Getting a traffic ticket is one of those things that most of us will experience at some point. And it’s essential to pay it as soon as possible to prevent legal action. But how exactly do you pay for it in California?
If you’ve been wracking your brain trying to figure this out, don’t worry – we’ve done all the research and created a comprehensive guide to answer all your questions.
To pay a California traffic ticket, look at your ticket and follow the payment instructions on it. If you don’t have your ticket, find your local California court, using the California Courts Website at courts.ca.gov, and then look up your ticket and follow the payment instructions there.
From looking up a California ticket to paying the ticket and beyond, there’s a lot to consider. We’ll share all the information you need to pay your ticket and move on with life.
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- Lookup California Tickets
- Pay Ticket Online in CA
- How To Pay a California Traffic Ticket?
- Speeding Ticket Costs in California
- Traffic Ticket Types, Costs and Points in California
- What Happens If You Don’t Pay A Traffic Ticket In California?
Lookup California Tickets
If you received a physical ticket and still have it in your possession, all you need to do is follow the instructions on the citation to pay it. But if you lost the ticket or didn’t receive a physical ticket, the first step in paying for your California ticket is to look it up.
To look up a California ticket, find your court by typing in your zip code on the California Courts website. The page will show which court website you should use to pay for the ticket. Click on the court website link, then click on “traffic” or “tickets,” and follow the instructions for looking up a citation.
It’s important to know that once you’ve gotten to the court website, you may need to look around a bit to find the section to look up your citation.
The link usually has something to do with traffic or tickets. You may also need to click “pay tickets” or some variation of that phrase to get to the ticket lookup page.
After getting to the right section of the website, it’s time to look up your ticket number. You can do that in several ways, depending on the court website.
But in general, you’ll be able to search for CA traffic ticket number using one of the following search types:
- Your driver’s license number.
- Your citation number.
- Your case number.
- Your business name.
- Your name.
You’ll choose your search type and then enter the information. For instance, if you want to search for a driver’s license, you’ll select that option and enter that number. You’ll then see all the citations associated with the inputted information. You can then choose the correct citation and move on to the next step.
Note: Not all these lookup options will be available on all court websites. Since the process may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, you should ultimately go by the specific website you’ll be using.
Pay Ticket Online in CA
Paying your ticket online in California is relatively straightforward in most cases, but the experience will differ slightly from website to website.
Recall earlier that you should pull up your ticket on the applicable court website. Once you do that, you should be able to select your ticket.
You’ll then plead guilty or no contest and pay the fine before the deadline has passed.
Available Online Payment Methods
The payment methods available to you may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But in general, you can use cash, money orders, checks, debit cards, and sometimes credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, and Discover). The process for paying with credit cards may be a little different from paying through other means.
How To Pay a California Traffic Ticket?
There are several ways to pay for a traffic ticket in California. The payment method you’ll use will depend on your available information and your desired payment method.
Look at the CA Ticket
If you have the ticket, you can simply read it to find out how to pay for it. It will instruct you on your various payment options, when you should pay, and where to send the payment. You’ll often see options for paying by mail, online, or in person.
Read the Letter from the CA Court
In situations where you’ve received a letter from the court about your traffic violation, it’s wise to use the information from that letter. Read it very closely and follow the payment directions to a T, so you won’t end up dealing with any serious legal ramifications.
Pay CA Ticket Through the Court’s Website
The last option you can take to pay a ticket is through the court’s website. You may not be able to use this option in some cases, including (1) if you’ve received a letter stating that you can’t, or (2) if the court website says you can’t.
But if none of these issues apply, you’ll simply follow the instructions on the screen after locating your ticket.
Speeding Ticket Costs in California
Speeding ticket costs in California are expensive by any stretch, ranging from $238 to nearly $500. The amount you’ll pay will depend on how much faster you were going than the speed limit. The more over the limit you were, the more you’ll pay.
There are several costs associated with speeding tickets in California and elsewhere. There’s the base fine, which is the amount you’re charged for the act of surpassing the speed limit – it starts at about $35 and increases the further you are over the speed limit. Here’s a quick breakdown of speeding ticket base fines in California:
- 1-15 mph over the limit – $35
- 16-25 mph over the limit – $70
- 26 – 100 mph over the limit – $100
- 100+ mph over the limit – $200
In addition to the base fine, you’ll be expected to pay several additional charges, which can easily turn a $35 speeding ticket into a $200+ ticket. This makes California speeding tickets among the most expensive anywhere. We’ll jump further into the ticket surcharges in the section below.
Traffic Ticket Types, Costs and Points in California
Not everything you get in trouble for in a car will be handled by the traffic courts in the area. Sometimes, they’ll be classified as misdemeanors or other violation types. So, it’s important to know about different traffic ticket types, costs, and points in California. And that’s what we’ll cover in this section.
Traffic Ticket Types in CA
Most people know about speeding tickets, but what many don’t know is that there are several different traffic ticket types that you should be aware of.
- Parking tickets – You get a parking ticket when you park illegally or for too long.
- Speeding infractions – You’ll get a speeding ticket when you’re driving over the speed limit in an area.
- Ticket for repairs needed. Suppose you have a headlight or a tail light out and need to get it fixed. In these cases, and others like it, you may receive what’s called a fix-it ticket. They are usually given for obvious problems with your vehicle.
- Expired registration. In California, you’re expected to have your vehicle registered by law. The registration must be current. When that’s not the case, you could end up with a ticket.
Traffic Ticket Costs in CA
We’ll start by letting you know that the exact costs of your traffic ticket will vary depending on the jurisdiction. In addition, traffic ticket fines may be updated at any point in time. Keep that in mind as you review the ticket costs in the below sections.
Speeding Ticket Costs in CA
Speeding ticket base fines range from $35 to $200. But that’s only part of the story – recall how we mentioned that California has some of the steepest speeding ticket costs you’ll ever see. There’s a big reason for that – they tack on several surcharges to each speeding ticket. Here are the fees, according to JD Law:
- $35 for the conviction assessment.
- Charge of $4 for each $10 of the base fine for the DNA identification fund penalty assessment.
- Double the base fine for the state penalty assessment.
- County penalty charge of $7 per every $10 of your ticket’s base fine. $1 per $10 of the ticket base fine for the night court assessment.
- $40 for the court operations assessment.
- $4 for the emergency medical air transportation services budget.
- Half the base ticket cost for the state court construction penalty assessment.
- $2 for each $10 of the base ticket fine for the emergency medical services fund.
Parking Ticket Costs in CA
Don’t think you’re off the hook if you got a parking ticket instead of a speeding ticket. Parking tickets are expensive as well. You could be charged a $65 fee for blocking someone’s driveway or $250 for parking in a bus zone. And the costs climb even further when you break certain laws multiple times.
For instance, if you park in a disabled parking space, you’ll be hit with a fine of about $421. The second offense increases to $625, and the third offense increases further to $825.
Sometimes, you’ll get a warning ticket, and these don’t have a fine attached to them.
Red Light Violation Ticket Cost in CA
Running a red light in California can result in a ticket with a fine from $35 to more than $100. It all depends on the circumstances surrounding the violation. There may be additional fees assessed based on your jurisdiction as well.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list of traffic costs. If you want to learn more about the traffic costs in your area, go to the court website for the county where the violation occurred. You should be able to find more information there.
Points For Traffic Ticket in California
Traffic ticket points can be thought of as strikes against your driving record when you get a traffic ticket. Every time you get a traffic ticket for a certain infarction, you are one step closer to getting your license suspended, having to pay astronomical insurance premiums, or worse. Certain traffic violations carry different point values.
Convictions Worth One Point in CA
A couple of convictions that could add a point to your driving record include speeding under 100 mph or a mechanical violation (not having a light on your license plate, for example). Some mechanical violations don’t carry a point penalty, though.
Convictions Worth Two Points in CA
Two-point convictions are more serious than one-point convictions, and they include hit and runs and DUIs, among other infarctions.
There are some convictions that could add either one or two points to your driving record. If you want to know how many points are currently on your driving record, you’ll go to the California DMV website and submit a driver’s record request. After filling out the appropriate forms, you’ll be able to print out your unofficial driver’s record. If you want an official record, you’ll have to fill out and mail this form.
What happens if you get too many points in CA?
You may be deemed a negligent driver and get your license suspended if you get 6 points throughout the course of a year, 8 points in 2 years, or 10 points in 3 years.
What Happens If You Don’t Pay A Traffic Ticket In California?
It’s in your best interest to pay a traffic ticket in California, as there are steep penalties for failing to do so. If you don’t pay your traffic ticket, you could:
- Get your license suspended.
- Become liable for additional fines due to non-payment.
- Become a wanted person with a warrant for your arrest.
- Be on the hook for jail time.
- Get your wages garnished.
As you can see, it’s best to avoid getting tickets, regardless of where you live, and pay them as soon as possible to prevent some of the harsher consequences.
Options for Non-Payment of a Traffic Ticket
Given the high price tag associated with California traffic tickets, there are options for those who find themselves unable to pay their ticket fines. Your first option is petitioning the court for a lower fine, community service, a payment plan, or more time to pay. To do that, you’ll put in a request to the court to consider your financial state.
You’ll be asked to submit information to prove your financial situation during this process. After making your request, it’s up to the courts to decide whether to grant it.
There are instances in which you will have to go directly through the courts to request help for paying for your ticket. In that case, you’ll reference the documents sent to you regarding the ticket and the amount you owe.
What Happens If I Miss A Court Date For A Traffic Ticket In California?
Failing to appear in court for a traffic ticket in California can bring numerous negative consequences. First, you’ll be charged with Failure to Appear, also called FTA. At that point, the judge could issue a warrant, which means that you could be arrested by police and brought to court. Depending on the specific traffic issue that led to the court date, you could then be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony.
Other issues you could deal with for missing a court date include additional fines, license suspension, and jail time. Still, every court case is individual, so there’s no way to know exactly how the situation will go if you miss your court date.
If you have legal questions regarding your specific traffic ticket situation, it’s best to consult a lawyer.
Can I Just Pay My Ticket And Not Go To Court In California?
There are situations where you can pay your ticket and not go to court in California. This is often the case if you pay the ticket before the due date passes. But if your ticket says that you must make a mandatory court appearance, there’s no way around it – you must go to court.
Do Tickets Ever Go Away In California?
Tickets don’t go away, per se, in California. They will remain searchable by the authorities in the jurisdiction. However, they don’t stay on your driving record forever. In California, minor offenses and their associated points remain on your record for 3 years, and major offenses for 10 years.
Do Cops Show Up To Court For Traffic Tickets In California?
Cops must only show up to court for traffic tickets if you plead not guilty and decide to go to trial. If the cop is notified to appear in court but does not appear for some reason, the judge will continue the case and proceed on the next court date. Repeated absences on the part of the cop could result in your case being dismissed. But keep in mind that it’s very unusual for a cop to repeatedly miss court dates, so it’s not something people can count on to get off the hook.
How long do I have to pay a traffic ticket in California?
The amount of time you get to pay a traffic ticket in California is usually up to 90 days. But you should always check your traffic citation to verify how long you have to get the fine paid. Late payments can result in court dates, additional fees, or worse. If you were in the wrong, the quicker you get that ticket paid, the better.
What’s the Difference Between a Citation and a Ticket?
Most people have heard these two terms floating around and wondered whether they mean the same thing. They are often used in similar contexts because they mean the same thing. The term “citation” is a formal term for a ticket. Both are appropriate when talking about that slip of paper or record of a violation.
Can I go to traffic school after I pay my ticket in California?
If you’ve got a lot of points on your driving record and want to avoid license suspension, you can pursue traffic school. It’s not available for all violation types, but it can help curb some of the adverse effects of irresponsible actions behind the wheel.
But first, you’ve got to find out whether you’re even eligible to attend traffic school. Here are the main requirements you’d have to meet:
- You have a ticket that’s related to a noncommercial vehicle.
- You have a valid driver’s license.
- It’s been more than 18 months since you’ve gone to traffic school.
Some who meet these requirements will still not be eligible for traffic school. For instance, those charged with DUI or drug offenses aren’t considered for traffic school enrollment in California. If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible for traffic school, you can look at your traffic ticket or call the court and ask them.
There’s a Fee for Traffic School
If you thought that traffic school was free, you’d be mistaken. To enroll in traffic school, you’ll have to pay the following:
- The fine associated with your traffic ticket. This amount varies, depending on your violation.
- The administrative fee required by the state – it’s $52 and is nonrefundable.
- The traffic school fee is $20 to $45.
There are several payment options for traffic school. You can pay for it in person, send the payment by mail, or online. For more information, be sure to go to the court’s website to verify the payment process.
Select Your School
After paying for traffic school, you’ll select your school via the DMVs traffic school list. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to sign up for traffic school online. Once you get the information for a given traffic school, you’ll have to reach out to them directly to register for your classes.
But on the positive side, you may be able to do your traffic school either online or at home. Just select “home study” or “online” under the “Type of Instruction” dropdown.
You Must Attend Traffic School in a Timely Manner
You can’t go to traffic school on your own time. To find out how long you have until you must attend traffic school, call up the court and speak to the clerk about it. They will give you a deadline that you must meet. If that date passes and you haven’t gone, you won’t reap the benefits of traffic school, and you’ll lose out on any nonrefundable fees you paid.
So, there you have it – everything you ever needed to know about how to pay a California traffic ticket. We’ve also reviewed related topics that may pop up in your mind while navigating traffic offenses. We hope you found all the information you were looking for, and we wish you the best!
- How Much Is A Speeding Ticket In California? – Forbes Advisor
- Traffic / Minor Offense Division | Superior Court of California – County of San Diego
- Driver Negligence – California DMV
- Guide to traffic tickets | California Courts
- Traffic School | Superior Court of California | County of San Francisco