Traffic Court deals with violations of traffic laws and other minor offenses of state and county ordinances. These violations are considered infractions and include, for example, speeding, cell phone violations, expired registrations and automobile equipment needing repair. Infractions are enforced by the issuance of citations (tickets) by law enforcement.
Punishment for infractions requires payment of fines and does not carry any potential jail or prison time. Failure to pay traffic fines when due or respond to a citation can lead to additional penalties including imposition of a civil assessment and a DMV hold placed on your driver's license.
Contesting a Citation
NOTE: When contacting the clerk's office for information about traffic citations, please be ready to provide the clerk your citation number and have the Courtesy Notice you received from the court available for reference.
There are several options to obtain court review of your citation:
Without payment of any bail amount, you can choose to appear in court for arraignment and for a subsequent court trial. Contact the clerk's office at the numbers above or personally come to any of our county court clerk's offices prior to the Due Date stated in your Courtesy Notice to schedule your arraignment. At arraignment your rights and options will be explained and the court will ask you to enter a plea. If you plead not guilty, the court will set a date for you to return for your court trial. No
pre-payment of any fees or bail amount will be required unless, at arraignment, you refuse to sign a promise to appear for trial (or for other limited reasons specified by statute). See California Rules of Court rule 4.105. See the page "Court Trial" for more information about the trial.
To avoid multiple court appearances, you may request that your matter be set for court trial without appearing for a separate arraignment. The arraignment will be held at the same time as the court trial (under this option you may also ask the clerk to schedule a separate arraignment date. However, most people choosing this option do so to avoid the double court appearances). To exercise this option you must, prior to your Due Date (in your Courtesy Notice), submit a request to the clerk either in person, by mail, or online (see the Page "Paying your Fine" for online directions) and pay, with your request, the
bail forfeiture amount specified in your courtesy notice (required under Vehicle Code section 40519(a)
and (b)). The court will mail you notice of your trial date. See the page "Court Trial" for more information about the trial.
Should you wish to avoid any court appearance you can, in most cases, prior to your Due Date (in your Courtesy Notice) submit to the clerk (in person or by mail) a written request for trial by declaration. You must include your declaration and must pay, with your request, the bail forfeiture amount specified in your courtesy notice (Required under Vehicle Code section 40902). The bail forfeiture amount can also be paid online (See the page "Paying Your Fine" for online directions). See the page "Trials by Written Declaration" for more information about this option.
Should you be found not guilty, any bail forfeiture amount you have paid will be returned by the court.
Financial Hardship and Inability to Pay (Traffic Citations Only)
If you have a financial hardship that prevents you from paying for your household's basic needs and the full amount of your traffic ticket, you may ask the Court to consider your ability to pay. If you qualify, the Court may reduce the amount you owe. Below are the three ways in which you may request an ability to pay determination:
- Appear in court to make this request (an appointment is required to appear in court.) or
- File or mail a written request to the Court. Click here for form TR-320 or
- Make a request online with the Ability to Pay tool found here
Jury trials are not authorized for infraction cases. When you plead "not guilty" to an infraction, the trial will be conducted by a judicial officer (in our courts, a judge, a commissioner, or a qualified temporary judge (judge pro tem). The law enforcement officer who issued the citation will be subpoenaed to appear at the trial. You have the right to subpoena witnesses and to hire a lawyer to represent you (court appointed lawyers are not available in infraction cases). At the trial, the citing officer will testify. You have the right to ask the citing officer questions. You should be prepared at the time of trial to testify by stating your recollection of the facts, to produce any documents or other evidence you may wish the judicial officer to review, and to have any witnesses testify on your behalf.
If you are found not guilty and if you have paid a bail forfeiture amount, the full amount paid will be refunded to you by the court. If you are found guilty, the judicial officer will assess the amount of fine you are required to pay. If you have paid a bail forfeiture amount, it will be applied to the fine. If the fine is less than the bail deposit, any balance will be refunded by the court. If the fine is more than the bail deposit, you will be responsible for paying the balance due.
See the page "Contesting a Judicial Decision" for information on appealing the ruling made by the judicial officer.
Frequently asked questions about infraction trials
You should plan to be at court for three hours or more on the day of trial as the court will have many cases on its calendar. The time your case is being heard by the court will likely be an hour or less unless there are many witnesses or complications. Remember to check your trial date, department, and time.
If you have photos, diagrams, reports, or any other exhibits which you plan to present at the time of the trial, bring them with you on your trial date.
If you have witnesses that are necessary to your defense, you should have them subpoenaed to appear in court. You can obtain the subpoena form from the Clerk's Office. Do this well in advance of your trial date. Complete the subpoena form, have the subpoena served, and file the subpoena and the proof of service with the court on or before your trial date.
Report directly to the Department in which your trial has been scheduled. The bailiff or clerk will give some preliminary instructions and then check in those people appearing in court. A judicial officer will then hear the case. The court will listen to the statements of the sworn witnesses against you and may question each witness. You may then present your case to the court. The court will then rule on the matter or take the matter under submission. If the court takes the matter under submission, you will be notified by mail of the court's ruling and, if found guilty, you will be informed of the sentence imposed.
If you are found not guilty, any bail deposit will be returned by mail within 60 days.
Your trial can be heard without you present (in abstentia). If you are found guilty, any bail will be forfeited. If your bail is forfeited, your driving record will show a conviction.
The officer will be subpoenaed to appear in court and the Confrontation Clause of the United States Constitution requires the officer to be present.
Request for Continuance of a Traffic Court Trial
Requests for continuance of a court trial should be filed at least 10 days prior to the court trial hearing date. The request will be submitted to the judicial officer for approval. You will be notified by mail, or you may contact the court for the status of your request. If you wait too long to submit your request for continuance, it will not be submitted to the judicial officer for consideration until the day of your currently scheduled court trial hearing.
Trials by Written Declaration
Vehicle Code section 40902 permits a challenge to a traffic infraction citation in writing, without having to personally appear in court. A trial by written declaration does not require a court appearance by either party. Trial is through written declarations submitted by the recipient of the citation and the law enforcement officer who issued the citation. The judge will enter a judgment based on the written testimony and documentary evidence presented.
This option is available for most traffic infractions where a mandatory court appearance is not required. Your Courtesy Notice will advise you if a personal appearance is required.
A request for trial by written declaration must be made before the Due Date stated on the Courtesy Notice you received from the court. If you request a trial by written declaration, you will be required to waive your rights to appear, to testify in person, and to subpoena witnesses. You should review the instructions carefully before choosing this option. The California Judicial Council provides instructions and a form (Form TR-205, which is mandatory) for defendants to contest a citation in writing. The instructions and form are available from the clerk's office or you may download forms from the California Courts web site.
If you are found not guilty the bail forfeiture amount you paid will be refunded to you by the court. If you are found guilty, the judicial officer will assess the amount of fine you are required to pay. The bail forfeiture amount you paid will be applied to the fine. If the fine is less than the bail deposit, any balance will be refunded by the court. If the fine is more than the bail deposit, you will be responsible for paying the balance due.
If you are not satisfied with the decision of the judicial officer, you can ask for a new trial (called a "Trial De Novo"). At any new trial, you and any other parties (including the citing officer) will need to personally appear in court. The deadline for filing a request for a new trial will be specified in the written decision mailed to you by the court. Any request for new trial should be made on Form TR-220 available through the clerk's office or from the California Courts website.
Contesting a Judicial Decision
An appeal can be filed within 30 days only after being found guilty in a court trial. New evidence is not accepted on appeal. The appellate court's decision deals with the evidence offered and decisions made at the time of trial.
For more information, visit the Appeals page.
The clerk's office may give an extension of 60 days to post bail. You can do this in any of the following manners:
- In person at any of the court locations
- On the court's web site (you must have your case or citation number along with date of birth)
To request an extension beyond 60 days, you must appear in person and request a continuance from the judicial officer in open court.
If your case requires a mandatory appearance, you cannot pay your fine without first appearing in court for arraignment. You can appear on or before your appearance date at any of the listed court locations. (Click here for court locations.) Your courtesy notice will indicate MANDATORY court appearance.
The following infractions are examples of charges requiring a mandatory appearance.
- 22348(b) VC: Speed greater than 100 mph
- 23140(a) VC: Person under 21 years old driving with a blood alcohol content of .05 or more
Proof of Corrections
Obtaining Proof of Correction:
If there are mechanical, registration, license, or insurance violations (VC 16028a only), the bail amount will be reduced if you provide proof of correction on or before the due date. If you do not provide proof of correction, you will be required to pay the full bail forfeiture amount or contest the citation. See the page "Contesting a Citation" for information. Proof received after the fine is paid will not be eligible for further reductions.
The inspecting officer will sign off the violation you were cited for on the back of the citation or on the courtesy notice. The sign off must be for a correction-eligible violation, and it must include the violation you were cited for and the officer's name, agency, and badge number.
Proof of correction may be obtained in the following ways:
- Smog control device violations must be inspected and certified by an authorized Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Device Installation and Inspection Station.
- Light and brake violations may be certified by an authorized inspection and installation station or a law enforcement agency.
- Dog and cat license or vaccination must be submitted in court if requesting a dismissal or reduction in the fine. Proof of correction will not be accepted at the clerk's office.
- Other defects or proof of corrections may be obtained at any law enforcement office during regular business hours. DO NOT STOP AN OFFICER ON ANY ROADWAY FOR THIS CERTIFICATION.
- Self-certification of corrections is not acceptable.
- Sale of the vehicle does not relieve you of the responsibility for correction of the violations.
Fraudulent documentation submitted to establish proof of correction could result in criminal prosecution.
If you were cited for a registration violation (Vehicle Code section 4000(a)l), you may obtain proof of valid registration from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Department of Motor Vehicles may sign off the back of your ticket or courtesy notice, or you may show proof of a Validated Registration. The clerk will not accept proof of registration that indicates "Report of Deposit of Fees." You may submit proof with a $25.00 correction fee. If proof of correction is not shown prior to the Due Date on your Courtesy Notice, payment of the full bail forfeiture amount will be required or you must contest the citation. See the page "Contesting a Citation" for information.
The following information applies only to the 16028a VC (no proof of financial responsibility or no proof of insurance). This information does not apply to 16028c (no proof of insurance involving a collision) or to any other related insurance-related violations.
If you were cited for failure to provide proof of financial responsibility (insurance), and you did not have insurance on the date of violation, you will be required to pay the full bail forfeiture amount or contest the citation. See the page "Contesting a Citation" for information. If you obtain insurance after the date of violation you should contest the citation or bring proof of your insurance to the clerk's office. The clerk will reduce any applicable fine.
If you had proof of insurance at the time the citation was issued, but were unable to provide proof to the officer who cited you, the violation is dismissible with a $25.00 correction fee and proof of insurance policy.
You may submit proof, as outlined below, with your payment, or submit a copy of your insurance policy to the clerk of the court.
You may submit proof, as outlined below, with your payment, or submit a copy of your insurance policy to the clerk of the court.
- Name of insurance carrier
- Policy number
- Effective dates of coverage showing insurance coverage at the time you were cited
- Name of person who received the citation and/or the vehicle listed on the citation
- If you do not provide all of the specified information, the total bail amount will be required. You may also contest the citation. See the page "Contesting a Citation" for information.
- Fraudulent documentation submitted to establish proof of correction could result in criminal prosecution.
Paying Your Fine
Paying the Bail Amount
The bail forfeiture amount on a citation is determined by statute. If you choose to pay the bail on the citation without going to trial, it will be accepted as payment in full of the fine due on the infraction. The citation is deemed paid, and the resulting violation will be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles if the violation is reportable.
Payment Due Date
Your citation or courtesy notice will provide you with a date and time to appear and/or pay your fine. If you are unsure of the due date, you may search the court records or you may appear in person at any court location within 30-60 days of the date of your citation.
If you do not agree with the citation, see the page "Contesting a Citation" for information about obtaining court review.
Methods for Paying a Citation
You may use the following methods to pay your traffic citation:
- Automated phone system: Visa, Discover, AMEX, or MasterCard
- Internet- A Visa, Discover, AMEX or MasterCard credit card can be used at this link.
- By check, money order, or credit card. Make checks payable to the Clerk of the Court. Write your citation number on the check or money order.
- Payments can be mailed to any of the court locations.
- In person. You may appear at any court location.
Failure to resolve your case by the date indicated on your notice may result in your case being referred to the State Franchise Tax Board or a private collection agency for further collection activity which my include wage garnishments, bank levies and tax return intercepts. You may also be subject to an additional penalty of $100.00
You may choose to attend traffic school for certain vehicle violations.
Pursuant to Vehicle Code section 42005, you may be eligible for a confidential conviction after completion of a traffic school program if:
- You had a valid noncommercial driver's license at the time you were cited;
- The violation occurred in a noncommercial vehicle; and
- Your citation is not for a violation of Vehicle Code section 20001 (accident with injury), 20002 (hit and run), 23103 (reckless driving), 23104 (reckless driving-bodily injury), 23105 (reckless driving-specific injury), 23140 (minor-BAC .05 or greater), 23152 (DUI), 23153 (DUI with injury), or 23103 as specified in 23103.5 (placed on probation for section 23103 offense after plea reduction from original charge under section 23152.
In addition to the eligibility exclusions above, under amended rule 4.101, a court clerk is not authorized to grant a request to attend a traffic school program for an infraction that is not reportable to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and an infraction that is not contained in division 11 or 12 (rules of the road and equipment violations) of the Vehicle Code, or any of the following infractions. To be eligible, you must meet the following conditions:
- You are not currently attending, and have not attended, a traffic school program for a citation issued within the last 18 months of the date of the current citation;
- Your citation must be a moving violation and does not have a misdemeanor charge that requires a mandatory appearance in court;
- Your citation does not involve alcohol use or possession or drug use or possession;
- Your citation is not for violating Vehicle Code sections 22406.5 (tank vehicles) or 21655.5;
- Your citation does not have a point count of more than one point under Vehicle Code section 12810 or more than one and one-half points or more under Vehicle Code section 12810.5(b)(2);
- If your case involves a failure to appear warrant or civil assessment, the failure to appear charge must be adjudicated or paid in full before you can attend traffic school; and
- Your citation does not involve a speeding violation in excess of 100 miles per hour or 26 miles or more over the speed limit.
If you satisfy the above requirements and wish to attend traffic school, you will be required to pay a fee in the sum of $68.00 plus the amount of bail indicated on your courtesy notice, payable to the Clerk of the Court, Tulare County. There will be a separate fee at the class you attend. Upon completion of traffic school, and upon the court receiving proof of such completion in a timely manner, a confidential conviction will reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you fail to provide proof of completion as required, a conviction will be reported to the DMV and your insurance may be adversely affected.
WARNING: If you are not eligible to attend traffic school, but do so anyway, the conviction will be reported on your driving record and there will be no refund of any fees paid.
Requesting Traffic School
Traffic School payments can be made at all court locations.
You have the option of attending a DMV approved eight-hour traffic school program, or you can attend a home study or online traffic school. Approved traffic schools can be found at the links below.
- California DMV Approved Traffic School Programs Search Tool
- Approved Internet Traffic School Programs can be found at: http://www.ctsi-courtnetwork.org
You can also request traffic school by telephone. You must have your citation number and credit card available.
If you sign up by phone or through the mail, a list of traffic schools will be mailed to you, or you may use the lists above.
Failure to Complete Traffic School
Failure to complete traffic school by the due date will result in a forfeiture of your fees, and a conviction will be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles. There will be no further proceedings in the case.
Check the status of your certificate
You can check the status of your traffic school certificate at: http://courtcertservice.com/
Parking citations are not handled by the Superior Court. Each issuing city or agency now processes its own parking citations. For information, contact the city or agency that issued the parking citation.