One of the common questions we get here at www.TrafficCourtPros.com is:
“Can I still get traffic school if I plead ‘not guilty’ to a traffic ticket and demand a trial by declaration?”
The answer to this questions is “No”, unless you lose the Trial By Declaration for your traffic ticket and then demand a Trial De Novo. The details follow below.
In California, there is no such thing as a guaranteed right to attend Traffic Violator School after a traffic ticket. The court will not give you a traffic school referral automatically. A traffic ticket defendant who wants a traffic school referral must request it.
|Traffic Courts generally use a traffic school referral as bait to get people to plead guilty to traffic offenses. |
Some judges see it as a reward for “Early Disposition” of a case without the need for lots of court resources, like those that would be required for a court trial on a traffic ticket.
“If they want to use court resources in a trial, that is fine, but they dont get the benefit of a traffic school possibility” …..
Those drivers who do get referred to “traffic school”, as it is called, after a moving violation may enjoy some valuable benefits.
Traffic School may prevent a related “Negligent Driver Point” from appearing on your official Driver History Report. This in turn may keep your auto insurance rates low, and may help you avoid drivers license discipline if you have too may points already.
Usually, it is good for anyone convicted of a California moving violation to get a traffic school referral if possible.
The easiest way to get a traffic school referral is to show up in court in person, on time. Once in court on a traffic ticket, a driver can plead guilty and request traffic school at the same time. If they qualify for the Traffic Violator School, drivers can get a referral by asking for it at the time they plead guilty.
But what if you want a trial? What if you want a Trial By Declaration instead of a live trial? Can you still request traffic school? Generally no.
One reason is that logically, it is inconsistent to say: “I am innocent, I want a trial, and I want traffic school.”
After all, if you are truly innocent, you do not need Traffic School. You only need traffic school if you get convicted.
If you demand a Trial By Declaration and win, you do not need traffic school. You will be found “Not Guilty” – and there is no danger of a Negligent Driver Point on your driver history report.
If you lose the Trial by Declaration, you never get a chance to request traffic school. After a TBD loss, you are immediately “sentenced” by the trial judge without you being present, and the result with the penalty (“sentence”) is mailed to you. There is no section on the Trial By Declaration form that states:
“If I am found guilty, I request Traffic School”.
But there is a loop hole.
Defendants who lose a Trial By Declaration have the right to demand a new trial, called a “Trial De Novo”. The Trial De Novo, is a live court trial.
Defendants who show up for a Trial De Novo after losing a trial by declaration have the opportunity to change their plea immediately before the live court trial starts. Defendants who want Traffic School losing a Trial By Declaration can change their plea to guilty just before the court trial and ask for a traffic school referral at that time.
When a Defendant changes their traffic ticket plea to guilty (or “no contest”, which is the same) right before a court trial, judges will almost always grant a request for Traffic School if the defendant qualifies.
That is the way to get traffic school after losing a Trial By Declaration. Request a Trial De Novo, show up for it on time. Then, right before the Trial De Novo starts, inform the court you want to change your plea and request traffic school.
If a Defendant wants a preview of what sentence a judge is considering, they may request an “Indicated Sentence”. An “Indicated Sentence” is a preview of a sentence that a court can offer to a defendant who is not sure how to proceed.
What if you actually want to go through with the lice Trial De Novo, and if you lose that request traffic school? Yes, that is possible. Judges do have the power to authorize traffic school for defendants who lose a live traffic ticket court trial. They have the discretion after trial to say yes or no. It is possible a judge would grant a traffic school request after the defendant loses a live court trial. But you cannot count on that working for you. Why?
In reality, most traffic court judges are reluctant to grant traffic school referrals to defendants who lose a Trial By Declaration and then lose a live court trial. The loss of a traffic school option is a penalty for losing a trial in many courts.
So the bottom line is there is a trick to getting traffic school after losing a Trial By Declaration. If you request a Trial De Novo, then show up on time and tell the court you want to change your plea, you can make a valid traffic school request.
OK – we hope this helps. Questions? Leave a comment. We try to answer them all.