At sometime or another almost everyone who drives will be stopped, and possibly cited by law enforcement for a traffic violation.  Consider these tips to avoid a ticket and higher insurance premiums.

STOP THE CAR  When signaled to stop, stop as soon as you safely can.  Stop where the officer can easily approach one of your windows to talk to you.  The officer will be happier if he feels safer, so when you stop:

    • Roll down the window.
    • Turn on the dome light if it is dark.
    • Keep your hands on the steering wheel in plain view.
BE POLITE   Police officers have a lot of "prosecutorial discretion".  In other words, in many situations they can decide whether or not they will write that ticket.  If you are honest and polite with the officer, he may not write the ticket or may write "warning" on it before giving it to you. 
    • Address the officer as "Officer", not sir, sheriff, or patrolman.
    • Don't lie, but DO NOT CONFESS - answer with a question.  If you were going 50 MPH in a 25 MPH zone and the officer asks, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" answer with "Was I going too fast?"
    • Sign the ticket.  It doesn't do any good to argue about signing the ticket.  When you sign the ticket, it is a promise to appear, not a confession.
REQUEST THE COUNTY SEAT  If your place of residence or work is closer to the county seat than it is to the court in whose jurisdiction you are cited, you have a right to have the matter transferred to the county seat.  This means that if you are in Kern County and get a citation in Taft, you can request that it be transferred to Bakersfield.  Generally, the request must be made before you sign the ticket.  One way to make this request is to simply ask the officer "Can I please take care of this in Bakersfield?" as you hand him your license.  This can help you in several ways:
    • The officer may not want to deal with the hassle and just give you a warning.  Sometimes the officer must radio in for a hearing date and they may be required to attend court at the county seat.
    • If the matter does go to hearing, the officer (usually the only witness against you) has a better chance of not showing up.
    • The officer may not know the law and may refuse your request.  The error may be used as part of your defense.
GO TO TRAFFIC SCHOOL  If you have not attended traffic school in the last 18 months, you may be eligible to attend an eight hour traffic school program or home study course.  Before you sign up for traffic school, you must provide proof of correction if your citation has a mechanical, license, or registration violation.  If you qualify to attend traffic school, doing so may prevent you from having a 15% or more increase in your insurance rate.  Unfortunately, you cannot request traffic school and also fight the ticket.

FIGHT THE TICKET WITHOUT GOING TO A HEARING  Under Vehicle Code 40902, you can fight your ticket without going to court.  To do so, gather up your evidence and file a Request for Trial by Written Declaration.  The form can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking <<here>>.

FIGHT THE TICKET IN COURT  Request a hearing and fight the charges.  It is impossible to summarize all of the defenses on one small web page, but a few links may help.

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