So you got a traffic ticket…
Like millions of people, you probably have received a traffic ticket at some point in your life. Perhaps it’s a speeding ticket. Perhaps it’s a red light camera ticket. Usually, you will receive a citation, called a “Notice to Appear”. Most of the information on there are self-explanatory. You may have received the ticket from an officer who pulled you over, or you may have received a red light camera ticket in the mail. A red light camera ticket should also have four photos on the citation, one of which should be a close-up photo of the alleged driver. There should also be information on how to view the photos (and video) online. If an officer gave you a fix-it ticket, you can tell so by looking under “correctable violation“. If you received a speeding ticket, you should have information on the officer’s approximate speed for you, the location of the violation, whether a radar or lidar unit was used, along with any other conditions of the area where you were pulled over. These are all important information to tell your traffic attorney. You should also pay close attention of the date on the bottom of the ticket. This will be the “due date” or the appearance date. Failing to pay the ticket or appear on the ticket by that date can cause drastic consequences. If you are talking to an attorney, make sure you are aware which county and courthouse this ticket is filed at (look at the address on the bottom). If this is a Ventura County traffic ticket, you may want to find a traffic attorney who works in Ventura rather than an attorney where you live (since many people receive a traffic ticket far from where they live).
Why did I get another “ticket” in the mail telling me to pay?
After a short amount of time, you will also receive a “courtesy notice” from the court where this ticket has been filed. This notice should give you further instructions on how much the fine is, how to pay, and any other information on how to contest the ticket. You can then chose to pay the fine (and do traffic school, if the option is available), or contest the ticket either by a Trial by Declaration, or go to trial in person. You can also hire a traffic attorney to help you with your ticket. In California, attorneys can appear on behalf of clients for infractions (such as traffic tickets) and misdemeanors (with some few exceptions), so that clients do not have to go to court themselves. Also, another point of confusion is that your court case number may be a different number than the citation number on the top of the ticket.
What did I get a ticket for?
Actually, this is a very common question. Most people are unaware what they are actually being cited for, and are relying on what the officer told them. Check in the middle section of the ticket. The violation(s) should be written here. Usually it will be a “VC” followed by 5 digits. VC is Vehicle Code. For example, a very common one is VC § 22349 (speeding >65 mph). You can also see my infographics on common speeding tickets in California. You can look on the DMV website to search the vehicle codes to see what you are being cited for. Another thing to be aware of is whether “I” or “M” is circled (infraction or misdemeanor). If you are being cited for a misdemeanor (of which, a very common one is DUI), you should definitely consider talking to a criminal defense attorney, as there may be severe criminal consequences including potential jail time.