Contesting a Ticket

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Contest a traffic ticket for car seat violation in person or by mail?

Oct 2015

I was recently given a ticket in the parking lot at the Alameda County Fairgrounds for ''improperly restrained child.'' My 6 year-old son was in his high-backed booster seat, with the seatbelt properly fastened. My mom was sitting next to him. He was turning around in his seat so that he could wave to his grandpa in the car behind us (but I was unaware of this). My mom confirms that he was never unbuckled. I'm all for child safety laws and for cops giving tickets for kids not in their carseats, but #1 my child was completely buckled in, and #2 we were in a parking lot going 2 miles an hour or less!

So, anyway, according to the ticket, I can contest it by writing a letter or by requesting a court date. Here's the pros/cons to each as I see it:

Pros: Less hassle (no time off work for court) and I can include a statement from my mom who lives out of state
Cons: This may give the officer more of a chance to respond and then it's his word against mine

Court date: Pros: Likely that the officer won't show, so it'll get thrown out,

Has anyone contested a ticket by letter, and how did your case turn out?

Safe driver with a wiggly kid who loves his grandpa

Always go in person. You answered your own question that often the officer does not show up. Bring a notarized statement from you mom about what she witnessed. Call in sick if you need to. By mail you will lose and then just have to go in person for to contest the result. You can even win if the officer shows if you are goofd and persistent at defending yourself and questioning the officer and asking for documentation. The only way to win is in person

Hi there, I've contested many tickets successfully. It's ridiculous they gave you a ticket - fight back! Definitely do contest by mail first. You can still get a court date after that if the decision is not in your favor at first. Please do google ''trial by written declaration''. You'll have to keep all the deadlines, do that ASAP. It would be good to know what kind of cop it was bc that determines jurisdiction (you'll have to go to the right court, should be on your ticket). You can contest on a variety of reasons. Google the CA vehicle code - the part you were cited for - and compare with what you did. In your case I would simply state that the child was safely restrained in the car seat according to manufacturer's instructions CA vehicle code paragraph blablabla. Don't mention your son turned around or anything like that. Keep it as short as possible. Attach a signed witness statement from your mom who was in the car as exhibit A. Your argument #2 isn't meaningful (as long as the car is moving it's moving) so leave that out. Also read the ticket carefully for all other stuff the officer put in - date, exact location etc...any small mistake here can lead to a dismissal of the ticket (i.e. writing this is at 112 E. St, while it was in fact at 114; how did they put in the location for the Alameda Fairgrounds - they have to be specific). you can also contest with no text in the ''statement of facts'' and just leave empty. What's going to happen in the trial by declaration is that the officer needs to send in written statement as well - many don't, case gets dismissed. If the court finds in the cop's favor, you should ask for an actual trial. If the cop doesn't show up in person it will be dismissed. If the cop is there you can argue your case (I recommend thorough preparation if it gets to that stage). I think none of this will lead to the cop being reprimanded though - if this was arbitrary and unjust you could consider writing a complaint to the police dept after the case gets dismissed. I did that once for a cop who gave me a traffic ticket in a yellow zone while I was actively unloading my child (fully legal!) and she didn't even want to tell me her name or show me her badge. Berkeley parking tickets are the hardest to contest, but I won that one! Julia

I'm not a lawyer and I've never gone to court for this but I've contested two tickets (one stop sign obscured by a tree, one speeding ticket that truthfully I deserved) by letter - it's called TBD - trial by declaration - and it's easy to find out about by googling. anon

Fighting a ticket for going the wrong way on a one-way street

April 2015

I recently received my first ever traffic ticket for going the wrong way on a one way street in San Rafael. I am not familiar with that area and knew a cop was closely following me (which made me nervous). I immediately realized my mistake, but it was too late to correct my action at that point. Has anybody had any luck contesting a ticket like this in Marin? Would an attorney be worth it? The officer told me that contesting and losing could make me ineligible for traffic school. Please no comments or judgements about my error, as I feel bad enough about it as it is. Just looking for helpful advice on possibly getting the ticket dismissed or reducing the fine.

Expensive mistake

Just pay the ticket. You got caught.

Hi there, if you're deciding to contest, your first step would be a ''Trial by Declaration''. Paperwork is online and available through the court. You would submit your forms and pay the ticket (you'll get the money back if you win). You don't have to fill anything in under ''evidence/statement of facts'' if you don't want to. The officer will have to submit paperwork in response to your statement. If he doesn't, you win automatically (that happens in a good % of the cases). You don't lose anything through trial by declaration (except your right to a speedy trial since it can take 3 months) and you still have the right to do a regular trial after that. If you choose to contest in front of the court, the officer has to show up (which again sometimes they don't and you win just bc of that). If they do show up you'll have to make a case why you're not guilty. You should look up the CA VC section you're accused of and see if there's anything that you could use. I was cited for a red light violation but I found in the VC that they have to post warning signs in front of the red light - they weren't there, case dismissed. Stuff like that can be helpful. Was the one way sign/ don't enter sign clearly visible? There are clear rules how high etc. the sign has to be in the VC. If it's different from that, you could make a case. I believe if you go to court you can still go to traffic school but it's up to the judge vs. the ''automatic'' right you got before, but in most cases they still give you that option. There is lots of info online about how to make a case and how to contest traffic tickets. Google your specific violation. Lawyers can do this for you and depending on your situation it might be worth it (easier, but at least in the beginning you can DIY too; there are more potential grounds of dismissal that have to do with legal procedure, for those it's better to get a lawyer). Just keep all the timelines in mind, if you're one day late with your paperwork you'll lose automatically. julia

Traffic tix suck. I would advise you put this in the category of ''it was my time'' and just pay it. Years ago I got a ticket in a different city that required you to go to court to pay the ticket (lots of revenue forcing people to drive downtown and park in the garage, salaries for the people in the booths who took the money, etc). Everyone had to sit in the courtroom first. A court officer entered and stated something like ''if you intend to fight your ticket you should stay seated when I dismiss everyone to pay their fines. If your excuse is that you were lost, confused, not familiar with the area, didn't see the sign, everyone else was doing it, you didn't know that rule, you will lose so do not bother to stay here. Please leave and pay your fine.''

that about sums it up. You can roll the dice and hope the cop no shows but your explanation will not get you out fo the ticket. it's just your time

No experience in Marin, but pleading ''guilty with an explanation'' has worked well for me. With this plea, the officer does not come to court, so the judge only hears your side of the story, and you don't have to make a second trip back to court. Explain that the fine is very steep, and you are hoping to get sentenced to traffic school, community service, and a reduced fine. Some judges agree the fines are exhorbatant and reduce them for everybody who makes the effort to plead their case. My friend liked her community service choice and plans to keep volunteering there after her ''sentence'' is served. ...good luck...

Why not just pay the fine or do the community service - you say you legitimately received the violation and a cop making you nervous is not a defense. My recommendation is not to waste your time fighting something that you factually acknowledge. if you did it, deal with the consequences

City of Berkeley's past-due notice for a ticket that wasn't ours, and we have to pay it?

Aug 2014

Wise BPNers, we need your help!

My husband received a ''past due'' notice for a City of Berkeley ticket in the mail. It said that the original ticket had been left on his car a month prior stating he was missing is front license plate. His license plates have NEVER been missing, plus, he NEVER received any notice on his car! So getting this ''past due'' notice was the first we ever heard of the problem.

So, he went to offices on Center Street to try to explain to someone. He talked with several different people and all of the claimed that there was nothing they could do, that there was no one else he could talk to, and that it was past the 21 days permitted to dispute the ticket.

He paid the ticket (to avoid further fees) and then wrote a letter to the City of Berkeley explaining everything I have written above. He received a form letter back in the mail saying something like, ''administrative review denied because request is past 21 days since ticket issued''.

My question to you is what to do now? I know we could just forget about it and call it tough luck. But it's really the principle of it, and the $144. I just find it so ridiculous that it got to this point with no recourse for an error on the City of Berkeley's part.

Many thanks,
Want to fight a bogus ticket!!

Berkeley is infamous for slapping tix on cars. I got 1 for parking (head in) more then 6'' from the curb, tho I have a Honda FIT that stuck out less then the SUV next to me. What you HAVE TO DO, is make an appt. with Anne Reilly (I already know her name, because I've appealed so many false tix) in the appeals dept. on Center St. She's there on certain days. She'll probably let you off, but you have to pay a fee of about $10 - $15 processing fee & wait 4 - 6 weeks for your $'s back. What a racket. Good luck & I hope you have the time to fight this crap. L.

I don't have any advice for you, but here is an article from 2 days ago about a Berkeley man who waited a year for his parking ticket fine to be refunded by the city. He was calling and writing every week. He had proof that the ticket was issued BEFORE the meter expired but the city refused to budge. A judge dismissed the ticket, but the city ignored the man's requests for a refund until ''7 on Your Side'' got involved. It sounds like the parking enforcement folks in Berkeley are completely incompetent. Berkeley mom

A couple of years ago I got not one, but two false tickets from the City of Berkeley. Never got the tickets, never got the notices either; I only found out about them when they showed up as unpaid tickets on my car registration bill, to the tune of about $800 extra. Supposedly the tickets were for parking over the time limit, within a block or two of a parking garage that I pay $100 a month to park in (obviously, I never park on the street there when I pay so much to park in the garage!). I called the city of Berkeley, I called the DMV, and in both cases was told that, unless I could prove I didn't own the car at the time the tickets were issued, I was out of luck. I'm guessing the same will be true for your husband. When it comes to these non-moving violation tickets, it's guilty until proven innocent, I guess. anonymous

I sympathize with you. I too had a bad experience with Berkeley parking control. I put money in a meter, which took all of my money then turned out to be broken. When I appealed the ticket, it was rejected because I couldn't prove that the meter was broken. Like this was MY job? I finally reached a person who was willing to do an audit of the meter to discover that it had less $$ than normal because it was BROKEN. I would maybe call and try to assertively talk to a manager? anon

You are in a tough spot, especially since you paid it which implied acceptance of guilt. I got a front license plate ticket once and learned it is a ''fix-it'' type ticket like a burned out taillight. I simply mounted the front plate on the car as required and went to the CHP station and had a cop there sign off that the violation had been corrected and then I mailed it in and the whole thing was dropped. In your case had you received the bogus notice within 30 days you could have just done the same. I noticed lately that BPD takes photos of all the cars they ticket so they should have a picture of ''yours'' which they won't because it wasn't your car. My suspicion is that they made a typo on the license plate number or VIN and mailed you the ticket by mistake. Go to BPD and ask to see the file and photo of the car. In the end you will have to find somebody who will listen to you down there or file a suit in small claims court to get their attention. I find that they enjoy people like you who just send money without question. They hate people like me who write lots of letters and demand hearings and re-considerations. Bottom line is that it isn't worth $144 for them to have to hassle with somebody like me because it costs them more than $144! They don't know that I know that. On a positive note I have succeeded in getting a full refund of my $144 on one occasion so it can happen. I have lost my share of disputes with them too. Bottom line is I fight them all and 1/2 the time I prevail. Good Luck with it. whiner

Similar thing happened to a neighbor of mine and to lots of other people. The police computer miss-read the license plate and somehow matched it to his car.

These systems are called Automatic License Plate Recognition or ALPRs. They are mounted in the parking enforcement vehicles and in busses. They are almost like drones. At the parking enforcement vehicle of bus drives down the street it scans/records license plates and automatically issues tickets. Your car was probably ''tagged'' by the computer and a ticket was issued.

There are two ways to contest a ticket. (Depends on the type of ticket.) If the ticket is through the ''collection'' agency the city uses (I think they are in CO), the officer can administratively void the ticket.

You can always contest any ticket by requesting a court date. (This is what you should have done.) Berkeley judges know the computer systems used by the police make mistakes all of the times and are very lenient and would have dismissed the ticket. (You could have done this is writing or by appearing in person.)

If you paid the fine, you admitted that you were ''committed the crime'' (infraction) and were ''convicted. There is nothing you can do now except to try and get the laws changed. (And I hope you do.) The ALPRs make mistakes frequently. When they do you are presumed guilty until you ''prove'' you are not.

This is just another example of how government is using faulty technology in an attempt to bring in more money. In your case it worked. The next time it happens you will be more likely to pay it and forget it, so the city ''wins'' again. ANON

After I replied to your post I was given an assignment to research ALPR software for a project. I ran across these videos which you might find interesting about ALRP. It's amazing how many plates they can capture and the distance they can read a plate from. (Even at 100 mph.)

It's a money maker for cities and some police departments are keeping plate information indefinitely. This has lead to a privacy rights challenge. Can the police take a picture of your car/plate and track it in a data base when you aren't even a suspect in a crime? Anon

I want to recommend contacting your city council member when something like this happens. In my experience a council member can often dislodge a bureaucratic knot for a constituent, because the council has influence on city department budgets. Council members are motivated to help people in their district because happy constituents are how they get elected. And it doesn't hurt to donate a little bit of cash or volunteer time to your local member's campaign fund when the time comes so your name is on their list. 

Can I get a refund for ticket I already paid? Turns out I did nothing wrong.

Aug 2014

Odd situation. I made a right hand turn from the 2nd lane onto a freeway entrance at a red light. I had stopped prior to proceeding. The camera flashed and I received a ticket with the photo. My thought was that I had been incorrect in thinking that one could made a turn on red from the second lane even after a complete stop. I paid the hefty fine, $450.00' plus traffic school. So while I am at traffic school I find that I did nothing wrong. So my question, has this type of situation happened to anyone else where you were able to obtain a refund for your fine? For the record, I haven't had a ticket since 1987.
Should have fought

I think you did something extremely wrong ! When I was in driving school, my instructor clarified that I must not cut across lanes to turn right. I actually saw a cop turn on his speaker and warn a guy who was about to make a turn like you described- across a lane of traffic. This topic is clearly described in the booklet tested at the DMV for the learner's permit.

If the driving school indicated otherwise, please write BPN back with the DMV code- I'll look it up because I think this could not possibly be correct. Never received a moving violation.

You are a victim of technology and should have fought it. CVC 21453. (a) And don't think you are alone. It's getting worse are more cities are contracting out traffic enforcement to private companies who share the income with the city for violations. Just wait until you receive an automated $75 parking ticket yet from one of the busses with a license plate scanner. Anon

If you were already sent to traffic school that means that you already plead guilty. You were allowed to go to traffic school to avoid a moving violation with DMV and to help your insurance, but in the eyes of the court the effect is that you have given up your right to appeal, it's over. You can only appeal if you fight the ticket in court and a judge finds you guilty. Sorry

''So while I am at traffic school I find that I did nothing wrong.''

Was the instructor (quote above) a public safety officer (i.e. policeman)? Did you come to a complete stop behind the line? If yes to both you could ask a court clerk about a refund. The code has no mention of amount of lanes: --- Andrew

Chiming in late - I too would be interested to hear what the law is about turning right from the second-to-right lane. I thought it was not legal in CA, but to the poster who thought it was so wrong, it is legal in other states, but there are usually wide streets with lanes for all right-turning lanes to go into once they turn. - Curious

It sounds to me like you deserved the ticket, based on what you said. If you want to shed light on it yourself, look at the code that's cited on it. My guess is that it will refer to an illegal turn because it's not legal to turn right from the second lane. It's also not legal to make a right turn on red if you didn't come to a COMPLETE stop (defined by your speedometer hitting zero).

We would all like to find a way not to have to deal with a ticket. I think sometimes it's easier to look for the elusive evidence that something was given unjustly than to simply accept that we made a costly mistake over the period of 10-15 seconds.

Not saying it's impossible for citations to be issued unjustly, but you admitted yourself in your posting that you did somethign that is patently illegal in the state of California. Maybe by ''learning in traffic school'' that you ''didn't deserve the ticket'' you left out the fact that you turned from the 2nd lane? Or if you didn't, that instructor doens't know his stuff.

And at any rate, if you've already gone to traffic school, it's over. You've accepted guilt, and gone to traffic school to get the point off your record. Done.

I'd suggest just letting it go and moving on. Don't do it again, and you wont' get a ticket again.

Contesting 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 cashier'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


Fighting a Berkeley 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

Contesting a moving violation in Berkeley

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