Why is my LA traffic ticket so expensive?

Los Angeles is broke and issuing more traffic tickets than ever before. In addition to moving violations many officers will pile on additional infractions for equipment violations pursuant to California Vehicle Code 2400 (b) which says “The Commissioner shall enforce all laws regulating the operation of vehicles” and if they are CHP officers, California Vehicle Code 2268(a) which says “Any member of the Department of the California Highway Patrol shall be capable of fulfilling the complete range of official duties administered by the Commissioner pursuant to section 2400 and other critical duties that may be necessary for the preservation of life and property.”

Fix-it tickets have always been viewed as a hassle.  You have to make the correction, get them signed off, and turn them in to the court by the deadline.   But “hey it’s just a fix it ticket” and “It’s only $10”.  Wrong

That was then, this is now. The fee is now $25 for a fix it ticket and it’s now $25 per correctable violation. So if you have a burnt out taillight, tinted windows, and you left your insurance card at home, that will be $75 on top of the original price of your ticket (speeding, stop sign, whatever). If you don’t get them all fixed, signed off, and turned in on time, the real fun begins. Now you are looking at a suspended license and the ticket is no longer a “fix-it” ticket. It has fallen into the black hole known as collections and if you are in LA this means that you are dealing with GC Services. GC services will tell you that you can’t go to court (even though you can) and they will also tell you that you can no longer show proof of correction. This applies even if you fixed the items before the deadline and had the ticket signed off but just forgot to send it in.

So there you are at the courthouse trying to fix this. You spent an hour to driving here on your suspended license risking arrest and impoundment the whole way, paid $6 to park, waited in line for 15 minutes to take off your shoes and go through security and the GC Services clerk is telling you that your ticket is $1628.

You try to explain that there must have been some kind of mistake. You only got a stop sign ticket which was like $280, plus the $25 for the fix it ticket. You show the clerk all your paperwork with the citation signed off for getting your tailight fixed, you took off the tint, and here’s my insurance card right here, it was valid all along, just didn’t have it with me. So let me pay my $305 and we are good, right?

Wrong. Your Los Angeles stop sign ticket is still $280 or so but that’s just the beginning.  This is because your correctable violations are no longer subject to the $25 dismissal fee. You have left the window of opportunity because you are past the deadline on the ticket. The GC Services clerk does not accept proof of correction and all the court clerk will tell you is “you need to talk to GC Services”. And as this is slowly starting to sink in, your car is parked outside at an expired meter and if you go get in it and drive home on your suspended license…….well you know the story.

So why $1600 plus? Let’s take it step by step. First the stop sign, let’s call that $35 plus PA or $50 plus PA. What’s PA? It’s the state mandated penalty assessment, it’s like a tax from the court that multiplies the amount of your fine.   Add to this the various fees and surcharges that courts seem to make up at random and you will always end up paying more than the actual fine amount listed in the bail schedule.  If you have ever been to traffic court you have had the judge tell you “that will be a fine of $35” and then when you get to the window it’s $400.   That’s penalty assessment.

OK, so penalty assessment screws you and multiplies the fine, but why $1600? Now that your correctable violations are no longer correctable, you pay the fine plus penalty assessment on each of those.    So $35 plus PA for the stop sign, $35 plus PA for the taillight,  and $200 plus PA for no insurance.   Add to that a fine plus penalty assessment, usually $75 plus PA for a failure to appear charge, and then add a $300 civil assessment pursuant to PC 1214.1 and bam, you are paying $1600 or taking the bus.

Let’s not forget the points associated with the conviction either.   In our example above the stop sign is a moving violation so if you bow down and pay GC services to get this thing over with you are eating the point on your driving record.  If you have a job and your employer monitors your driving record, this is a big deal.  Even if you don’t drive at work, you likely carry car insurance or plan to start given that it’s the law in California (and in our example you just got cited for it!).   So you want to avoid the point, protect your job, keep your insurance premiums low.  You need to get the charge dismissed or go to traffic school to keep the point off your record.  No matter how much you beg and plead, GC services is not sending you to traffic school.  When you pay the ticket through collections you are pleading guilty to ALL charges as they stand.

As if all this isn’t enough fun, that failure to appear charge will often be lodged as a misdemeanor as opposed to an infraction.  This can create a criminal history upon conviction.  It can also be the basis for the issuance of a bench warrant or even a sentence from the judge in the county jail of up to 6 months!  Even if you have the $1600 plus to fix this ticket, you are better off calling a time out before you hand over the money and damage your driving record and your criminal record and start counting down the days till your insurance company hits you with higher premiums.

There is a better way. The only way to properly fix this issue is to appear in court. Sometimes this requires multiple court appearances. Depending on which Los Angeles County Traffic Court your ticket is pending out of, you may be able to see a judge the same day or you may have to wait as long as 12 months. You may or may not be able to obtain a temporary abstract and you may or may not have to post bail. The traffic courts seem to all have their own sets of rules designed to frustrate you into payment.

If you life is caught in the maze that is the LA traffic court system, give us a call or contact us online for a free case evaluation. We can explain the situation to you in plain English so that you will be properly equipped to fight it, or we can give you a quote for representation. In 99% of traffic cases we will resolve the problem without you ever needing to set foot in court.