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What are California Traffic Court Records?

California traffic court records are official documents pertaining to the judicial proceedings of the Traffic Divisions of California Superior Courts. These records include traffic citations issued by law enforcement officers and documents generated before, during, and at the conclusion of cases in the state's Traffic Courts.

Getting a Traffic Ticket in California

When issuing a citation to an offending motorist, a California law enforcement officer will typically ask the operator of the vehicle for his/her driver's license, car registration, and proof of insurance. Depending on the offense and the prevailing conditions, the officer may also ask the motorist to step out of the vehicle before writing a ticket. The ticket or "Notice to Appear" is a form that lists the infractions and/or misdemeanors prompting the citation.

The officer will then ask the ticketed motorists to sign the form. This is usually done to ensure the alleged offender appears in Traffic Court. It is not considered an admission of guilt, nor does it impede the motorist's right to contest. In California, law enforcement officers are authorized to arrest a ticketed motorist who refuses to sign their citation.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide the following:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state in which a person resides or was accused.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Types of Traffic Tickets Issued in California

Law enforcement officers issue traffic tickets for these three types of California traffic violations and infractions:

  • Parking violations
  • Traffic infractions
  • Traffic misdemeanors

In California, parking tickets are not filed with the court, and individuals with parking tickets do not have to appear in Traffic Court unless they find the ticket resolution unacceptable. A California parking ticket shows the traffic fine, an amount payable to the parking agency where the violation occurred. This amount increases the longer you wait to pay the ticket. Failure to pay a parking ticket could result in the inability to renew your vehicle's registration. To contest this ticket, contact the parking agency. If unsatisfied with the agency's decision, you may head to Traffic Court.

Traffic infractions include:

  • Speeding.
  • Running a red light.
  • Driving with an expired license.
  • Driving a vehicle with broken equipment.

The citation issued for such offenses includes a notice to appear in court. You may pay the ticket to avoid going to court. Note that the owner of a vehicle can also get a traffic ticket in California, even when someone else is operating their vehicle. Such "owner responsibility" tickets are for correctable violations such as broken turn signals. California also issues photo citations. These are photos taken by street cameras of traffic infractions committed at red lights and railroad crossings. Owner responsibility and photo citations are mailed to culpable individuals.

Traffic misdemeanor tickets cover more serious traffic crimes like reckless driving, driving without a license, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). Some misdemeanors and felonies, such as DUIs and vehicular manslaughter, are grounds for arrest and may be tried in Criminal Court and punished by considerable jail time.

Can You Get a Traffic Ticket Riding an Electric Scooter in California?

Yes. The increasing popularity of dockless electric scooters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and other California cities is prompting state legislators to review existing traffic laws regarding motorized scooters. Law enforcement agencies also report sharp increases in the number of tickets issued to riders of motorized scooters.

While California legislators debate the finer points of a Motorized Scooter bill introduced in February 2018, these vehicles are currently legal in the state. Current laws provide certain scooter restrictions in California. To operate an electric scooter legally in the state, you:

  • Must have a valid driver's license or a learner's permit
  • Must wear a US Department of Transport (DOT)-compliant helmet
  • Must not be a passenger on the scooter or take on a passenger
  • Must not ride the scooter faster than 15 mph
  • Must not ride the scooter on a road with a speed limit over 25 mph unless it has a bike lane to ride the scooter
  • Must not ride the scooter at night unless it has appropriate lighting equipment, including a headlight visible from the front and sides, and reflectors
  • Must not ride or park the scooter on the sidewalk

Riding on sidewalks accounts for more than half of the tickets issued for electric scooter riders in California.

What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in California?

There are four ways individuals may respond to being issued a California traffic ticket, including:

  • Paying the fine
  • Requesting an extension
  • Opting for traffic school
  • Contesting the ticket in court

While paying a traffic ticket is considered an admission of guilt for the violation on the form, it is an option for motorists seeking to resolve a ticket without contesting it in court. However, depending on their previous driving record, this may lead to the suspension of their driving license. It may also impact auto insurance rates. 

Persons who are currently unable to pay their traffic tickets may request an extension. An extension is usually only possible if requested before the traffic ticket due date. The court may also grant an extension on the traffic ticket payment plan, court date, and traffic school completion date.

Attending a traffic school can help keep a traffic ticket off your DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) record. However, this option is only available to eligible persons. To be eligible for traffic school in California, the motorist may be required to:

  • Have a citation for a moving violation
  • Not have a DUI violation
  • Not have a violation that qualifies for more than one point with the DMV
  • Not be driving a commercial vehicle or transporting hazardous materials
  • Not have attended a traffic school for a prior violation within the last 18 months
  • Not have exceeded 25 mph over the speed limit if you have a speeding citation

Note that attending a traffic school also means you are paying for the ticket. The cost of the traffic school includes the amount on your ticket.

Motorists are advised to seek professional legal counsel before opting for any of the aforementioned options, as the circumstances surrounding most tickets or traffic offenses are unique. 

Contesting a Traffic Ticket in California

The state of California provides two options for contesting a traffic ticket in court. The motorist may: 

  • Request an arraignment and get a hearing date
  • Request a trial by written declaration; this allows them to challenge your citation in writing. However, they are usually required to pay a bail deposit to proceed with trial by written declaration

Depending on the circumstances, the bail amount may be refunded if the Traffic Court does not find you guilty. If the court finds you guilty, the total amount for the traffic ticket and other penalties and fees will be taken from the bail amount and the balance refunded. If the bail deposit does not cover this total, the court will give you a due date to pay the balance. To be eligible for trial by written declaration, you must:

  • Have a traffic ticket for an infraction violation
  • Have a ticket that is not past its due date
  • Not having a ticket for DUI or a violation that requires a mandatory court appearance.

Generally, motorists who receive a traffic ticket are advised to seek professional legal counsel. Several nuances apply to the resolution of traffic tickets or offenses. 

How Do I Look Up My Traffic Tickets?

In California, the Traffic Division of the Superior Court handles traffic tickets. To look up a traffic ticket, visit the website of the Superior Court of California in the county where the ticket was issued. Use the Find Your Court page to find the contact information of all county Superior Courts in California. The webpage also provides direct links to the traffic sections of their websites.

Navigate to the traffic page of the county court website you need and use its search tools to look up traffic tickets. Note that it may take up to 30 days for citations to transfer between law enforcement agencies and courts. Most county court websites allow the public to search by citation/ticket number, driver's license, and case number when accessing information about traffic tickets online.

How Do I Pay a Traffic Ticket in California?

The Traffic Divisions of California Superior Courts provide multiple ways to pay traffic tickets. The most common methods are:

  • Online
  • In-person
  • By phone
  • By mail

To pay online, look for the link to the online payment portal on the same website where you looked up your traffic ticket. Some counties also allow installment payments online for those who qualify for payment plans. Credit/debit cards are accepted for online payments. Paying online usually attracts an additional processing/convenience fee.

When paying for a traffic ticket in person, visit any of the locations of the Traffic Division of the Superior Court in that county. Where payment by phone is available, you can find the number to call on the county's Traffic Court website. Credit/debit cards are used for phone payments. The phone payment option is convenient and usually available at all times.

The Traffic Court/Division webpage on a California Superior Court website may also contain a mailing address where you can send your traffic ticket payment. This is usually the mailing address of the payment processor or court accounts department. Most counties only accept checks and money orders for paying for tickets by mail while a few also accept credit card authorization forms.

How Do You Get a Traffic Ticket Extension?

California allows ticketed motorists to request to extend their:

  • Court arraignment dates
  • Traffic school completion dates
  • Payment plans for ticket fines/bail forfeiture

Acceptable ways of applying for these extensions and extension terms vary from county to county. In most California counties, the court clerk can grant extensions for non-delinquent individuals charged with traffic infractions. Requests for extensions from non-qualifying individuals and violations must be presented to a Traffic Court judge.

To apply for a traffic ticket extension, visit or call the court clerk's office. Some California counties also accept requests online and by phone. Check the Traffic Court section of a county's Superior Court website to find contact details for the court clerk.

Contesting a California Traffic Ticket

You can contest a ticket in Traffic Court only if you believe you have not committed a traffic violation and/or can prove you were wrongly issued a ticket. While you do not have to hire an attorney for a Traffic Court case, having one can help you understand the state's traffic laws and save you time and money during the trial.

To fight a traffic ticket, first appear in Traffic Court and plead not guilty to the court clerk or reserve a date to see the judge. Some counties also allow motorists to write the court to plead not guilty. You may also elect for trial by written declaration by providing the court with a written statement rather than appearing in person. You need to submit a request form before electing for trial by written declaration. One benefit of this option is that you can seek a new trial (now, in person) if you lose a trial by written declaration.

All of these options require that you post the bail amount on your Courtesy Violation Information Notice (a document mailed to your address 2—3 weeks after getting a ticket).

What To Expect in Traffic Court in California?

Your first appearance in Traffic Court will be an arraignment. The law enforcement officer who issued the citation will not be present at this session. However, they will be subpoenaed to appear during the hearing. At the arraignment, the judge will read out the charges, tell you your rights, and ask for your plea. You can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The judge will then set a date for the next hearing.

California does not hold jury trials for traffic infractions. You also have the right to request discovery before the commencement of the trial. Discovery will give you access to the notes of the law enforcement officers who issued the ticket and other documentation that may be helpful to your case.

During the trial, the officer will state the reasons for giving you the ticket. The prosecutor may also subpoena other witnesses to appear and testify. You or your lawyer can also do the same. In addition to presenting witnesses, the court also expects you or your lawyer to present evidence, argue the law, and cross-examine the officer who issued the ticket and witnesses.

At the trial, you and your witnesses must step to the counsel table when the court calls your case. The officer will give their testimony first, and then the court will allow you to question the officer. The prosecutor may call you to the stand, but you do not have to testify. California upholds the defendant's right to remain silent and not testify in their case.

How to Prepare for Traffic Court in California

First, understand the charges brought against you. Reading the California Vehicle Code and knowing more about the violations listed on your ticket will be helpful. Next, prepare your defense. To mount an effective defense, recollect what you told the officer and determine what you admitted to while getting the ticket.

While requesting discovery, ask for the officer's notes. These will contain details about how they determined you committed a traffic violation. For example, for speeding violations, the officer's notes will provide information about the equipment used to measure your vehicle's speed. By studying the instruction manual for the equipment, you will learn the limitations of the technology to contest the accuracy of the officer's speed readings.

Along with preparing a list of questions to ask the officer and witnesses presented by the prosecutor, you should also prepare evidence you want to bring before the court. These could be written documents and photos taken at the location of the alleged traffic violation.

It would help if you also prepare your witnesses. These are usually people in your vehicle and/or in the vicinity when you were pulled over or ticketed. You may ask for written affidavits from such witnesses or ask the court clerk to subpoena them.

Lastly, it helps to appear in court in formal attire. Some courts regard casual attire as inappropriate, and a judge may refuse to hear your case if he/she deems that you are dressed inappropriately. You must also address the judge as "Your Honor" and maintain a professional demeanor while in court. Take note of other court rules and follow them closely. Arrive in court early and ensure you have everything before the hearing.

How to Postpone a Traffic Court Date in California

California allows ticketed motorists to postpone their arraignment dates in person and by phone. Some county Superior Court also accepts requests for continuance and extension online or by mail. Find the court clerk's contact information on the county's Superior Court website. The clerk may only grant extensions if you submit the request some days before the court date.

To postpone a trial date, you must appear before the judge with this request before the trial date. You may make appointments to see the judge online, in person, or by phone.

What Happens If You Miss a Traffic Court Date in California?

If you miss a court date, it is important to ascertain the status of your case. You may find the case information online on the Case Access portal used by the county's Superior Court. Alternatively, visit or call the court for this information. Depending on the traffic violation, the court may have a warrant out for your arrest. You may also be charged with a court violation for failure to appear. This may carry an additional fine. If the court determines the case in your absence, you may forfeit your bail money for failure to be present.

California Traffic Court Records
  • Criminal Records
  • Arrests Records
  • Warrants
  • Driving Violations
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Federal Dockets
  • Probate Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Divorce Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Asset Records
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • And More!