California Traffic Tickets 
This page is in progress. Bear with me while I write it.

Several people have asked me about getting out of traffic tickets in California. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on the subject, but I have successfully fought traffic tickets on two occasions and completed a significant amount of research on the subject. I have a personal interest in the subject as I drive long distances in the state on a somewhat regular basis: from the Bay Area down to Southern California or San Diego via I-5, and down to San Luis Obispo via US-101. Below is the most useful information I have been able to find, collected together for your personal edification.

Step #0: Traffic Ticket Avoidance
If you're here, it's probably because you've already received a ticket. But for those who somehow arrive here prior to then, I'll give the most obvious advice: the best way to get out of paying for a ticket is to not get one in the first place.

Talk to other "fast drivers" who frequent that route and figure out where people get tagged. There are certain areas that are notorious for catching speeders. One such area is King City on US-101, which happens to have a CHP station there. Since 1976 the CHP has not increased the number of uniformed officers, so the state is not exceptionally well covered, it is just well covered in certain areas and at certain times of day.

Get a radar detector. If you're serious about cutting down transit time over long distances, the you need a radar detector. If driving NorCal to SoCal or vice versa via I-5, you can cut transit time down by 20% or more by driving down overnight and doing 90mph the whole way. California exclusively uses the Ka band, so as soon as your detector registers something on that band you should hit the brakes. Don't him them so hard that you stand out or cause someone to rear end you, but quickly act to bring your speed down. Keep in mind line of sight, as how much warning you have before coming up on the officer is determined by line of sight. Radar detection isn't completely line of sight, but the waves are going to travel much further if their is no interference. In the central valley you're going to get a lot more warning than on the Grape Vine. Don't forget to unclip your detector and hide it if you get pulled over. Don't lie about having one as cops hate liers, but there's no reason to shove it in the officer's face either. UPDATE: There are some rumors on the street that CHP has begun to use LIDAR to catch speeders, which means that your radar detector isn't going to be of much help. Unfortunatley I'm unable to confirm or deny this; if you have information on this, feel free to contact me.

Step #1: Inconvenience
Be polite at the time of the stop, but inconvenience the officer by demaning the right to trial at county seat. Each county has a county seat, which serves at the administrative headquarters and also has the county seat courthouse. Chances are that the officer lives father away from the county seat than from the local courthouse he's assigning you to. You should request county seat at the time he begins issuing you the ticket (after you've exhausted your excuses, and it's clear he's going to write you up). If he refuses or says he doesn't know how to assign the county seat courthouse, write "I demand the right to county seat" above the signature line before signing the ticket. If you've already received the ticket and did not request county seat, don't despair as you will have the opportunity to do so at a latter date, as I will explain.

Step #2: Trial by Written Declaration
Everyone has the right to a trial by written declaration, which allows you to present your case without the inconvenience of appearing in court. This option was created less for your convenience, however, and more to decrease the burden on the judicial system imposed by traffic tickets. If everyone who received a traffic ticket exercised their full rights, the system would quickly become overburdened. The systems continues to function so well because the majority of motorists believe it is too much of an inconvenience to fight a traffic ticket.

Several weeks after receiving your ticket, you will receive a courtesy notice in the mail explaining your options and stating your bail amount. If the date of your court appearance as listed on your ticket approaches and you have yet to receive your courtesy notice, you may want to contact the listed courthouse. Your courtesy notice will list your bail amount, which is equal to the fine levied against you. Courtesy notices are not standardized across the state and vary from county to county. Some counties explain all of your options, including trial by written declaration, while others deliberately obscure your rights and try to convince you that your only option is to pay the fine. No matter what your courtesy notice says, you always have the option of showing up in court at the time and date on your ticket, or of requesting a trial by written declaration.

If you select trial by written declaration you have two options on how to respond to the initial ticket. The first option is respond to the ticket with a generic letter to the court stating I plead NOT GUILTY and request trial by written declaration. Ensure that you reference the citation number and any other case/tracking number provided by the court. In this case the clerk will mail you copy of form TR-205 and provide you with a new deadline for when your statement is due. Form TR-205 is what you will use to write up your statement of events. The other option is you can send in form TR-205 as your response to the courtesy notice, as long as you include a sentence stating that you plead NOT GUILTY. In either case you must submit your bail amount in your response to the courtesy notice before the deadline listed on the courtesy notice. This amount will be refunded if you win your case.

When drafting your statement remember that traffic judges were not born yesterday and know that people like you are writen up all the time for legitimate violations of the California Vehicle Code. Remember also that the police officer is assumed to have impecable honesty and that when there are differences in facts between your statements his word will likely prevail. Because of this you may seek to provide some sort of conservatively worded statement that seeks to explain why the officer mistakenly ticketed you, without overly insulting his competence or honesty.

One advantage of Trial by Written Declaration is that while police officers are paid to appear in court, the officer is not specifically paid to respond to your statement. If the officer fails to respond or does not respond in a timely manner you will win by default.

Step #3: Trial de Novo
If you participate in a Trial by Written Declaration you are guarenteed the right to a new, in person, trial if you are "dissatisfied with the court's decision." Simply fill out and submit form TR-220 an ensure the court receives it within 20 days of the date provided on the clerk's notice of decision.

Step #4: Trial Appearance
I have never personally been involves in a traffic court appearance, so the amount of advice I can offer is someone limited. Keep in mind that there are traffic lawyers, who charge widely varying amounts, who specialize in getting people out of tickets. The advantage is that you won't end up with points on your license and your insurance won't go up.

If you didn't requst that you trial be held at the county seat under Step #1 above, or for some reason you weren't scheduled at the county seat, then now is the time to fix this. You can determine where the county seat is by visiting the court system website for the county you are in. Call the clerk to have your trial location changed.

Show up to your case on time, dressed professionally. If the officer does not show up (perhaps because the county seat courthouse is so far away) then you win by default. Otherwise, best of luck!

General Notes on California Traffic Law

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and none of these are proven legal strategies. I'm not a lawyer and have no formal training in the law. What you will find below are simply notes on sections of the California Vehicle Code that you may find interesting or useful in presenting a defense. California is an exceptionally motorist-friendly state when it comes to traffic laws.