How to Beat a Speeding Ticket in California

By Teo Spengler - Updated December 17, 2018
Speed Limit Sign

Speeding tickets are expensive in California and they can cost you points on your driving record. So when you get a ticket, your first thought might be to fight it. Directions for how to contest a speeding ticket in California are set out in detail on the ticket itself. You can also find instructions on the Department of Motor Vehicle's website. But remember that contesting a ticket is not a guarantee that you will win.

Speeding Tickets in California

A California speeding ticket generally starts with a red flashing light in your rearview mirror and the sound of a police siren. The police officer inspects your license, auto registration and insurance card, and lets you know why you were stopped. If your papers are in order, the officer will probably just hand you a traffic ticket for the speeding violation, also known as a Notice to Appear.

A speeding ticket is an infraction. This means that it goes on your driving record, but it isn't a misdemeanor criminal offense. You must sign the ticket, but doing so is not an admission of guilt. Rather, it means you promise to show up in court to respond to the notice.

Responding to a Traffic Ticket

You get to make choices about how to respond to a speeding ticket in California. If you know you were speeding and just want to move forward, you can pay the fees, or "bail," set out on the Notice to Appear by the due date on the ticket. This is essentially a guilty plea to the violation. Although you avoid a court appearance, the ticket will be reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles and will go on your driving record.

If you want to fight a speeding ticket in California, you'll need to plead not guilty. You can do this by showing up at court on the date specified, pleading not guilty and asking for a trial date. You can usually avoid this first court visit by calling the court before the court date to request a court trial or a trial by written declaration. But if you schedule a court trial without having an arraignment, of if you ask for a trial by written declaration, you'll often have to pay the full amount of bail up front. You'll get the bail back if you win.

Fighting a Speeding Ticket in California

If you want to fight a speeding ticket in California, you will need to offer evidence to the court refuting the charges. The most common defense is to claim that you were not speeding. This is easier if the officer charges that you were going just a few miles an hour over the speed limit. If you were stopped for going 75 miles an hour in a 25-mile-an-hour zone, it will be much more difficult to make that claim.

If you go to trial, you must bring any evidence you have, including witnesses, to court with you. Present your evidence clearly and unambiguously. The decision will be up the judge.

If you want to avoid the court appearance, fill out a Request for Trial by Written Declaration form. In that case, you'll need to attach written statements from yourself and any witnesses. Use the Declaration form, MC-030_._ You can also simply write out statements if you insert this statement at the close: "I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that this statement is true and correct." The police officer who issued your citation can also submit a declaration, but if she doesn't get around to it, your chances of winning go up.

The judge reviews the documents and makes a decision. If you are not happy with the decision, you can ask for a new trial, or trial de novo. For that trial, however, you have to personally appear and testify. The court starts from scratch and doesn't review the papers from the first case.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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