How to Contest a Traffic Ticket in CA Without Going to Court

by | Feb 7, 2018 | CRIMINAL LAW, TRAFFIC INFRACTIONS | 1 comment

If you received a red-light citation in the mail, or if you were recently pulled over by a police officer, you may be wondering what your next steps are to fight the fee.  In CA, under Vehicle Code section 40902 , you have the option to contest your traffic ticket by mail.  This allows parties to save time and money by not having to appear at a courthouse.

The procedure of contesting your traffic ticket by mail is called a “trial by written declaration.”  Trials by written declaration are available in cases involving infraction violations of the Vehicle Code or of local ordinances adopted under the Vehicle Code, such as red-light camera citations.

I.  Eligibility

You can only request a trial by written declaration if you were charged with a traffic infraction or violation that does not involve alcohol or drugs.  These types of offenses require a mandatory appearance in court and cannot be contested through the mail.  Other additional requirements include: (1) issuance of ticket for infraction violations only, meaning no misdemeanors or additional criminal charges, (2) the due date to take care of your ticket has not passed, and (3) your ticket or courtesy notice does not say that you must appear in court.

II.  Beginning the Process

If you believe your ticket is eligible to be contested through the Trial by Declaration process, then you can ask for a trial by declaration in person at the Clerk’s office of the courthouse listed on your ticket, or by mail to the courthouse listed on your ticket.  You will be required to fill-out form TR-205 and submit the bail amount listed on your ticket to the court for them to process your Trial by Declaration.  The bail amount on your ticket is required for the convenience of not having to travel and appear in court to resolve your traffic ticket.

III.  Judge’s Decision

After you submit the appropriate form and bail amount, the court will review your submission along with a written statement by the officer involved in your case.  You will get the court’s decision in the mail telling you whether you were found guilty or not guilty of the ticket infraction.  If you are found guilty, the court notice will state the amount of the fine, penalties, and fees and will order that it be paid from your bail deposit. If the amount you owe is more than the bail you paid, the court will give you a deadline to pay the balance. If the amount you owe is less than the bail you paid, the balance will be refunded to you by mail.  If you are found not guilty, the court will refund the bail money to you by mail.

IV.  Waiver of Rights

By completing a declaration of your facts and defense to the ticket in a trial by written declaration, you are waiving and giving up the rights to remain silent and not incriminate yourself.  You also waive the right to a public trial, a speedy trial and the right to appear in person before a judicial officer. You do have the right to a new trial called a “trial de novo” in a court, before a judge, if you disagree with the court’s decision in your trial by written declaration.  You only have 20 days after the court’s decision was mailed to you to ask for a new trial. The court will start over from scratch in deciding your case based on the testimony and evidence presented at the court trial and it is not limited by the sentence imposed in the trial by written declaration.

V.  Do I Need an Attorney?

An attorney can assist you in determining eligibility as well as defenses that are applicable in your case.  We always recommend speaking with an attorney before engaging in the trial by written declaration process to understand your rights and obligations.  Contact our office today to learn how we can help you fight your traffic infraction ticket without having to go to court.