Contesting a Traffic Ticket
This section contains information on:
1. Contesting a Ticket/Citation
To contest your citation, you must appear for arraignment or schedule a future court trial date. Bail must be posted to schedule a future court trial date.
At the arraignment, if you plead "Not Guilty," your case will be continued or scheduled for a court trial date.
If your violation is an Infraction, you may also contest a citation without appearing in court simply by requesting a trial by written declaration on or before the due date on your courtesy notice. Bail must be posted.
Arraignment and Court Trial without Posting Bail
Pursuant to California Rule of Court 4.105 you may request a court trial without the deposit of bail. Two court appearances are required if you wish to contest the violation(s) without posting bail. You must appear first in Walk-in Court for arraignment and enter a plea of Not Guilty on or before the due date on your courtesy notice. A future court date will be scheduled at that time.
Arraignment and Court Trial with Posting Bail
Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 40519 (a) and (b) you may choose to have your arraignment and court trial in the same hearing by submitting your signed request and posting the total bail amount on or before the due date on your courtesy notice. Bail must be posted in person or by mail in full. The court will mail your scheduled court date to you upon receipt of your request.
The examination of facts and law will be presided over by a judge (or other magistrate such as a commissioner or judge pro tem). The officer(s) will be subpoenaed to present any factual evidence. At this time, you must also be prepared to produce all evidence, documents, or witnesses to support your case. You have the right to bring witnesses or have a lawyer present. The Court will not provide an attorney.
Trial by Written Declaration
Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 40902 you may request a trial by mail and no court appearance is required. The Trial by Declaration procedure allows you to plead not guilty by submitting your signed request or completed TR-205 forms and the total bail amount to the Court on or before the due date on your courtesy notice. Bail must be posted in person or by mail in full.
This procedure is not available for misdemeanors, accidents, mandatory court appearances, or non-traffic local ordinance violations.
If you choose this option, you will mail to Court a written statement on a Trial by Written Declaration form explaining and outlining the facts and events of the case. You may include any documentary evidence that could help your case. The Court will subpoena a written report from the citing officer. The Commissioner will review all documentation and the ruling will be issued by mail. If you are dissatisfied with the judgment, you may request a new trial if you do so within 20 days of the mailing of the notice of judgment.
The following conditions must be met in order to qualify for a Trial by Written Declaration:
Full bail must be paid.
- Violation(s) must be vehicle code infractions only.
- No accident involved.
- No failure to appear or failure to pay fine on the case.
- No prior failure to appear on the case.
- Enter a "not guilty" plea in writing.
- Instructions and forms for a Trial by Written Declaration may be obtained by contacting the court through the mail, in person, or by selecting the following links: Instructions for completing a Request for Trial by Written Declaration form.
2. Preparing for Court
An arraignment is an initial appearance in court. At the arraignment, the charges are presented, the opportunity to enter a plea is given and, in certain cases, a determination is made whether the party has or needs an attorney. The bail amount may be set and a future appearance may be scheduled. The citing officer(s) will not be present.
At the arraignment you may enter one of the following pleas:
Guilty: You admit to the violations(s). You may still explain the circumstances to the judicial officer. Your appearance is necessary and will result in a conviction once you enter your plea.
Not Guilty: You deny the violation(s) and want to appear with the citing officer present.
No Contest: You neither admit nor deny the violation(s). This plea is treated the same as a guilty plea.
The court trial is where you will be able to contest your citation. The Court will listen to the statement of the sworn witnesses against you, and may question each witness. You may then present your case to the Court, and the Court will rule on the matter.
Tips on Presenting Your Case In Court
- Tell the Commissioner what street or highway you were on, what intersection, if any, was involved, and the direction you were traveling.
- Describe what happened in the order it happened. Present your best reasons first for why you think your ticket should be dismissed.
- Simple and to the point is best. If the Commissioner asks you any questions, try to answer them directly.
Tips on What Not to Do In Court
- Don't Interrupt or argue with the Commissioner or the police officer.
- Don't Repeat yourself unnecessarily.
- Don't come into court unprepared, without the documents you need for your case.
You may be required to present picture identification in court.
Case Related Documents
Bring all case related material to assist you in presenting your case. See Citations for further information on proof(s) of correction.
Be Prepared To Pay
At the conclusion of your appearance in court, be prepared to pay your fine in full.
Arrive On Time
At the start of every session, the Court provides an advisement video or brochure explaining your rights. It is important to arrive on time. It may take up to three (3) hours to complete your traffic court appearance.
Interpreter services are available, but must be ordered at the time of arraignment or request for a court trial.
Cell Phones & Pagers
Keep cell phones and pagers silent while in court.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will the trial take?
Most trials take a very short amount of time, but you should plan to be at court for at least 3 hours on that day. REMEMBER TO CHECK YOUR TRIAL DATE, DEPARTMENT, AND TIME.
Should my witnesses appear?
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 with the proof of service with the Court on or before your trial date. NOTE: A defendant cannot serve the subpoena. The person served (witnesses) must be given reasonable advance notice of the date and time to appear for trial.
Should I bring my evidence?
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.
Will the officer who wrote the citation be in court?
The officer will be subpoenaed to appear in court.
What happens when I get to court?
The bailiff or clerk will give some preliminary instructions and then check in those people appearing in court. A Judge Or Court Commissioner who, pursuant to Government Code Section 72190, has been empowered to rule on infraction matters, will then call the cases. The Court will listen to the statement of the sworn witnesses against you, and may question each witness. You may then present your case to the Court, and the Court will rule on the matter.
What if I am found not guilty?
If you are found Not Guilty, your bail deposit will be returned to you by mail within six to eight weeks. Immediately after the trial, check with the clerk or bailiff to verify your current address.
What if I am found guilty?
In most cases, when you are found guilty, the sentence imposed will be a fine not exceeding the amount of bail you have deposited. The fine will be taken from the bail and the remaining amount will be refunded.
What if I do not appear at the trial time?
Your bail will be forfeited, and your driving record will show a conviction.
What if I need to change my trial date?
If it becomes necessary to change your court date, you may do so only once. Your request must be made at least ten court days prior to your trial date to secure a new date. There will be NO EXCEPTIONS to the minimum 10-day requirement.
Can I set a court date for a relative?
Can I appear in court for a relative?
You can appear for a relative for the limited purpose of informing the court why that relative is not available to appear on the court date set. The court has discretion whether or not to accept the excuse and set a new date.
3. How Do I Appeal a Judgment?
If you disagree with the Court's ruling, you have the right to an appeal. An appeal is not a retrial. New evidence such as testimony and exhibits are not given to the appellate court; it sees only what evidence was given to the trial court. An appeal is a legal procedure used to ask the court to reconsider a court decision. If you feel the judge has made a legal error in the decision, then you may file an appeal. The papers must be completed and filed with the Clerk's Office at the location where the case was heard, within 30 days of the court decision or within 30 days of the mailing of judgement. There is no charge to file an appeal.
Proposed Statement of Appeal
You must prepare what is called a Proposed Statement of Appeal. This statement must be filed within 15 days from the date the Notice of Appeal was filed with the Court. Along with the testimony and evidence, the statement must contain your legal reason for the appeal. The statement may also be filed at the same time as the Notice of Appeal form.
Filing an appeal does not stay execution of the sentence unless a judicial officer orders a stay. Be aware that the fine and any orders by the Court must be paid/complied to the Court by the due date.
A Hearing to Settle Statement on Appeal is scheduled. The judicial officer who made the decision on your case will usually conduct the hearing. You and the judicial officer will discuss the Engrossed Statement on Appeal, a document that will be forwarded to the Appellate Court.
You can pick up an appeal packet at the Traffic Division after the appeal has been filed. You will be scheduled for a hearing for a Settled Statement of Facts.
- Instructions On Appeal Procedures for Infractions (PDF)
- Notice of Appeal of Oral Proceedings (Infraction) (PDF)
- Proposed Statement On Appeal (Infraction) (PDF)
- Order Concerning Appellant's Proposed Statement on Appeal (Infraction) (PDF)
- Abandonment of Appeal (Infraction) (PDF)
The case is forwarded to the Appellate Department for a ruling. A decision or ruling takes up to three months. Sometimes the Court will require another court appearance to clarify your written statement. Information will be sent through the mail which includes all proceedings and rulings.