Traffic school is available to California Driver’s who receive a ticket and have not been to traffic school in 18 months. Traffic school is not available for people travelling over 20 MPH above the posted speed limit, or who are commercial driver’s (unless in passenger vehicle).
Riverside County has started a new cost saving measure in July 2013 where the only way to set up a court appearance for an arraignment or trial on a traffic ticket is online. There is no way to see a clerk without an appointment in advance. There also is no way to set up a court appearance on the same day. This is a big change to how things were prior to 2013. It used to be that if an attorney or person with a ticket came to the clerk’s window early in the morning they could get the case on the calendar for arraignment that same day.
So, the questions to be addressed here are:
1) Whether it is worth the time and money to challenge a traffic ticket at all?
2) If it is worth it, should an attorney be used?
For a commercial driver or someone accused of travelling over 20 miles per hour above the speed limit it is always (every rule has some exception) wise to set the matter for trial. First, for commercial driver’s who cannot go to traffic school it is critical to avoid points on their driving record. By challenging a ticket in almost all situations either a non-moving violation can be obtained from the Judge. Although less common recently, cases can be won outright when the CHP officer does not appear or does not have the necessary foundational documents showing proper use and functioning of radar/lydar equipment. I have found that as long as the truck driver has not received another reduced charge in the past year or two that obtaining a reduced non-moving violation is the common practice.
Secondly, in the case of someone charged with going more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit challenging the case can open the possibility of obtaining a more favorable result than merely paying the ticket and accepting the consequences. In some instances traffic school can be obtain if the officer and judge are not opposed to reducing the speed to under 20 miles above the speed limit. In other instances the officer either does not appear or is not prepared to meet his/her burden that the defendant was speeding at all and the matter is dismissed. Another possibility is pleading to a non-point violation and paying the same fine. Coasting — Vehicle Code Section 21710, Failure to obey a sign — Vehicle Code Section 38300, or Off highway unsafe speed — Vehicle Code Section 38305 are somewhat common non-point resolutions sought to resolve a ticket without any points.
Saving the ability to go to traffic school at a later time is a person to person decision. If you fall into the category of drivers who get pulled over by the police every year or two then fighting every traffic ticket is worth the time and money. The benefit of hiring an attorney is that the attorney goes to court for you saving you at least 2-3 hours of travel and waiting in court. Remember that you cannot go to trial on the first appearance in court. The first appearance is the arraignment where the defendant enters a not guilty plea. That is also the time where most unrepresented defendants are ordered to post the amount of the ticket in bail. Many times (almost all) defendants with attorneys are not required to post bail. Whether anyone should have to post bail in a traffic case is a topic for another day.