Entering A Plea In Your California Traffic Ticket

Note:  This is part of series of posts on contesting California traffic tickets.  If you haven’t already, you should read my earlier post on how I beat my traffic ticket.

Your courtesy notice likely tells you that in order to contest your ticket you have to show up at court twice:  once to enter a plea (your arraignment), and a second time for your actual trial.  If you’ve visited Help! I Got A Ticket or any of several other wonderful websites, you know by now that both events can be handled via mail without a court appearance.

Your right to plead not guilty via mail is spelled out in Vehicle Code section 40519(b):

Any person who has received a written notice to appear may, prior to the time at which the person is required to appear, plead not guilty in writing in lieu of appearing in person…

If you want to plead not guilty via mail, you can use my simple plea form.

If the court is far away or your time is of a premium, this is likely the preferred method.  Unfortunately, there’s a catch at the very end of VC 40519(b):

Any person using this procedure shall be deemed to have waived the right to be tried within the statutory period.

In other words you just waived your right to a speedy trial, which is a major downside of this method.  So if you have the time the best way to handle your arraignment is to show up and when you case is called say “I plead not guilty and request trial by written declaration.”  Make sure you say it all in one breath like that — the judge is likely processing many cases that morning/afternoon.  Once they move on you won’t get another chance to speak and you’ll be scheduled for an in person trial.  To cover your bases and properly follow the applicable rule of court, you’re technically supposed to file written notice with the court prior to your arraignment that you intend to request trial by written declaration.  Details on that are here.

5 comments

  1. Just to make sure I understand this correctly, it is preferred that you show up and ask for the TBWD because at that point they only have 45 days to get that done. But if you do it by mail, then the 45 days is null and it can drag for however long they want.

    Is it possible to get an extension on your arraignment (by phone) and then show up on the following date to request a TBWD?

    Thanks!

  2. To be honest, this is an area I’m a little unclear on. I’m also not sure on whether this carries over to your trial de novo.

  3. That’s correct.

    I’ve spent some more time thinking about your original comment, and I think you’re right: the whole speedy trial thing is irrelevant if you’re doing TBWD.