Advice about Traffic Tickets

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Cell Phone Tickets

Please to Fight a Cell phone Ticket?

July 2013

I recently got pulled over for an alleged cell phone violation to the tune of $170 for my very FIRST violation. I am looking for advice on how to fight it through trial by declaration. I think it's important to state that I agree with that this law is helpful, but don't think that my circumstances violated said law. I had just dropped my son off at a friends house. He is very allergic to bees and had been stung several times this summer with bad symptoms. I noticed I had a missed call from his friend and called right away. I dialed when I was stopped at a stop light, put my phone on speaker and never held it up to my face at all. I never actually touched the phone while driving The call went to vmail and was less than 10 seconds long which I proved to him upom him asking. When I was pulled over the officer asked my story and to see my call log. Despite my story checking out he still gave me a ticket. He was extra aggressive, and seemed to have had his mind made up no matter what the situation was. It was a Lafayette motorcycle cop, pulling me over in Moraga. I was NEVER in Lafayette or anywhere close to it. I'm wondering if this would be one of my defenses or if this is allowed because Moraga is a town? Any advice is appreciated. Not only can our family truly not afford this, but it really hurts because I feel targeted and that I didnt violate any laws. I plan on fighting this trail by declaration as I cant afford a sitter for my 3 small children. Thanks! lily

I know this might sound harsh, but my suggestion would be to pay the ticket and pull over (stopping at a red light does not qualify) the next time you need to make a phone call. x

Studies are showing that it's the divided attention, not the use of your hands, that makes cell phone and driving a dangerous combination. People talking ''hands free'' have nearly the same elevated rates of accidents as people using their hand to hold the phone. So ''I never touched the phone while driving'' is not especially relevant to safety, and in any case, when did being in the road at an intersection with the engine running cease to be driving just because you were at a stop sign? Is an unlicensed, underage, or drunk driver off the hook just because they happened to be spotted by the cop while the car was stopped briefly at an intersection? No! That's still driving.

OK, so please just accept the penalty for doing something illegal and dangerous. That's the kind of responsibility we want to model for our kids, right? Pull over and turn off the engine, then use your cell phone

You're wasting your time trying to get out of a moving violation ticket in the Bay Area. Keep in mind that tickets are one of the major sources of revenue for this area, where most cities are broke. I was pulled over the day after I moved here from Texas, with a TX license plate and a TX driver's license, like you I was very briefly holding my phone and had an emergency. No chance to get out of the ticket. Good news is, a cell phone violation does not go on your driving record. Pay your $170 and move on in your life. using an earpiece now

You broke the law. Pay the fine and be thankful our police are actually enforcing this law. anon

I have no idea whether Lafayette police can write tickets in Moraga (my guess is that they can) and the moderators will not allow legal advice, but I can state as a fact that the California Court of Appeal has ruled that use of a hand-held telephone while stopped at a red light is a violation of Vehicle Code section 23123 so the fact that you were not moving when you dialed does not matter. See People v. Nelson (Nov. 14, 2011) volume 200 Official California Appellate Reports page 1083. Next time, pull over to the curb and stop. And, turn off your engine for good measure.

This is not complete advice but I just wanted to warn you about one thing. This happened to me once when a policeman said I did not stop at a stop sign and I actually had. The driver in front of me stopped out in front of the stop sign and rolled and stopped again way out in the intersection and I had stopped at the sign during his first stop. I felt this affected the perception of the policeman somehow. I earnestly explained all this to him just the way you did.

When I finally went to court months later, the judge heard the cop first and he essentially used my exact words and argument against me as though these were facts he thought of, a process he saw when he really hadn't, then twisted the details to support his argument. Do you get what I'm saying? There is no way he remembered the conversation so I think they take notes. Anyway, when I repeated what he had said and then said, but I did stop, I even sounded stupid, foolish and lying to my own ears and the judge didn't believe me!

This was Richmond and they were terrible and robotic, overstaffing and hovering around the school during drop off and pick up times. People are pretty responsible when they have young kids and none of the many many tickets all of us parents got were serious at all, and many others were reportedly unfair too or not true. They must have thought parents were a good source of city funds.

Moral: I will never tell a police anything at the scene except ''I didn't do that'' (if I didn't). Be prepared for this tactic in court and present whatever evidence you have. - my 2 cents

Sad to say I know exactly the cop of which you write as he gave me a ticket for the exact same offense. The road I am presuming you were on is one of Lafayette's biggest ticket traps. I see people pulled over EVERY DAY for some violation or another. Very similar situation for me- first offense with cell phone, was using the speaker and my ticket was the same cost. If you research, you'll find the actual violation is very minimal fee but Contra Costa tacks on court costs and other ''processing fees'' that bring this up to $170. It's a money maker for the county. And while I completely support the no text / talking while driving I wish they'd ticket the drivers that are actually offending not the ones it seems they randomly select and assume they are even with explanation.

I did a bit of research about fighting this type of ticket and the time to do it frankly wasn't worth it to me. The most common suggestion was to suggest a change of venue to make it less likely the ticketing officer will appear if the court is too far away, but hey it's Lafayette and I suspect the cops here make or easily find the time.

I know that was the last time I ever used my cell driving without my ear piece. I honestly very rarely talk on the phone in my car as it's too distracting and unless the conversation involves my kids, it can wait. Good luck. Lesson Learned

Why are you trying to fight this ticket ? The Chron recently reported that making a cell phone call while stopped, while the car is in drive and at a traffic light, is illegal and can be ticketed. The cops are sick of people trying to rationalize cell phone usage while driving. Pay up and pull into a parking spot next time. It's Dangerous !

According to the FAQs on the DMV website, your actions as you describe them are within the law. You are allowed to dial. You are allowed to use your phone as a speakerphone. The question is whether you will win your case. You've seen that the police are simply motivated to write tickets and collect revenue, not protect citizens from real crime. The courts take a similar stance. At least there is no traffic point assessed in the cell phone infraction. Lost my case

Lily, You said any insight would be welcome so I hope this post will be. Your cell phone belongs in the back seat or a purse where you can't see it, hear it, or be distracted by it. As pointed out recently by the CHP, your attention while operating a motor vehicle needs to be 100% on operating a motor vehicle. That means when the engine is running, the car is on the roadway, and you are at the controls, you are responsible for the lives in your vehicle and all the people around you. Dialing a cell phone at a red light is not an exception. I will add that I was appalled that you were asked to show your telephone log-huge violation of privacy. I assume it was a request and not an order so you could have declined which likely would have guaranteed a ticket no doubt. You may be able to use that to squeak out of this ticket but in the future please keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road even at red lights. The rest of us are counting on you to be paying attention. If you have any doubt ask yourself what would have happened at the DMV the day you took your driving test if you had whipped out a cell phone at a red light and made a call about bee stings. If you had you wouldn't have a license or a ticket. Bee safe. run out of my lane at 70 mph by texter

I'm sorry to tell you this, but if you TOUCHED your cell phone at any time while you are in the car, and the car is not stopped AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, then you can be pulled over and you'll get a ticket for $170. I have a friend who got one of these tickets, and I was listening to all the stories and excuses told to a judge while I was waiting in court to protest a ticket. The judge has NO patience for all the various excuses. Your backstory is irrelevant, except that usually there are work options to pay off a fine if you show financial need. The fact that your son had a bee sting is irrelevant. The fact that you dialed the phone while at a stop light shows that you violated the law, pure and simple (and you sure as heck irritated those of us who might have been behind you waiting for you to pay attention to the road). Give up the idea of getting rid of the fine because you can't afford it or don't think you deserved it because you simply needed to phone back for a missed call. If you really can't afford it, be prepared to show financial need and spend some serious time working off the fine.

And you may want to be more serious about not using your cell phone while driving. Not only does it violate the law, but many studies have shown thateven just talking on the phone while driving (even if you did it legally, which would be totally hands off), you're still so distracted that it's practically equivalent to drunk driving.

I hope I am not the only one who urges you to NOT fight this. I don't care what the circumstances. I put my phone away when driving. We have all survived this long and will continue to survive without having to answer the phone with such immediacy. If it was an emergency situation, pull over. Do the right thing and pay. They can put you on a payment plan if it is a hardship. put your phone down


''Defendant Carl Nelson appeals from a traffic court judgment of guilt for violating Vehicle Code section 23123,1 which states that persons shall not drive on public roadways using a wireless telephone unless the phone is configured for hands-free listening and talking, and used in that manner while driving. (\xc3\x82\xc2\xa7 23123, subds.(a), (e).) Defendant was observed using his phone in his car as he paused at a red traffic light while driving in Richmond, California. He argues he was not ''driving'' because his car was stopped during his phone use, relying on our Supreme Court's determination in Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1991) 53 Cal.3d 753 (Mercer ) ...

'' ... Here, defendant used his wireless telephone with his hands while driving on a public roadway at a time at which he paused momentarily at a red light. This situation is not addressed in Mercer or other relevant case law. We conclude, pursuant to our application of Mercer and black-letter rules of statutory interpretation, including our review of the language and legislative history of section 23123, subdivision (a), and our application of reason, practicality, and common sense to the language at hand (MacIsaac v. Waste Management Collection & Recycling, Inc. (2005) 134 Cal.App.4th 1076, 1084 (MacIsaac )), that the Legislature intended section 23123, subdivision (a) to apply to persons driving on our public roadways who, like defendant, may pause momentarily while doing so in order to comply with the rules of the road. Therefore, we hold that defendant violated section 23123, subdivision (a) and affirm the judgment.''

Jaywalking Tickets

Jaywalking ticket in Albany

Feb 2009

I recently received a jaywalking ticket in Albany. I was crossing in a crosswalk but against the light. I thought the ticket would be around $40 or $50 but just found out that it is $158! Has anyone ever fought a jaywalking ticket and won? The clerk at the Oakland courthouse told me that I needed to show up at 6;30 AM in order to ensure being heard by a judge. Thoughts? Ideas? Experiences? Please share. This just seems like a LOT of money for what seemed like a minor infraction (i.e. no cars coming toward me, in cross walk etc) thanks! jaywalker

Oh I got one of those too, but In Berkeley. It was not Jaywalking, it was crossing against the light as I was in the crosswalk. It was about $130. Times are tough and those city managers are fighting for every measly quarter. I really couldn't fight the ticket because I was wrong, but I was just incensed at the cost. I MEAN COME ON. THAT BORDERS ON RACKETEERING. So I sent a Letter to Tom Bates telling him how outrageous the fee was for such a nominal infraction. Then I listed for him all of the charitable contributions I had given to Berkeley organizations for the last 5 years and I detailed my downtown Berkeley spending for the same period of time. He never answered me, so now I do not shop there or give any money to those organizations. And I don't feel a bit bad when I see those empty store fronts and boy, there are a lot these days. -watch your step and shop elsewhere

Honestly, my first thought reading your post was that I ought to print it out and deliver it to the Court, and alert that them that some bozo would be on his/her way to dispute a jaywalking charge, despite admitting to the infraction. Seriously. You know what you did was a violation... you're merely disputing whether or not the penalty really ought to apply to you? But some morning coffee, and having got my daughter safely off to school, observing traffic rules so that neither she nor I got run over (or ran over anyone else), stayed my hand (that and some coffee). Seriously... it's a stiff fine, but you earned it. (And don't be wasting my tax money by tying up the courts, please!) non-jaywalker in Albany

I have a magic wand that I can pass to you that will make this whole thing disappear, except for the traces left in memory. If you choose to not use this wand, you may end up obsessing over this situation for many weeks or months to come. In addition to obsessing over this matter, you may end up spending hours and hours of your time, burn a couple gallons of fossil fuel, run the risk of getting a parking ticket, and have many moments of a disquieting feeling in your belly as you try to anticipate your interactions and try to convince the world (or a judge) that you don't deserve this kind of thing. You may end up reaching out to others looking for advice or assistance or just someone to listen to how wronged you are. You may end up having this consume your attention for many, many days and have your mind go over and over what you are going to say and how you are going to say it and imagine what the judge is going to say and imagine how much you end up paying and blah, blah, blah. Now that you have the picture, here is the disappearing wand. PAY THE TICKET-NOW. The chose is up to you. attention is precious

Wow, that is expensive! But you broke the law. Write the check. If you don't agree with the law, legislation is the way to change it, not the courts. laws are not relative

I don't quite understand where you're coming from.

If you didn't do what they accused you of, then by all means fight the ticket.

But if you did it, and you seem to acknowledge that, just admit you were wrong, submit to the lawful penalty, and resolve not to break the law again.

This is a parent's forum, so let's think about what message you want to send to your kids --- (a) to be careful on the street and obey the traffic rules; (b) to acknowledge mistakes and pay the penalties honestly when you break the rules; (c) not to try to weasel out of consequences of your rule breaking.

If you honestly think the penalties are too harsh as a matter of public policy, then please do lobby the city council to lower the jaywalking penalty... AFTER you have paid your own penalty at the rate that was in effect when you broke the rules. Why after? Because that's the only way to be sure you're making an honest effort at shaping good public policy, rather than just saving your own skin. Live up to what you expect from your kids

Ticket for Jaywalking in Berkeley

April 2008

Until it happened to my partner recently, I didn't know that the police in berkeley ticketed pedestrians for jaywalking! Turns out the fine is $123! Has anybody out there successfully fought a pedestrian violation? We've just moved from the midwest and while it's sort of a funny story to tell at a dinner party, the fine is anything but funny. Cynthia

Did you or didn't you jaywalk? I will guess that you did since so many people do in Berkeley. In that case, I suggest you pay and be more careful in the future. I am both a pedestrian and a motorist in Berkeley. It is a very crowded and impacted place. Often traffic gets very backed up just because of jaywalking -- cars very often have to stop for green lights because pedestrians are crossing in front of them. Intersections like Shattuck with Center, Allston, and Addison can be particularly bad. Jaywalkers seriously impact traffic flow. One day they may decide to close these streets to traffic, but until they do, pedestrians should have to obey the rules just like motorists.

If you truly didn't jay walk, you should first bring it up with the officer who gave you the ticket as the facts are in front of both of you. You can always try going to court, but that is costly in terms of your time, and the judges know that the officers rarely make mistakes in these cases.

If any motorists are reading that are not often in Berkeley, do be very careful when you are there, particularly with crosswalks crossing streets adjacent to the University. Many of them do not have lights and pedestrians have full right of way there. Berkeley regular

Cynthia-- (This isn't what you want to hear and is in some ways very very Berkeley. Forgive me.) While I'm very sympathetic to being caught unawares by the citation, perhaps you haven't heard about the rash of pedestrian fatalities in Berkeley in just the last year. At least three of these took place in crosswalks, which are obviously the drivers' fault. Still, I am astonished, given the situation, by how often I see people put themselves in harm's way, crossing outside a crosswalk- I was just recently ranting about how I wished the cops gave these out. Not to punish people and suck them dry but to raise awareness. My kids' school is on a fairly busy street and there's no light at the crosswalk. But we have a guard and it's painted yellow. Still--I see parents pull their kids across the street just feet away from the crosswalk. I worry whenever I hear sirens that someone has gotten hit.

I think this town of ours--Berkeley--is excessive in many things. But on this one, I'm glad they're out there ticketing. One of the amazing things about California is the pedestrian right of way. If we want that protected, then we need to be good pedestrians.

Really, I am sorry for lecturing.

And by the way . . . my husband once got a HEFTY moving violation for making a right turn that took him through a crosswalk where a ped had just started walking. Not only was there no danger of his hitting the ped, the ped signalled to my husband that he wanted him to go ahead and take his turn. ''Don't wait for me. Go ahead . . .etc.'' Well. A cop saw this and cited my husband explaining that if a ped has even a foot in the crosswalk, you must stop. So they do enforce both sides. Which I'm in just as much support of.

Sorry to harangue. Welcome to Berkeley. nervous citizen

Welcome to Berkeley. It's a great city in so many ways, and extrememly tiresome in other ways. I'm sorry you got the ticket and if it's your first offense jaywalking, I would definitely protest it. Tickets are eagerly and willy nilly handed out here. This is encouraged by the city for the revenue. I received a ticket once (on Allston) by a meter maid who was seated in her vehicle behind me as I put money into the meter. She saw me put in the money, and saw the meter was broken. I went to the post office for 15 minutes (1 hour parking allowed by law when the meter is broken, came back, and found I had a ticket. I wrote the city a letter, citing the meter maid's name etc. The city never responded, but got rid of the ticket.

Another time, on Vine street, in front of a restaurant, a meter maid drove around each time a new car parked to ticket people who parked even briefly in front of a broken meter, fully knowing the meter was broken and each person had put in the first quarter. This happened twice in one hour!! When I told the meter maid about the broken meter, she said it was not her concern and people could contest the ticket, despite the law allowing people to park for one hour on a broken meter. I spoke with the restaurant owner who said cars had been systematically getting ticketed for several days.

So, living in Berkeley is truly a blessing in many ways, but there is a price that the city exacts with some very questionable, sometimes short-sighted, policies. Perhaps your jaywalking was dangerous, I don't know, but no doubt you have been deterred and it will not hurt to write a letter protesting the $123 ticket. Good Luck!! Sympathetic mom

If the jaywalking took place, you have to pay the ticket. I personally found jaywalkers highly annoying years ago when I was trying to train my daughter in street safety. ''Mom, why is this person crossing at a red light? Why can he do that? I thought we shouldn't.'' My reply always was ''No he shouldn't, it is not safe. He just decided to do it anyway, but if an officer were around, he would give him a ticket.'' So if you consider the $123 a fine for all the times you guys jaywalked without getting a ticket over the past few years, it is probably a good deal after all. Anonymous

A $123 ticket is cheaper than a casket. Think of it that way! Can't speak to jaywalking, but my husband has gotten a few driving violations recently (failure to signal when changing lanes and driving five miles over the speed limit) after not getting any in 15 or so years. He has successfully fought both -- got the failure to signal ticket reduced and the speeding ticket dropped. So, it never hurts to try. -anon

Dear Cynthia: Regardless of whether your husband wants to take the time to fight it or if he wants to pay it, it's something that you cannot ignore. I've worked in traffic court and I've seen these ''simple'' tickets grow into serious messes. In my experience, most people pay the fine because most of these tickets are infractions and you don't have to report infraction convictions on most employment applications. If your husband doesn't object to jaywalking but would like the fine reduced, he may ask the traffic judge/commissioner in person or in writing for a reduced fine. If the fine reduction is not granted but you have financial hardships, you may ask for community service in lieu of the fine or to have the fine split up into monthly payments. good luck

Wow, it's only $123? 12 years ago I got a ticket for walking against a don't walk sign in Walnut Creek. I was peeved. Went to court, and apparently WC doesn't have enough real crime to go after and this is a convenient way to get revenue. 12 years ago, my fine was just over $200, and at least half the people in court that day were in for the same reason as I. As for the judge caring or being lenient? Hah! *grumble*

Other Violations

Unfair Late charges on Berkeley expired tags ticket

June 2010

Hi, Last year my parked vehicle was issued a parking ticket for having expired tags. I live in Oakland and was visiting a park in Berkeley. I did everything properly on my end (sent in registration and payment to DMV prior to deadline). Naturally the DMV didn't send my registration and stickers until a few days after the expiration. The original ticket was for $25. I went down to the Center St. parking office with my current registration, the ticket, and the postmarked DMV envelope and waited in line w/ my newborn and toddler. I was determined to get this resolved in person to avoid any complications. HA! After my 45minute wait; I was told nothing could be done in person. I was given a form and sent on my merry way. I filled out the form properly, followed all instructions to a ''T'' and sent it in w/ supporting documents. A few weeks later I receive a letter from Berkeley saying my claim was denied. My husband submitted another claim. This one was also denied and they proceeded to raise the ticket amount to over $100, since it was considered past due. Finally we just decided to pay it and my husband sent them a cahier's check. Problem solved. Right? 6 months or so later: We get our DMV renewal notice and what is that we have to pay in addition to our registration? You guessed it! A berkeley parking ticket! After contacting the bank we figured out that Berkeley never cashed the the check and instead sent it to the creditors. My husband has been calling the Berk. parking office daily to try and resolve this and all we get is, ''so and so will call you back'' or ''sorry sir, it's out of our hands''. This feels like a scam! I did everything I could do on my end to be on the correct side of the law and it's still not enough. Does anyone have some insight or suggestions? Who can actually help me? The DMV and parking office that issued the ticket can't. We're not a wealthy family and $136 seems like a hefty price tag for the DMV mailing our registration late. What is the correct course of action? I can't believe I'm the first victim of these unfair practices. Thank you in advance BPN! just another victim of unfair ticketing practices...

The vehicle code says you must DISPLAY a current registration sticker. The fact that the DMV sent it late means you sent it to the DMV too close to the expiration date. (I get my renewals about 2 months early and process them online right away.) Because Berkeley has the parking permit system and the officers look at every car, they are cognizant of the expired tags. I see 2-3 cars every week get tix for expired tags, usually from the 1st to the 5th of the new month. I bet you got your ticket in the first week of the month after it expired, and I bet you were at the park near Alta Bates, which has restricted parking. Mos

When you get a ticket for expired tags, you have to 1. get the current registration card, 2. put the sticker on the car, 3. Find a cop or meter maid to verify the card is current and the sticker is on the car and then sign off the back of the ticket. Then you send it in with $15-$20 and you're done. So, what to do?

There are probably instructions with your renewal notice on how to proceed. The easiest, though most unfair, is to just pay the fine (again) and be done with it.

If you kept records, copies and notes of all of your interactions with Berkeley, I'd go down there in person and see what they'll do for you. My experience there is they are willing to help, provided you are reasonable and respectful in your attitude and requests. It may be, though, that given the amount of time that has elapsed, their ability to help you is limited. Check on the status of the check again, take a copy of the check if you have it, and be prepared with a lot of patience. Peter

Welcome to Berkeley, land of endless unresolvable tickets, mad hatter teaparty-like Permit and Zoning issues, and the Berkeley Department of Tautology. There seems to be strange blackholes in every Dept of C.O.B. and there doesn't seem to be anyone, anywhere that has solutions, only endless bureaucracy. Go to the City Attorney's and/or the City Council offices and see if they can help you. Perhaps moving higher up the chain will get you somewhere. I live here, and I have gone through hell trying to get anything done according the City's own rules! Aggro-Berkeley dweller

I had a similar type problem last year with the City (LOVE that finance department office, don't you? Never a wait shorter than however much money you put into the parking meter.) I mailed a payment for my trash bill and when they got the check they just decided to apply it to somebody else's parking ticket for some reason. I know this because when they sent me a past due bill, I printed a copy of the check and saw that somebody had crossed out my account number on my check and written something else in its place. So, after months of calling, faxing, emailing and yes, waiting in line at Center street, they kept threatening to put a lien on my house (!!) so I called 7 on your Side, Michael Finney, the ABC News show ( who told me to make ''one last phone call'' and say ''I've contacted 7 on your side and before they go ahead with their process, please look into this one last time...'' Amazingly, my account is now properly credited and no more threatened liens! Jill

I fought the law and... the law won. I had a similar situation last year with renewing my registration last year. Both a ticket and wasted time and energy contesting it and lost anyway. Of course you're not the first. It irks me when cities try to scam their own residents out of legitimate $, but there it is. Good luck to you, but at some point, you might just want to let it go (i hate to say it!) and pay the $. been there

i did not see the original post... just the bashing replies. i get my share of tickets, i also work within the system to keep the process honest. so, if you corrected the expired tag issue, get the ticket ''signed off'' and pay the smaller fine. this goes for any correctable motor vehicle issue (broken tail light or expired tags). i have had mixed success in fighting what i thought were unfair tickets... but i am about 50/50 on that success. of course every municipality wants to increase tax revenue, but there are laws about this. and REMEMBER: you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar - Citizen at Large

Defeating the evil empire of the Berkeley Parking Enforcement goons. We've once again come out victorious against these evil doers, and it feels good, released again today. As I was reading your post I thought that your story could be ours. Anyway for all good citizens of Berkeley, if you have been wrongfully issued a citation in Berkeley, there is a number to call when you are at your wits end. But first let me say that if you do feel wronged, I urge you, I plead with you to fight them. Yes go through the system, and do as requested/required and document all your efforts. Next, write your council person and call the chief of police. The person that will probably call you back,if you do not get the chief, is Mrs. Marla Clark 510-981-5893. Good luck and if your right, fight it, we've been vindicated four times. Good luck to you all Tim A

Contesting a San Francisco ticket from out of town

Jan 2010

I am an East Bay'er currently living out of the area temporarily. When I went back to visit we were taking a leisurely drive on a Sunday afternoon in downtown San Francisco. We turned right during a yellow light and a cop pulled us over telling us we had run a red light. His words were 'You yielded but did not make a complete stop at that red light before you turned.'' We both definitely saw that the light was yellow, and he even admitted that we yielded (lots of traffic and pedestrians). I asked him if it was posted 'no right on red' but he said that wasn't the point...we didn't make a complete stop. However, instead of giving us a failure to yield or anything he decided to give us the more expensive ticket (he told us that he chose this because we put the public in danger even though the oncoming traffic was only starting to pull out from their red light once we had turned and pulled over). Thus, he gave us a ticket for running a red light...almost $400 (I swear the light was yellow). My husband tried to go talk to city hall to get a discount or anything because we moved out of the Bay Area and into my parent's basement in a small town in the midwest because we are so broke. We are not buying my kids Christmas presents and I haven't even bought a winter coat yet. I'm in the end of my Ph.D. and my funding is ending so we are doing whatever possible to get through until I can finish and we can make a better life for our family. However, now if we want to contest the ticket we have to show up in court. If we could afford to fly back and go to court etc. we would have the money to pay the ticket. Does anybody know if we can get a public defender to show up in our position to the court date or any other options that we can do to get the ticket minimized or anything?! If we had really run a red light, it would be easier to swallow because we are both very much up for paying consequences, but for once, we were completely obeying traffic signals. Oh, and to top if off, when I asked him how much the ticket was and he told me, I burst out crying and he walked away and said Merry Christmas while laughing! Also, we were near the corner of 5th and howard...wouldn't it have taken our picture if we had really run a red light? Advice anyone? I can't even imagine where we can get this money to pay for a ticket that we don't even deserve. Fined for nothing.

Use trial by written declaration. This website has an excellent tutorial for how to go about it. Kate

On 3 occasions, two of them as outrageous as yours**, I found good advice (and ultimate success) in the Nolo Press book, Fight Your Ticket & Win in California by: Attorney David Brown, brand new 13th ed. as of 7/09, 432 pages, ISBN9781413310306.

** Stopped in the BART parking lot, El Cerrito, to let a (blind) passenger out. Blocked an unused handicap parking space for about 30 seconds. Given a $400 ticket (Contra Costa Sheriff, not El Cerrito police). Canceled after I responded by mail, complete with a few photos of the situation (no stars and arrows, however). John

I just got a ticket for the same infraction and I am prepared to contest it because the fine is $450 and I don't believe I was driving unsafely. I found this site: and they make it clear that you can go to court virtually to contest a ticket, to at least get the fine down somewhat: You have to know how to get the forms and procedure to contest by mail, but it can be done -- without showing up in person. I plan to do this. At a minimum, you can get the fine dropped down. Unfortunately, the state now pays cops to go to court to defend a ticket, so it's harder than it used to be to get the ticket dropped for lack of proof (or prover). Alison

I'm the one who wrote the original post. And as an update, I was told by the people in the SF office that they are not coordinated with the people who send out camera tickets so if I ran the red light, theoretically, we (or rather my FIL, the registered owner of the vehicle we were driving) should receive a ticket in the mail. There ARE cameras there, so since we never got a ticket from the camera (should have arrived within 2-3 weeks and the ticket was in the beginning of December), hopefully this will help me with fighting the ticket, but again, any advice or experience is helpful. I have heard from some that right now that no one is winning their appeals and sometimes even get charged more for court fees whereas others have told me that if you go through the work to contest the ticket you usually get a reduction, so I'm having a hard time know whether it is worth it, but my feeling is that at $446, it is worth it! Anyone in the city offices have any insight? Thanks so much! Falsely fined.

I received a parking ticket in the mail from Arizona. My husband was driving, but the car is registered to me. I responded to the ticket by saying ''that's not me'' (one of the boxes you could tick), and providing a copy of my driver's license. They sent another letter asking me who was driving, which I ignored. Your FIL is under no obligation to ''rat you out,'' and there's nothing they can do about it. anon

Ticket for Not Wearing Seat Belt

May 2008

I am stunned that my partner just got a ticket for not wearing her seat belt. In 10 years I have not once seen her not wear it and she is adamant about everyone wearing theirs and won't drive anyone who doesn't wear it. Since having kids we are both very cautious with our driving and seat-belt wearing. I don't think she's ever gotten a moving violation. She was distracted this morning and pulled out of her parking space on College Ave in Berkeley without putting it on. Within a block a cop spotted her and pulled her over. Does anyone have any success in fighting this kind of ticket in Berkeley or elsewhere? We're concerned that our insurance will go up, etc. Thanks.

oh please. why are you shocked? come on! she wasn't wearing her seat belt! she got a ticket! there is a clear cause and effect. no, my friend, it doesn't matter that she ALWAYS wears her seatbelt. She clearly doesn't ALWAYS wear her seatbelt because she was um, yeah, not wearing her seatbelt. Just pay the ticket. Or you can tell them that in your letter to contest- but she ALWAYS wears her seatbelt! And you can waste your 42 cent stamp because that is the silliest reason to contest a ticket she deserved to get. if you dont want a seatbelt ticket, put it on

You ask, ''Does anyone have any success in fighting this kind of ticket [for failure to wear a seatbelt] in Berkeley or elsewhere? We're concerned that our insurance will go up, etc.'' You're kidding, right? Fight on what ground? Your partner committed an infraction, and she should accept the consequences; that's at least as responsible as talking the talk while occasionally failing to walk the walk. (I'll certainly think the better of her for being a good citizen.) According to there'll be no point on her driving record for it. Anon

She wasn't wearing her seatbelt, which is a ticketable offense. What's to fight? Sarah

Two words: traffic school. This will keep your insurance rates from going up, and your wife can do it online quite quickly. Don't bother trying to fight it; she'll lose and then it will count against your insurance. anon

According to your post, your partner got a ticket for something she is actually guilty of. I think it would be dishonest to fight the ticket. She should take responsibility for her mistake... even though it is extremely unfortunate. -

Sorry, but being ''distracted'' is not a defense -- not a defense to going through a stop sign without stopping, not a defense to failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and not a defense to failing to put on your seatbelt. Your partner can probably keep the ticket off her record by going to traffic school. Check the court website for information.

To add to my previous, keep in mind that every minute Berkeley deals with your partner fighting her deserved ticket is time lost to providing services to someone else. We are responsible for our laws and government, and given that we've used those to establish a sensible policy to encourage and enforce seatbelt use, let's not start throwing sand in the gears when it bites us personally. Anon

Your partner got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt because she wasn't wearing her seat belt and now you want to know how to fight the ticket? She has no basis for fighting the ticket. She should accept responsibility for her actions. Isn't this what we teach our children? Hopefully, anyway. Pay up and consider it a lesson learned. Consider it a wake up call about her driving, she's obviously not as attentive and careful as you claim. My teenage son rides his bike down College to get to school, I hope he's not riding by when she's 'distracted' and pulls out of the parking spot. no sympathy here

I doubt whether you will be able to beat 'this' violation, and it's a hefty fine, however, if I recall correctly you can plea no contest and go to driving school and though you will have to also pay for this, it stops the violation from showing up for insurance purposes. Been there

I'm usually a very careful driver, too. But when my daughter (now 7) was 5 weeks old, I was driving to the grocery store after a night of infant care and food poisoning. In my tired, nauseated, and generally befuddled state, I missed a red light and hit another car. Thankfully, no one was hurt. But what if the driver of the other car had been your partner? Be glad it was just a ticket. The seatbelt law is there for a reason

Need a police officer to sign off on ticket

Oct 2006

we got a parking ticket that is correctable, so if we get an officer to sign it the fee is less. Where is a good place to find an officer, other than going downtown to the station? I have a hard time getting out. thanks! signing off

My husband got a ''fix-it'' ticket a few months ago for a broken taillight. He replaced the light and then flagged down an officer to sign it off. He did try to go into the police station, but they told him to go get an officer on the street. It was no big deal. The only issue is finding someone at the right time and place! Good luck Laurel

I drove to the Berkeley Police station and parked directly in front, in the white zone and ran in and told them at the window what I was there for. They took the ticket from me and returned a moment later w/ the ticket signed. No officier even came out to the car to see if I had truely fixed the car! Very quick and easy and worth a try. There is always an officier or two at the station, so that would be your bet bet I think Ticketed too

You could run a red light! Only kidding! I got a fix-it ticket and also found it very hard to find an officer to sign off on it. I live close to the station downtown too. I drove by as often as I could and finally at 10pm I saw an officer outside in their parking lot and asked him to sign my ticket. It certainly would be good to know if there is another way to do this! fixed it!

BART cops and parking enforment people (meter readers) can also sign off on tickets. I've always just gone to the police station, though. Katy

Can't find out amount to pay for Berkeley traffic ticket

Oct 2004

On September 9th I received a traffic ticket in Berkeley. There was no amount on the ticket & the officer said to wait a month before calling to get the amount because it could take that long for it to be entered into the computer. So I called after a month & it wasn't recorded. I called a week later & again a week after that, still not in the computer. I started to get worried because there is a 11/2 deadline on the ticket, after which some dire things happen if I haven't paid. Finally I reached a human being in the Berkeley Traffic Division who told me it could take a year (yes, a year!) for the citation to be entered. She recommended that I call once a month to check on it and she said not to worry about the 11/2 deadline. Can this really be the way it works? It seems outrageous to me. And I can't help worrying about the deadline. What if I call on 11/15 and am not in the computer, but it goes in on 11/16 & since I'm only calling once a month I don't find out until 12/15. Am I delinquent? Or do they have to give me a certain amount of time after it goes into the computer to pay? I'm willing to pay the stupid ticket, not happy but willing, so it seems absurd for it to be so difficult. Any suggestions?
Frustrated (but basically law-abiding) driver.

I went through the same thing last year. And yes, the written instructions on the ticket do not make sense and are in contrast to what the people on the phone say. But what the traffic staff say on the phone is correct--the officer has up to a year to file the paperwork and until then, you don't have to do anything because you are not in the system. But not to fear--the officer WILL eventually file that paperwork. Call once a month and you'll be okay. Mine took about 2.5 months to get filed. And my ticket was a horrifying $370! Driving cautiously in Berkeley now

You are right on track for months of angst and confusion! My ticket (for an illegal left turn 2 minutes within the prohibited time -- wealthy neighborhoods in Berkeley do not like those pesky 'car' thingies) was ''processed'' 6 months after the event. In the meantime I missed numerous work meetings to line up for 1.5 hours, on 3 occassions, to get pieces of paper stamped that ''I was indeed in line for many hours trying to pay this ticket''. By the end of it you want to start a class action suit for harassment! Avoid Driving in Berkeley

Yeah, it really is this bad. It took my husband close to 6 months to get one resolved recently, and there have been a series of articles in the East Bay Express during the last year about how crappy the Berkeley ticketing process is. Needless to say, I have become absolutely religious about coming to a complete stop at every stopsign on Cedar (sigh). Sara

This is not the way that traffic tickets work. I ended up in the same situation once. Despite repeated calls, they didn't have my docket number on file. I didn't have the amount to pay. So I didn't pay it. 6 months later, I was nailed a $200 civil assessment fee for failure to appear in court (this is what automatically happens when you don't pay) so I had to take unpaid time out of my day to go to court (Traffic Court refused to let me just get an amount so I had no choice but to go to court). I used as my defense 1) 6 months later I still didn't know what the amount was to pay and even by the time I got to court I still didn't know and 2) If they look up my history of parking and street cleaning tickets (I used to live in SF), they'd find that I paid every single one on time and so this one would have been no different. I ended up having the civil assessment fee waived and *finally* getting the amount to pay for the traffic ticket.

Definitely follow up to save yourself this grief. I can't believe that Berkeley would take this long. If you don't know, I would probably pay some approximate amount by the 11/2 deadline and make them figure out how to handle that and keep a copy of your check and tell them to pay you the difference once they enter it into their system. Or call them on 11/2 and ask who you talked to and record their name in case if you need to go to court. And on that traffic ticket is a date you have to appear if you dont' get the amount of the traffic ticket; I think it's unreasonable to expect people to go to court if they don't get the amount b/c it can take hours of waiting just to get into Traffic Court - that's hours of frustrating unpaid time. lenore

This is an entirely common situation with both traffic and parking tickets. There has still been no decision on a parking ticket I received in JANUARY of this year in Oakland, and protested due to a broken meter. My husband got a traffic ticket in another state, had the same sort of situation, was supposed to call about once a week, and after several weeks just forgot about it. A month or so ago he recieved a letter stating that there was a warrant out for his arrest, and in order to clear it he had to pay a large sum of money. Although we tried to negotiate (due to the long wait), there apparently was no option to the greatly increased fine. So it's probably a good idea to just keep calling. Extremely annoying. Karen

i had a similar problem with a ticket in SF 2 years ago. i kept calling and not getting any record. i just kept a log of my calls ''in case.'' finally, i talked to a person who told me the same thing-- ''we're really backed up,'' and ''don't worry.'' it finally did get recorded about 2 months later. i almost went to complain about the process, but decided it wasn't worth my effort. ticket payor

Here's what I learned after having a frustrating run in with the DMV: create a paper trail. Write them a letter describing the situation, your willingness to settle the matter as soon as possible, and asking what steps to take. Be very specific with your questions. Make yourself a photocopy of the letter. Mail it out with a return reciept (so you have proof that they received it). Continue to do this with every correspondance and keep it in a file. If you keep a copy of the letters and proof that they received them, that puts you in a pretty good position. heather

I got a ticket in September in El CErrito. The date for court appearance was Oct. 18th. I called the court to find out how much I owed to pay the ticket and got a recording saying that they were really backed up and if I didn't receive a notice in the mail within 6 weeeks AFTER my court date then I should call back. There was no info about who else to call or what else to do. It's frustrating cause we want to pay the darn ticket and get on with life and not have this thing hanging on that we have to remember to take care of....but I guess this is not a unique situation. Hang in there... anon

I'm in a similar situation with the City of Oakland on a parking ticket. I have the amount but appealed it and have been told to ''ignore the late notices'' while they review the appeal which will take an unknown amount of time. It's very disconcerting, but you may another option at this point.

My experience in Berkeley traffic court is that they generally have their act together (though it doesn't always appear to be so on the surface), so maybe there's something unusual going on with their system. Did they get a new system? I'd go down to the office on MLK and ask at the window what the problem is and see if you can get something in writing. Lori

Applying for citizenship - worried about speeding tickets

Sept 2004

I'm applying for US citizenship after living here on a green card for 20 years. There's a question that asks ''have you EVER been arrested, cited, or detained by any law enforcement officer?''. Is a speeding ticket a citation? Do I have to recall details for every one back 20 years? anon

I suggest you run a background check on yourself through the California State Police and the FBI. Citizens can request this for themselves for a modest fee. You will need to get fingerprinted (available at many passport/photo types of places, there are several around Berkeley campus) on the forms these agencies will provide. The results will show any arrests or convictions. Am not sure about traffic violations -- I doubt speeding tickets will count, as long as you did not go through court and had your license suspended, DUI convictions, I suspect the gov't wants you to 'fess up to them anything that is on a permanent record. anonymous

Contesting a moving violation

Feb 2003

The police officer says I rolled a stop. I'm sure I didn't as a) I had just pulled out from in front of my house and the brakes had moisture on them still which makes them squeak until a full stop is achieved. Mine weren't squeaking. b) I had just witnessed three people roll the stop at my corner which always raises my self-righteous ire and I become SUPER-STOPPER, SAVIOUR OF THE 4-WAY INTERSECTION!

So, my questions is, is it ever worthwhile to contest a moving violation? I've always been willing to take responsibility for previous infractions because I have indeed been guilty. But this time, I'm sure I'm not. Unfortunately, the only evidence I have is my good word. I hate to go to all the trouble if I'm just going to lose.

Also, if I contest the ticket and I lose, can I still go to traffic school, or do I forfeit my right to do so by going to court?

This was in Berkeley, by the way.

Any info or past success/failure stories appreciated. signed, Guilty until proven innocent

Nolo Press has a good book, ''Fight Your Ticket in California,'' which I found useful when I was trying to decide whether to contest my ticket. Gives summaries of process but also of what makes for ''good'' cases, what doesn't work, etc. for the range of possible violations. So you may want to look into it. I think you always have to option of going to traffic school, even if you lose in court. suzanne

You can go to traffic court in Berkeley and you will be given a chance to explain your situation. Depending on the judge and his/her mood you may be let off or given an option of paying or going to traffic school. Contesing the ticket doesn't disqualify you from traffic school. Sometimes you are given the option of paying less for the ticket. I think if you pay at all the ticket goes on your record but not if you go to traffic school. I once was given the option of doing community service or paying for a number of parking tickets....long time ago. Good luck. anon

From what I have heard, officers don't always show up for the hearing. If he/she does not show up, the case should be dismissed. Also, you might feel better trying to fight it, even if you are not successful in the end. If you don't fight it, you will never know. Would love to hear the outcome! Ariel

I tried going to the traffic court in Berkeley and pleading ''no contest'' to a ticket which I felt sure was issued unfairly, and explaining my position to the judge, who then has the option to waive the fine. The judge was extremely condescending, and hardly looked like he listened to what I said before he told me to pay the ticket. I later heard from a friend that the only time she had heard of someone having a fine overturned this way was in a case of identity theft (i.e., someone showed a stolen driver's license after being pulled over, and the license owner was sent a ticket). I regretted having wasted the time standing in line early in the morning and sitting for hours in the courtroom. Lara

Someone once gave me a tip, which proved very beneficial in a very similar situation. I decided to go to court so made an appointment, as late as they would possible allow it. A couple days before the appointment, I called and cancelled. They will let you reschedule once. Again, I took the latest possible appointment. By the time I finally appeared in court, it was a couple of months after the fact and the officer did not show up, in which case the case was dismissed. The person who gave me the tip said (and I do not know if this is true) that officers do not get paid for appearing in these kinds op cases but they have to. When the case is a couple of months old, they often decide not to show up. In my case it worked. anonymous

My husband and I were once stopped for a moving violation (using the carpool lane on the Bay Bridge outside commute hours), which we felt was an innocent mistake because (at that time) the signage was so poor that it was nearly impossible to tell that you were not allowed to use the carpool lanes off commute hours. There were four of us in the car, on the way to our wedding shower, of all things. The ticket was huge, so we decided to go to traffic court (Oakland) to contest it. After quite a bit of hassle (you have to get there before the court opens to sign up for a court appearance b/c people line up outside in order to make it on that day's docket), and sitting around for four hours listening to a large number of very poor people explaining, not very well, to the magistrate why they had caused a ruckus on BART, spit on the sidewalk, etcetera (things it seems only poor folk are ever given citations for), we noticed that except in the most ludicrous instances or for the most combattive individuals, there seemed to be a reduction of the fine just for going to the trouble of showing up. You probably can't prove that you really stopped: it's your word against that of the officer who stopped you. But if Berkeley's traffic court is anything like Oakland's, then you may end up paying a much smaller fine. Ours was reduced from over $200 to just under $100. Good luck! Anonymous

Contest the ticket! I have contested many citations, one with many of the same circumstances you describe. You will be judged on your delivery of the facts biased on what the Judge believes, and mostly the manner in which the Judge is able to sum up your character in the short time you present your case. I was truthful and willing to accept the decision of the Judge, which I made clear prior to stating the facts. If you pled ''No Contest'', my experience has been that attending traffic is an option. In addition, if the officer issuing the citation is not present, the ticket/citation was dismissed. I am a beliver of exercising one's rights and as such I have contested many tickets/citations. Results varied. Some citations were dismissed, others were not. (I am not necessarily proud to state that I have earned a Ph.D. from traffic school)! The experiences renewed my faith in a system which I viewed as bureaucratic, unresponsive and for the most part, against ME. Good luck! One who believes in the system

I don't know directly about traffic violations, but I can tell you that once I got a parking ticket that wasn't justified, and all I had to do was go to City Hall or someplace of that sort, and swear to my story on tape. Since I had nothing else on my record, the person in charge dismissed the ticket. This was in Berkeley several years ago. elise

No, you cannot go to traffic school if you go to court. You ''waive your right'' for traffic school, which is then up to the court's ''discretion.'' I found out the hard way that the court rarely grants traffic school -- and it took three court appearances (i.e., three days of missed work) to find this out. So I now have a point on my record when I could have just gone to traffic school. I think this is unjust but you can learn from my bad experience. Don't fight the ticket if you can go to traffic school. Ann