Every year, more than six million drivers incur traffic tickets in California. The cost of California traffic citation fines has increased at an exponential rate over the past decade. According to the Judicial Council of California, the fine for running red light, while $103 in 1993 and $340 in 2003, is now $490. According to a recent article in SF Gate, such fines are likely to increase again soon, perhaps indefinitely.
Most Californians are not aware that the base fines for most California traffic ticket violations has remained roughly the same over the past twenty years. It is the penalty assessments (set by the Legislature) that have led to the increase in traffic ticket fines. While there was only one penalty assessment a decade now, there are now ten, and thus the cost of the citation fines is much higher – roughly four to five times the amount of the base fine.
With the cost of fines becoming more expensive every year, more and more California drivers are choosing to retain a traffic ticket attorney to contest their tickets in the hopes of having their ticket dismissed or the penalties reduced. According to the Judicial Council, the rate of traffic citations disputed is up 100% over the past decade, now totaling 383,000 per year. Fines for traffic infractions make up a large source of revenue for state and county governments. Given that traffic violations account for more than $500 million a year in revenue according to the California Research Bureau, more and more Californians are likely to lawyer up when they get stopped by the police.
It is up to the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of every element of the offense you are charged with.
As California traffic ticket continues to creep towards $1,000 a ticket, not to mention an increase in your insurance premium and a point on your record, tickets have become kind of a big deal.