Traffic FAQ

Common Questions About Traffic

Q:What's the process like for a traffic ticket in California?

A:First the officer writes the ticket. On the bottom of the ticket, there is usually a date to appear or respond by. Do not wait to receive further notice in the mail. You may receive a courtesy notice, but the court does not need to send it. Once you have retained our firm, your lawyer will go to court and set the case for an arraignment. At the arraignment, we will enter a plea of not guilty and set the case for trial, as well as a pre-trial negotiation conference. At that time, we will have a chance to get the case either reduced to a lesser offense, or dismissed. If those options are not available, traffic school may be a good choice. When all other options are expended, we fight aggressively at trial to beat the charges and obtain a not guilty verdict. On average, the process takes between four and six months from start to finish.

Q:How long will it take to resolve my traffic ticket?

A:You have the right to a speedy trial, but in most cases, it makes sense to waive this right. By proceeding in a “time waived” basis, we find that the average case takes four to six months to resolve.

Q:What is an arraignment in a traffic case?

A:An arraignment is the beginning of the process. After you receive a ticket, in order to fight your case, you must typically request an arraignment at the traffic window. Once scheduled, your arraignment occurs in a courtroom in front of a judge or magistrate. The purpose of an arraignment is to provide you with a reading of the crime or offense with which you are charged. You are also given the option at the arraignment to either proceed with a speedy trial, or waive that right. In most cases, our clients choose to waive the speedy trial right, though it is always decided on a case-by-case basis. In practice, the arraignment and the reading of the charges are typically waived by the attorney and the arraignment is treated as more of a procedural matter. After an arraignment, we typically leave the courtroom with a trial date set, anywhere from a month to several months later.

Q:Do I have to be at the arraignment in a traffic case?

A:For most traffic infractions (and even misdemeanors), we can appear on your behalf without you being present. Even if you are not required to be present, it is always important to be available by phone at the time of your hearing, in case we need to reach you. That's because we may have questions for you or need to convey information from court in a time-sensitive manner.

Q:I think I may actually be guilty, so why are we saying ``not guilty?``

A:It's up to the state to prove that you are guilty. Once you say you are guilty, then the game is over. Even if you believe you are factually guilty, there is usually good reason to fight the charges, so that you do not receive the maximum punishment. We can always change to a plea of guilty or no contest later, if the state offers a deal that you like.

Q:How many points will a traffic ticket add to my record?

A:Most traffic offenses are one point; some are two points (for example, speeding over 100 mph, reckless driving, or DUI). Some offenses are considered non-point violations. We often negotiate traffic offenses down to non-point violations so that our clients can keep a clean driving record and keep their insurance rates low. A complete listing of the penalties associated with traffic violations can be found in the California Uniform Bail Schedule.

Q:How do I know if I'm eligible for traffic school?

A:The court can usually confirm whether or not you are eligible for traffic school. Generally, you qualify if you meet the following requirements: You hold a valid non-commercial California driver's license, You have been cited for a minor traffic violation, or You have not attended traffic school in the past 18 months.

Q:How many points can I have before it affects my driving privileges?

A:When you are convicted of a traffic offense in California, points are assigned to your driving record by the DMV. The number of points you receive for each violation depends upon the type of infraction. More serious violations carry more points. Your driving privileges may be suspended or revoked in California if: You receive 4 points or more within 12 months, You receive 6 points or more with 24 months, or You receive 8 points or more within 36 months. Your license can also be automatically suspended due to: Lack of insurance at the time of an accident, A conviction for DUI Underage driving, Failure to appear in court, Refusing a test for drugs or alcohol under, or California implied consent law.

Q:What is the best outcome for a traffic violation?

A:A not guilty verdict or a dismissal is the best possible outcome. In many cases, a non-point violation accomplishes everything a not guilty verdict or dismissal does, besides the fine. For this reason it is an attractive option in many cases.

Q:What is a dismissal?

A:A dismissal is when the district attorney or court drops the case. This can happen for a variety of reasons. It means that you do not need to take any further action, and you will not face any consequences for the alleged incident.

Q:What is a non-point violation?

A:Also known as a non-moving violation, this is a very minor traffic offense that does not carry a point on your DMV record, only a fine. For this reason negotiation to a non-point violation is often an excellent way to resolve a traffic violation that would otherwise carry a point.

Q: If you can't get it dismissed, will l still have to pay?

A: Yes. When you hire our firm you pay for our knowledge and expertise, as well as our track record. However, our ethical requirements do not allow us to guarantee an outcome.

Q:Will a point cause my insurance to go up?

A:In most cases, yes. Even a single point can mean a substantial increase in insurance rates.

Q:This is my first ticket! Won't the judge be lenient with me?

A:Not at all. I have seen many people without lawyers say things to the judge like, “I am 58 years old and I have never had a ticket before. Can't I have a break?” This is not an effective line of defense and is often met with an eye roll, as the court feels that you have wasted everyone's time. A strong defense requires knowing the lay of the land and how to accomplish your goals. We may be able to use your lack of prior convictions to your advantage, but don't expect leniency based solely on that.