, and others will get assessed two NOTS points that will remain on your MVR for seven to ten years. 

At renewal, if you were not eligible for TVS, your auto insurance company may  take your “good driver’s discount” and apply the increased risk determined by the offense. That increase will likely be 25 to 40% of your premium for a minor infraction. Speeding 100+ mph, reckless driving, and other two-point traffic citation convictions could double or triple your premium.  

Imagine paying triple your current premium for three to seven years. It could cost you as much as a new car. Your best option is to consult a traffic attorney before deciding to pay the fine for a traffic citation.      

Bigger & Harman Can Help You with Traffic Citations in Tulare County 

When you get a traffic citation on Highway 65, 99, or 198 in Tulare County, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

Email: attorney@biggerharmanlaw.com

References:

The 2020 CA Driver Handbook.pdf