Traffic Tickets in San Joaquin County
Traffic tickets are citations from a police officer that accuse you of committing some infraction, which is the lowest degree of crime after felony and misdemeanor. Infractions are not punishable with a jail sentence, and typically there is only a fine for committing an infraction. However, some infractions, known as moving violations, can have consequences from the DMV.
Parking tickets are not infractions. They are not a criminal offense, and are not handled by the criminal courts. They are usually handled by a city agency, such as the Economic Development Department’s Parking Authority in Stockton. To contest a parking ticket, you would typically appeal the ticket with the agency. If you do not like their decision, you can then file an appeal in court. Our office does not represent clients for parking tickets.
Penalties for Traffic Infractions
Many criminal defense attorneys in California take a reactive approach. They wait until the first court date, or even longer, before they get to work on your case. However, the most critical time in a case is often right after an arrest, BEFORE formal charges are filed by the District Attorney. An early investigation and intervention gives us a head-start that can reduce the seriousness of charges or end a case before it gets started.
Fines vary greatly for traffic tickets. However, even the cheapest ticket is likely to cost you at least a couple hundred bucks. The fines for some violations can be in the thousands! In San Joaquin County, the judges usually set the fines in accordance with the Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule set by the Judicial Council of California. You can find that here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/2019-JC-BAIL.pdf.
However, in most cases, the fine is not the most expensive part of the ticket. The DMV points are the hidden and much larger expense because they cause your insurance rates to go up, can cause you to lose your license, or can even cost you your job.
A ticket for a traffic infraction comes with either 0, 1, or 2 points on your DMV record. The number of points associated with your violation can be found in the Bail Schedule linked above. These points directly influence the rates charged by auto insurance providers, and can often increase your premiums by hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Most infractions stay on your driving record for 3 years. However, if you fail to appear in court they can stay on your record for much longer.
You can keep many 1-point violations off your driving record by attending traffic school. However, you can only do this once every 18 months. Additionally, certain violations such as speeding more than 25mph over than the speed limit are ineligible for traffic school. If you qualify, the fee to the court for traffic school in San Joaquin County is $52. You must also pay for the school itself, which you can do online.
Negligent Operator Suspension
If you fail to keep the points off your record, and get too many points in a certain period, the DMV may suspend your license for being a “negligent operator”. The DMV will suspend your license if you accrue the following amounts of points in the specified time:
- 4 points within 12 months
- 6 points within 24 months
- 8 points within 36 months
It is possible to contest this suspension, and we have had great success in overturning these suspensions for our clients. However, you may win the hearing and be placed on probation, which means one more point and your license is suspended again. It’s better to avoid the risks and costs of such a hearing by avoiding the points in the first place.
If you have a commercial license and get a ticket while driving a commercial vehicle, then you probably already know you are ineligible to keep points off your record by completing driving school. You probably also know that any points you receive will be multiplied by 1.5. Even a single violation on your record can interfere with your ability to get work, so you know that your livelihood depends on keeping your driving record clean.
Our office regularly contests traffic tickets for commercial drivers. In fact, we represent commercial drivers more often than we do noncommercial drivers. We understand that you simply cannot afford to have any points on your record. There are steps we can take to negotiate your ticket to an infraction that does not come with a point on your record, and doesn’t even show up on your driving record at all, not even as a 0-point infraction! If we can’t negotiate, then we can fight the ticket at trial to get it dismissed.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
Quite frankly, we tell a lot of people who call our office that they are better off not hiring us. If you have a ticket for an infraction that is only 1 point, and you weren’t driving a commercial vehicle, and you haven’t done traffic school in the past 18 months for another ticket, then you’re almost always better off just paying the ticket and completing traffic school to keep the point off your record.
It doesn’t make sense to pay us or another attorney, because the likely outcome in most cases is a reduction of the charge to keep the point off your record, but you still must pay the fine. Why pay an attorney hundreds of dollars to keep the point off your record, when you can pay less than $100 to do traffic school and get the same result?
Some people want to hire an attorney because they don’t think they are guilty of the traffic infraction and want to fight it on principal. We understand that feeling, but hiring an attorney is unlikely to get you the vindication you want. In our experience, traffic ticket hearings are almost never won by putting the cop on the stand and trying to prove that he or she was wrong in citing you.
Traffic cops are trained, and have a script that they use every time they go to court. They know all the right things to say, and the judge will trust their word over yours every single time. We’ve observed thousands of traffic trials, and it’s the same nearly every time. Cops do occasionally admit to screwing up, by not having their radar properly calibrated for example, but that is a very rare occurrence. Winning at trial without video evidence proving that you did not commit the alleged offense, such as video from a dash cam, is difficult.
If you are committed to fighting your ticket on principal, and don’t care that you will probably lose, then we suggest that you not hire an attorney. Most attorneys who fight tickets are negotiators, ourselves included, and many do not have specialized knowledge in the technical aspects of fighting traffic tickets. Here are some materials that you may find helpful:
The Goal for Your Case
The most important goal when we handle traffic tickets is to make sure our clients do not receive a point on their DMV driving record. This is usually accomplished by negotiating to reduce the charge. We are sometimes able to get the case dismissed entirely. However, that is not our focus. Our clients understand and accept that it is better to play it safe and take a deal that keeps points off their record rather than trying to go for the big win with a total dismissal. The risk in going for the win, and possibly losing, is not worth saving a little bit of money short-term.
Call us today at (209) 373-4680 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation. Tell us about yourself and tell us what happened. We can answer any questions you have and give you more information about how your case might resolve.
We handle traffic ticket cases for a flat fee, so you know how much it will cost without any surprises. We attend all court hearings without you, so you don’t have to miss work for court. If you decide to hire us, we can take your information over the phone, process paperwork via email, and accept credit card for payment without you needing to come to the office in person. Give us a call so we can start helping you today.