How to Fight a CA Traffic Ticket with a Civil Assessment & Failure to Appear. 2013 Update.

| Free Attorney Case Review

2013 UPDATE: We Now Have a Failure to Appear Self Help Forms Package Available and related individual Self Help Forms.

Are you stuck with an unfair Civil Assessment on a traffic ticket where you had no opportunity or notice for a trial?  Had to deal with a court clerk, Alliance One, GC Services or other collection agency employee, who tells you that you cannot have a court date or drivers license because the case is in “Collections”? Cant pay their crazy fees? Innocent? Identity theft?

Here is the 2012 Update on our on going battle against this sort of unfair Denial of Due Process.

Understanding The Civil Assessment and Drivers License Suspension After a Failure to Appear:

In California traffic courts, there is a huge variance in how the courts handle a traffic ticket case when the Defendant does not show up or pay by the court’s deadline.

Some traffic courts will have a Trial By Declaration in Absentia (without the Defendant) using California Veh Code 40503 and find the Defendant Guilty without advising the Defendant of their rights. When this happens, the court is required to give notice of the decision, and to give Defendant the right to Demand a New Trial (Trial De Novo) after any trial by declaration.

Then the typical traffic court adds a “Civil Assessment” fee to the fines under claimed authority of PC 1214.1(a), increasing the cost to defendant tremendously. Of course, this hurts poor people more than it hurts rich people.

After the civil assessment is added, the court notifies the Department of Motor Vehicles (using Vehicle Code 40509.5) of the Defendant’s missed court date, and the DMV then suspends the Defendant’s drivers license after a 30 day notice period.

Penal Code section 1214.1(b) requires that the court send the Defendant a 10 day warning notice before adding a civil assessment, (See Penal Code section 1214.1(b)). The 10 day Civil Assessment warning notice is required to tell the defendant they can appear in court or post bail to avoid the Civil Assessment. Many courts fail to comply with this law, or send the notice to an old address the court had from some other action, and thereby screw the Defendant out of a chance to avoid the Civil Assessment.

Finally, (much of this is pure opinion) – some courts probably send the fine account to a Private, For Profit Collection Agency with instructions to tell people there is nothing that can be done on the case. Then the Collection Agencies take over, harassing, misleading and convincing people they have no choice to pay incredibly inflated fines without exercising their rights to challenge an unproven Failure to Appear charge and Denial of Due Process Rights.

Some Courts may seem to hide the Defendant’s right under Penal Code section 1214.1(d) to challenge a Civil Assessment. You do have due process rights even after a Civil Assessment and referral to a for profit collections agency. Read the statute.

To combat injustice if it happens to you, I say do all of the Following at the Same Time:

1) Demand Entry of Not Guilty Plea and a Court Trial (After Civil Assessment);

2) Demand a New Trial After Trial By Declaration in Absentia (Trial De Novo);

3) make a Motion to Dismiss in the Interests of Justice;

4) make a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment; and

5) Motion to Release Drivers License Hold (VC 40509.5),

6) File a Notice of Appeal, and then Appeal if you get screwed out of your right to a trial. and

7) Give the Collections Agency written Notice of Disputed Debt

Of course, there is no guaranteed way to beat a failure to appear case. But, if you try everything I list here, you give yourself the best shot at relief – and we have seen this approach work over and over for some people.

Related ArticlesHow to Fill Out a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment Form (Penal Code section 1214.1) How to Appeal a Traffic Court Case | How to Request a New Trial After Trial in Absentia

The courts do not want traffic ticket failure to appear cases coming back into court.  It costs the courts a great deal of money to give you court time. And they are sick of failure to appear cases sucking up valuable resources.

Want more details? The courts with the flawed procedure commit 3 legal errors:

1) they fail to make the required Vehicle Code 40503 “Election” (choice) to deem the Failure to Appear a “Request for Trial By Declaration” properly and they do not actually conduct a trial by declaration;

2) they do not provide Notice to the defendant of the election in a manner reasonably designed to provide actual, timely notice to the Defendant, thus denying the Defendant the right to be heard in open court;

3) they do not provide the required notice of a decision on the trial in absentia at all, and

4) by failing to provide Defendant notice of the decision after trial in absentia, the courts do not give the defendants the opportunity to use their right to demand a Trial De Novo after losing a trial by declaration (as required by Vehicle Code 40902);

5) When courts add a “Civil Assessment” under penal code section 1214.1(a) without a trial by declaration election and notice of decision, they are violating the Defendant’s right to a trial. And the Defendant’s right to cross examine witnesses simply disappears somehow, and right to use the court’s subpoena power to call witnesses melts away.

Why are there 5 legal error when we said there were 3? Because this is the 2012 update, and the world is supposed to end this year.

If you don’t have this problem, you might be thinking: “Who cares? You missed your court date, suffer.” But what if you are the victim of identity theft? Or pure idiot error by the court like sending the Notice to the address they have on file for your from a small claims case from 5 years ago instead of the correct address on the citation? It happens people.

Got it?  What you are challenging is summarized as:  The offending courts skip the right to trial and arbitrarily treat the unproven allegations on a photo copied ticket as proven. No Trial.  No presumption of innocence.  No Proof the Defendant had actual notice of anything. Denial of Due Process, violation of the 5th, and 14ht Amendments to the US Constitution.

A Note On Required Local Forms for a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment for Some Counties.

Some courts will tell you can file a “Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment” to challenge the Penal Code 1214.1(a) Civil Assessment, but they force you to use a unique “Local Form” the clerk invented for the Petition. Naturally, these local forms vary greatly from court to court, and not all courts use them consistently.

These 1 page “Local Petition to Vacate” forms are always DESIGNED TO LIMIT your legal and factual arguments to what the court clerks thinks is permissible. They provide only a tiny space for writing, and are filled with discouraging words from the court clerk. They ignore the scope of PC 1214.1(d)’s due process requirements.

Not all counties use local forms for a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment. A partial list of counties that have unique local forms for a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment are as follows:

Solano County Traffic Court Local Form
(the Solano Court calls their local form a “GC Services Declaration” in honor of the collection agency’s hard work)
Contra Costa County
Fresno County Local Petition to Vacate
Alameda County
Santa Clara County
and more

Use the local forms as a cover sheet for a more expansive arguments. If there is no link above to the local form, check the court’s web site or ask the court clerk for one in person.

As you can see from this list, and especially from the Solano County “GC Services Declaration” example, some courts are using the forms to limit a defendant’s access to arguments and to court review. You should not tolerate . . .waive objections to it.

You can attach our Motion to Vacate Civil Assessment and Supporting Declaration to such a Local Form if necessary. That Motion includes an Objection to Use of Local Form to Preserve the Issue for Appeal if Necessary.

In my opinion, the required local form itself is a violation of law designed to restrict your right to a trial (5th and 14th Amendment to the US Constitution).

In many of the counties with required local forms for Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment – identity theft is not a defense allowed by the local form! In some local petition forms – there is nearly no room to write out a legal challenge. Some courts charge a filing fee for a local form petition to vacate civil assessment. Crazy unfair. Illegal. Object, Object!!

The 5th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution require Due Process, which the courts have ruled means a trial, before the State can Take your life, liberty, or property (including cash – which is just as good as money).  And even more to the point, Penal Code section 1214.1(d) explicitly gives the Defendant the right to challenge a PC 1214.1(a) Civil Assessment in any way you can challenge a civil judgment. It does not say you must use a local form that limits your arguments.

A motion to vacate a civil judgment is a common motion, and the court cannot deny you the right to challenge the Civil Assessment. You may have to force them to read the statute.

Here Is a Break Down of How Our Self Help Forms for Traffic Tickets with Failure to Appear Are Intended to Work.

Step 1: Demand For Trial and Not Guilty Plea (After Civil Assessment).
This is my favorite form. It has worked in at least 4 counties so far, probably more.
To get a trial date after a civil assessment you have to do it in writing. And you have to present it to the court clerk for filing in the case.  Once in the court’s file, they have to either accept or reject your “Not Guilty” plea in writing. Did they take away your right to a trial or not? Force them to tell you.

In most courts where this refusal of the right to trial happens, the defendant has not had an Arraignment, and technically, there has been no plea entered at all.  There has been no advisement of rights either. Thus, it stands to reason the Defendant should be allowed to enter a “not guilty plea”.  A natural Consequence of a not guilty plea is the sitting of a trial date. In fact, a not guilty plea is a prerequisite for a trial.

Entry of a plea – whether it be guilty or not guilty -  usually happens at an Arraignment.  But if the court will not let you have an arraignment, you need to enter your plea by filing a document with the court clerk.

What if the court refuses to accept the Demand for Trial? Well, it come with instructions on how to avoid that problem. And if the court clerk truly does refuse to file your demand for trial, you can appeal on that issue alone if you have to.

They are not going to be happy about someone trying to file a document in a traffic court case.  But you have to be persistent and demand to speak with a supervisor if they give you trouble.  If you have a legitimate document to file in a pending legal case, the court clerk cannot prevent you from getting it filed (so long as it meets local rules). Clerks file, judges decide.

Once you have gotten the Demand for Not Guilty Plea to the court clerk, they have to do one of 3 things:  1) ignore it; 2) reject it by sending it back to you with an explanation; and 3) tell you that you have lost the right to a trial.

It is very important that you get proof that you got the request to the court clerk, because you may need it for the appeal if necessary.

If the court does give you a trial date, you have won – stop here.  It has already worked many times.  (Note:  they may require you to post “bail” in the amount of the fine, but there is nothing you can do about that if it happens).

Step 2: Demand a Trial De Novo.

File a “Request for Trial De Novo” form and ask for a new trial following the Trial By Declaration in Absentia.

A Trial De Novo (which means new trial) should be granted by the court if you are denied a Trial on the grounds that there has not been a trial yet, because they only way to deny a request for entry of a “not guilty” plea is to claim there has already been a trial by declaration in absentia under authority of California Vehicle Code section 40903.

The law states that after being notified of a decision after a trial by declaration:

“if the defendant is dissatisfied with a decision of the court . . . , the defendant shall be granted a trial de novo.” (Vehicle Code section 40902(d).)

There is a standard 1 page free form for a “Request for Trial De Novo” that makes such a request easy – by with my custom form you get a custom declaration in support of the request that cites the legal basis and facts needed to get it granted.

The catch is that you only have about 20 days to request a trial de novo after the court clerk MAILS the decision.  But they never send out a notice of decision in any form and worse yet,  Vehicle Code section 40902(a)(2) requires that the Court use the Official Judicial Council Form for that notice of decision (it is #TR-215 “Decision and Notice of Decision”). The clock starts running from the date they mail that form, but if they never send it, the clock and deadline to file a Request for Trial De Novo never starts running.

A defendant who did not receive notice on TR-215 from the court of the decision on a trial by declaration, but who got a civil assessment, should write on the form:

“Decision and Notice of Decision on Judicial Council Form TR-215 not sent and/or not received as of today”.

Once a request for trial de novo form has been filed with the court clerk (sent to the court clerks office with proof of delivery is best), the court must make a ruling on it.

Generally there are only 2 options for the court:  1) grant the request for a new trial; or 2) state that it was filed late, and provide the date of mailing of the decision Form TR-215.  If the court denies the request, it is a decision that can be appealed, again with a standard Notice of Appeal Traffic Court Form from the Judicial Council.

Step 3: Motion to Dismiss in the Interests of Justice

The judge has the power to dismiss any cases or fine if it is “In the Interests of Justice” under authority of Penal Code 1385.  A motion to dismiss under this statute is a great way to give the court an avenue to dismiss the case for a hardship problem, or just because of plain unfairness.

I wrote this common Legal Motion for the thousands of people who have traffic court fines that they cannot pay, and they need to drive or get some sort of relief to work.

Use this form to ASK THE COURT TO DISMISS the case or SUSPEND A FINE using the court’s discretionary powers under California Penal Code 1385 – which allows dismissals in the “Interests of Justice”.

This is an EZ ready to file form, just fill in the blanks and add your special circumstance – like financial hardship, military service, need to drive, etc.  Then file with court clerk or judge in open court (and send to prosecutor, if any). Use this form as is, or as a template for your own ideas.

Step 4: File Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment

A Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment only deals with the $300+ fee, not the drivers license suspension or the underlying violations.  But it is a good idea to fight this assessment with everything.

Many, but not all courts have a local Petition to Vacate form.  Use the local 1 page form and attach the custom Declaration in Support of Petition to make the best arguments I could think of.

More info on How to Write a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment.

Step 5: Motion to Release Drivers License Hold

According to the text of Vehicle Code 40509.5, in my opinion, the court must release the drivers license hold once the Defendant appears in court and satisfied the order that caused the hold – which was SHOW UP IN COURT ON YOUR SIGNED PROMISE TO APPEAR.

But many courts will refuse to release the hold after a court appearance, and require you to plead guilty and pay the fines in full first.  In this manner, they use your drivers license suspension to prevent you from demanding a trial.

I wrote this motion to challenge this legal problem and to make sure you get a written record to force the clerk to release the hold when the judge says so (some court clerks will refuse to release a drivers license hold even after the judge in court has said they will).

Steps 6 & 7 listed at the top are self explanatory. And I am tired of writing.

If none of this works for you, you will have a perfect record for appealing several issues, including:  Denial of right to arraignment; denial of trial and due process; violation of the right to be presumed innocent, etc. If any of my recommended forms is denied (or refused), that may be the subject of an appeal.  If everything is denied, you have a ton of appealable issues. File a Notice of Appeal.

Related Articles:

How to File a Document with the Court Clerk;
How to Write a Petition to Vacate a Civil Assessment;
How Do Veh Code 40509.5 Drivers License Suspensions Work?

Instant Complete Warrant Search

Instant Complete Warrant Search

About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
This entry was posted in Civil Assessments, Fresno County, Going to Court, Los Angeles County, penal code, San Luis Obispo County, Santa Clara County, Solano County, Suspended Drivers License, Traffic Court Fines, Traffic Court Forms, Traffic Court Trials, Trial by Declaration, Vehicle Code and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

202 Responses to How to Fight a CA Traffic Ticket with a Civil Assessment & Failure to Appear. 2013 Update.

  1. Lina Thompson says:

    Hello. I am hoping you can help me.
    I- received a speeding ticket.
    -I appeared before the judge and asked for a reduced fine. It was granted and divided into 2 payments. I paid the first half that day 1-10-14
    -My second payment was due 2-10-14. I did not make the payment.
    -On 2-28-14 the court mailed out a FTP warning notice
    -On 3-1-14 (ONE DAY LATER) they imposed the $300 civil assessment.

    According to PC 1214.1 I have 10 calendar days to pay this or appear at court. I obviously was not given that right.

    Do I have a case for dismissal of this $300 assessment?

    P.S. I paid my balance of my traffic fine but not have paid the $300.

    • Lina,

      This situation is exactly why I wrote and sell the forms in my Failure to Appear self help forms package.

      You might want to 1) file a petition to vacate the civil assessment, and 2) a motion under penal code section 1214.1(d) based upon the failure to comply with the 10 day warning requirement in PC 1214.1(b).

      Forms link:

      You do not have to buy my forms. You can write them yourself.

      Check the court’s web site for their local “Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment” form. They may not have one (some courts do), but if they do, you have to use it. If not, use my petition template or write your own.

  2. David says:

    I want to add the lady on the phone at the court was very rude. Said I had no options other than to pay. Then when I tried to express my rights she hung up. I have received NOTHING from the court on this citation.

  3. David says:

    Here in Sonoma County the traffic division is presided over by a court commissioner, I believe. It is definitely not a judge. Also, how can I get a trial for an infraction? Since 1968 California does not allow jury trials for infractions.
    I bought the packet for $50.00. Does it matter if I have paid anything to the court for the violation? 2 minor violations and the court collector says I have to pay $1139. Two civil assessments of $379 each. I’ve paid them all but $389. Will this still work for me?

    • David,

      Rule #1 of dealing with a failure to appear case is “Do try to solve it over the phone.” You cannot get a trial on a traffic citation after a failure to appear over the phone. You either have to go to the court in person and request a trial in person, or you have to request it by mail, in writing, and probably post bail.

      There is no jury trial for a traffic infraction. You do have a right to a court trial, which means judge only.

      However, depending on what the court did in your case, you may have lost your right to trial. I cannot tell.

      Depending on who you paid, you may have already admitted guilt. Maybe not. If you paid a collection agency, they may not have even told the court anything yet. If you paid the court directly, you may have already plead guilty even if you don’t know it.

      If you posted partial bail to the court, then you have a right to a trial still. I can’t tell whats going on here.

      If this were my own case, I wold probably go there in person, see if I could get a walk in arraignment, and then plead not guilty to everything and demand a trial. If I could not go in person, I would do it in writing. You can use my form for “Demand for Trial After Civil Assessment” but adding in your own info. Whether or not the court grants you relief is something that depends on your facts, and something I cannot predict for you.

      But I wish you luck!

      Your drivers license is probably suspended. Contact the DMV right not to check the status of your license right now. Then go to the courthouse in person. That is your best shot at getting something done today. Maybe file the demand for trial in person? Maybe get a court trial date set?

  4. Magesh says:

    Hi, I got a speeding ticket when I visited SF from LA in February 2011. And as I was waiting for my ticket to arrive at my address, I had to leave the country on a short notice of a week by my employer for some important work reasons (Have proof on exit out of country). Hence I left even before I could get my ticket (incl. fine amount and court appearance date). And the worst part is that I lost my ticket during the move out of US. So I didn’t have any record of my citation number to look up for payment and didn’t know the county. Further in California, the online website doesn’t have an option to lookup for the citation number using my driving license number or SSN. So the only option was to call up the court. I tried to call up the SF court using Skype from my home country and used to be on the call queue somewhere at 45th position. Unfortunately Skype, for some reason, resets the call every 1 hour even in paid subscription. So after waiting for an hour, the call will get disconnected automatically after which if I call again, I’ll be again the last person in the queue on the phone. So I wasn’t able to get the citation number until I came 2 months back to US. I immediately called up the court and got the ticket details. I found that my license was suspended due to FTA and as obvious, a civil assessment fee of $300 has been added to my speeding ticket.
    What are my options?
    P.S. : I am totally fine to pay the ticket fine amount but I feel that the civil assessment fee isn’t something I deserve since the circumstances ( relocating out of country) wasn’t something I can help even though my intention was never to evade the fine or law.
    Looking forward to hear from you

    • Magesh,

      This is a common problem.

      I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your statement “I left before I could get my ticket” makes zero sense.

      You got the ticket when the officer handed it to you and asked (forced) you to sign it. Your deadline to either pay the fine or show up in court was (most certainly) written right next to your signature.

      The court in CA is not required to send you anything after you get a traffic ticket. Nothing. You could have waited for 10 years, went to mars, came back and set a walking record to Russia in flip flops – you still would not have an argument.

      The fact that the court did not mail anything to you is not a defense nor an excuse.

      If you did not know your court date, and did not know what court the case was in, it is because you did not read the citation with your signature on it.

      Next, I have to tell you that you wasted your time calling the court. There is nothing you can get done om a traffic citation by telephone. Even if a human did answer, they would not have helped you solve the problem.

      No way to look up your fine amount (bail) on line? Ha! You are a victim of one of the many crappy courts in California. Too bad you were not in a nicer county when you got this ticket – like san diego or ventura. In ventura, you could have looked everything up in seconds and paid online.

      in San Francisco County? Alameda County? You are screwed. Those courts make no effort to help the public get online access to criminal and traffic court case details. They dont understand the internet like they do in San Diego.

      What can you do now? Well, seeing how I do not see any defense here, I would just recommend or suggest that you do to the courthouse in person and pay the fine and civil assessment in full. Realistically, that is your only real option. The court is not screwing you. THis is your own fault. You did not read the citation. You lost the citation. You left and did not take care of it on time, because you did not read it and because you lost it. The court is not going to give you a break on these facts.

      Once you pay the court in full for the ticket, go to the DMV in person to get your drivers license reinstated. Take money with you. DMV will not do anything for you without money. Or will they? Bring $.

  5. Roxanne says:

    I have a ticket for driving without a licence and on that day they wanted proof of insurance I didn’t have the insurance card on me. The car insurance is in my son’s name So I now Have a ticket saying no proof of insurance correctable it says on it the ticket. My question is can I show the courts the insurance card which was valid for the day I was pulled over, that is in my son’s name for the vehicle I was driving or does it have to be in my name too. The car had insurance and registered but its all in my sons name on the day of the ticket. Can I use that as proof of insurance on the ca that day since its in his name not mine. If so What should I so now.

  6. Elizabeth Cronin says:

    Thank you for this site. While in the process of selling my car, someone blew through a red light and got caught via a camera. We thought the buyers were going to take care of it so I didn’t go to court. Got a default judgement, I paid the fine and they paid me back but didn’t clear up the ticket. At the time I didn’t care because I am a middle age mom that had nothing on my record. Well 2 minor accidents this year and now our insurance company is dropping me in a few weeks. An FYI for everyone, if you have a minor fender bender in a parking lot, pay them off don’t go through insurance. And when you have a minor accident, call your agent for advice not the claims department. If I had known to do this, I would have paid out of pocket.

    Your site gave me the info I need to try and clean this all up. And btw, I am a former attorney and if I don’t know what to do, God help the little guy. If we weren’t pressed for money right now, I definitely would be hiring an attorney. Instead I will see if you have forms form sponsors I can use and support you that way.

  7. Josh says:

    I have a question regarding a traffic ticket I got in CA, Los Angeles area. Problem is I live out of state and was just visiting LA at the time. I stupidly lost the ticket, and forgot all about it. 3 years has passed and I just got my 1st letter saying it’s now in collections! I know since I failed to show up that means I lost the case and I owe them money, BUT what confuses me is the court date and ticket was back in 2009, why are they JUST sending me a letter now in 2013 stating I missed my court date?? And living over 1,000 miles away from L.A surely doesn’t help finding out any info….
    Letter states:
    “As a result of your failure to appear on your citation, a civil assessement of up to $300 has been added to your unpaid bail. The LA superior court has notified the DMV of your failure to appear/comply.”

    What?? Okay, I know I failed to appear and therefore i LOST the case, thus I do owe them the money. I know that. But is there any way to keep my license but not have to pay the entire amount at once? (over $1,000). I can’t pay in person because I don’t live in CA, so my only options are calling over the phone. If I call the LA court-house, I assume they will direct me to the collection agency. If I call the collections agency, I dobut they will tell me the truth and since a collection agency has no jurisdicaton over my license, how would I go about setting up a “payment plan” to pay it off and keep my license at the same time (if this is even possible, or do they ALWAYS demand you pay it in full all at once??). Who do I call to get the correct information?? Call the DMV in Los angeles? Call the court-house in Los Angeles? Call the DMV in the state I live in? Or call the collection agency number on this letter?

    • Josh,

      I recommend that you get a free attorney case review form our local LA Attorney Sponsor, Mark Gallagher (Attorneygallagher(at) He may be able to fix this problem within a couple of days. Maybe.

      Every county deals with these cases differently. In los angeles county, I have had great success getting drivers license holds removed after appearing in person for an in person arraignment. But I am not going to LA for you, because I have plans to go fly my kites today (someone told me to go do that), and I therefore recommend that you contact and hire Mark to go to court for you if you can and if he says he can help. He is very good with these cases. But you have to pay him to go to court. For you. In Los Angeles.

      Otherwise, if you cannot go to court yourself in person, I’d say just suck it up and pay. There is no realistic way to get relief by mail or phone.

  8. Help! says:


    I’ve read almost all the comments and your responses to see if my problem could have been possibly listed, no success.

    I’ve received a citation for cvc14601.1(a) and cvc 21631(a) on April 2012. My promise to appear court date was for June 2012. Around the 1st week of May I contacted the court because I did not receive a courtesy notice yet. The clerks(spoke to a few in traffic and criminal just in case) informed me that the officer still has not filed the citation and to keep checking back up until the court date. I did just that, up until the morning of my alleged court date. Everytime I called until that June date the clerks informed me that the officer still has not filed. As of my scheduled court hearing date in June the clerks told me to stop calling that there was no need and assured me they will send out a courtesy notice and that the officer has up to a year to file my citation. I still continued to call just in case for like another month, still nothing. Also, everytime I called I asked if they can note somewhere that I have been calling, every clerk I spoke to assured me they would(BS). Here’s the big part— I received a letter of Decision And Notice Of Decision in the mail Jan 20, 2013, indicating that I FAILED TO APPEAR IN COURT. (What??!) Where was my courtesy notice I’ve been calling about for the last several months??

    The letter is as stated:

    Our records indicate that you failed to appear in Court or pay your fine within the time period required by law. Previously notified, the Court deemed your failure to appear as an election to proceed with your original charge(s) by a Trial by Declaration in Absentia(CVC 40903).
    ……(so on)
    The Court, having considered the Notice to Appear filed with the Court, finds the defendant guilty of violating section(s)
    CVC 14601.1a CVC 21651a
    ….. and so on. I’m sure you get the point.

    Now, I would like to add that the address listed on the notice is an incorrect address, the court missed the apt#., but on the citation the apt# is listed. Also, I did not receive any courtesy notices, no letters, no nothing besides this fail to appear notice. I contacted the court and explained everything to them. The clerk told me I had 3 options. (1)I can pay the fine, (2)I can pay the fine and then request for a court date, or (3)have it sent to collections and pay the fine with another $300 added to the amount and have my license suspended. They gave me until Feb 11th to make my decision. What is beyond me is that they would suspend someone’s license and expect them to pay a bill they can’t get to work to make the money for(???). Please help!!! I’ve been duped. I need my license for work. I also plan to plea “not guilty”.
    I hope I did not leave anything out. If so, let me know.

    Richmond Superior Court(contra costa county)

    • Help!

      Ugh… Too bad you didnt show up in person on or before the deadline listed on the citation next to your signature.

      The court is not required to send you a courtesy notice. You should get a big bag of nasty dogchit and mail to the dude who told you to wait for the court to mail some thing.

      Sounds like you failed to read the citation that you signed.

      There is nothing I can do to help you. You are guilty. The court had a trial without you, because you mistakenly thought the court was required to mail something to you.

      All I cna do is help the people in the future avoid this problem:


  9. baffled says:

    Hi Christopher,

    I’ve read just about every one of these posts and did not find an exact answer so I’ll risk ridicule to ask. I went to Walnut Creek court in July ’12 for a warning to change my address with the DMV. I left the court, changed my address with the DMV assuming this was what the judge had told me to do. I received a letter at the beginning of February forwarded from an old address saying I owed about $670 in fees and a civil assessment (post marked after the notice date mind you.) This was for a failure of comply, apparently I missed a court date in September!! I filed a motion to vacate civil assessment but they told me I had to pay the fine in full first (which I cannot do) then they might refund it. So I spent the whole day typing a motion to dismiss in the interests of justice and the clerk refuses to file it because “It’s too late.” Is she wrong? She was incredibly rude on the phone and spoke some california rule of the court really fast and told me she was going to hang up on me because she had other people waiting. How can I have my motion judged if no one will file it? Please help.
    Thank you…

    • Baffled,

      I see you cleverly used a fake name.

      Honestly, it sounds like your case is over.

      I cannot tell what happened when you went to court. Did you plead guilty and get sentenced to a fine? Did you plead “Not Guilty” and get a trial date assigned?

      I cannot tell.

      And if what you truly got was a “warning” as you put it, why did you go to court? I am sort of baffled by that part.

      I suspect what actually happened was that you received a real citation, with a real alleged violation which was “correctable” for a certain period of time. Is that what happened?

      If you plead guilty and were sentenced to pay a fine, you’re screwed and the case is over. You just have to pay. It is too late to file a motion to dismiss once you plead guilty. There is nothing to dismiss, you have already been convicted. Case over.

      A motion to dismiss is normally used to try to dismiss a pending case.

      In this scenario, the date the court claims you missed would probably be the deadline to pay the fine in full.

      Now, it is different if you went to court and plead “not guilty”. If you plead not guilty, and the court set a trial date, you were required to show up for the trial. If you did not show up for the trial, and they had the trial without you, you probably lost the trial. If that happened, your case is over. So I guess it is really not that different that if you plead guilty. Case is still over.

      …. if they had a trial without you, you do have the option of requesting a trial de novo (using the judicial council form). But if you were in court at the time the judge announced the trial date, it is unlikely they will give you a new trial.

      When does a motion to dismiss work best? Examples: 1) you cannot attend your trial due to active military service out of country; 2) you have proof that you are the victim of identity theft and that they have the wrong person; 3) you finally did get that medical marijuana recommendation and you want to take care of that 5 year old warrant for failure to appear on a possession charge; 4) you are charged with a failure to appear and you have proof that you did in fact appear; 5) you missed your arraignment because you were hit by a bus and permanently disabled; 6) you are charged with driving with expired registration tags but the vehicle belonged to your employer; 7) the court says you did not pay a fine on time and you have proof you paid on time; 8) the officer’s writing of the violation statute is completely illegible; 9) you could not show up for your traffic court arraignment because you are in jail;

      Other Examples Where it can be used but will only work if you can convince the judge it is in the interests of justice to help you with kindness:

      10) you are a single mother who just became homeless and unable to go to court because your baby’s father stole your car and got it impounded;
      11) you are disabled and unable to appear in court;
      12) you have proof of correction that you want the court to accept late without you having to go to court;


      My favorite: court failed to send notice of decision on trial by declaration in absentia as required by law and court failed to send defendant 10 day warning notice of civil assessment as required by Penal Code section 1214.1(b)

      How about:

      “The cop wrote down the wrong address.” NO
      “I moved” NO
      “The court did not send me a courtesy notice” NO
      “I have 7 kids” NO
      “I have a sick relative to care for” NO
      “I moved out of CA” NO
      “I lost my job” NO
      “My house was foreclosed” NO
      “I dont have that car anymore” NO
      “That was my moms car” NO
      “I thought my mom paid my insurance” NO
      “My mom tinted my windows” NO
      “I did not see the cop” NO
      “He would not show me the radar” NO
      “I cant afford to pay” NO
      “I was there but I got scared and left” NO

      But dont take my word for it. A good defense attorney would try everything.


        Mail 2 copies of the motion to the court clerk with a letter requesting filing, or a written rejection with the legal basis for the rejection. Send it via US Postal Service with a tracking number required. Include a self addressed stamped envelope. Ask for a file stamped copy to be returned for you. Follow up in writing. File a Notice of Appeal on the issue of refusal to file a motion if necessary. But usually, if you follow this procedure, you will get a written response.

  10. Arwa says:

    Hello Christopher,

    I just want to start off by thanking you on behalf of everyone here as your information is very valuable.
    I am reaching out to you to inquire about a few things and explain my issue:Back in 2008, I was given a ticket for crossing onto the carpool lane, I went to the window of the court and made a payment arrangement,hence pleading guilty. Recently I went to the DMV to obtain a drivers license,however I was told my driving privileges were suspended for failure to pay/failure to appear. I was completely shocked, so I called the court and apparently I now owe 425 dollar, I couldn’t understand because I made multiple payments on that ticket until they told me that a civil assessment was added.
    I honestly thought I made all my payments but he told me that i failed to pay $100, I know this sounds cliche but I never received a warning from the DMV, that is the truth. Maybe because i moved,i’m not sure,but i requested all my mail to be forwarded. I proceeded to ask for a time to see the judge and they gave me February 28th at 8:30AM,after having to hear the man on the phone try to convince me to not to do that for 15 minutes,which I found extremely odd. My question is what is this type of court considered to be, what can I do there?It’s not a trial, is it?I just wanted to talk to the judge. Can I pay the $100 that i owe and have the civil assessment waived?Could you guide me in the right direction?I would really appreciate it. Thanks for all your help.

    • Arwa says:

      I forgot to mention that it never went to collections.

    • Arwa,

      Sounds like your case is over. Your right to a trial is long gone.

      The judge might probably (I dont know for sure) think like this:

      “You pleaded (pled) guilty. You were sentenced to pay a fine. You could not pay the fine all at once, so the court gave you an installment payment plan. The payment plan had a deadline. The court thinks you did not pay as ordered. You do not have proof that you did pay in full by the deadline. No problemo. Your case is over. Thanks for coming.”

      There’s nothing the court can do about your dispute with DMV. All the court can really do is tell DMV whether or not you paid as ordered. In this case, the court told the DMV that you did not.

      Can you talk the judge into giving you a break? Is it worth the effort and frustration, given the risk?

      If this were my own personal case, there is no way in the world I would go to a court like OC Westminster to try to save $300. LA Metro? Hell no. Oakland? ha!

      Just pay ASAP.

      Unless . . . the case is in San Luis Obispo, Monterey, or some other beach side court with free parking and no traffic. Then you might want to go even if there is only a 5% chance you can get it done.

      The point here is that the odds are probably against you. How much effort you should put into it is a math problem whose solution depends upon the cost, frustration, and likelihood of success your adventure will produce.

      Do you have to miss a day of work to go?

      After the case is resolved fully with the court, you probably have to go to the DMV in person to get your drivers license reinstated and to pay a reissuance fee. The suspended drivers license will not get reinstated automatically.

      • andrea says:

        lmfao… If this were my own personal case, there is no way in the world I would go to a court like OC Westminster to try to save $300. LA Metro? Hell no. Oakland? ha!

        that is funny, I almost spit my coffee out

  11. Brandon says:

    I was written a speeding ticket for what looks to be 82mph in 65mph zone. I show up early on the date on my ticket thinking I will be going to court to plea and be given my fine. I am sent to the clerks office where she tells me I can pay the ticket and I should have had something come in the mail showing my amount due. I see that the officer wrote my old address and not my new address written on the back of my DL. I think he even asked me where i was going and if that was my correct address which i responded by telling him i moved recently and my new address is on the back. So I tell her i did not get anything because the address your telling me you sent it to is no longer my address. I then ask if I can be seen in court that morning and she tells me I have to set up a court date if I want to come in and that she would update my address so I would get the fine in the mail. I sign for the changes made, now understanding was a promise to appear, and the new date thinking that I will get the fee in the mail or go in to court on the date given. After not getting anything in the mail, now realizing that I miss understood the process, I go into court the morning of the date I was given. Well my fault, I work for AAA road side assistance ERS mid day -12 at night, I did give extra time for traffic but not enough I was 10mins late and they would not allow me in. I waited untill court was out and was told to go tell the clerk to see if I could be rescheduled. The clerk tells me I will be sent a notice and when I get it I can fight to get a second attempt at the court or pay the new fine. I now have to notice and read everything about this nice $300 fee they tagged on. I have obtained the civil assessment petition and have to turn it in tomorrow. I was just curious if you can give any tips other that not make the mistakes I have so far.

    • Brandon says:

      Palo Alto Courthouse Thank you

    • Brandon,

      Honestly, it sounds like you are guilty. There may not be much point in working on it.

      If you signed a citation that listed the wrong address for you, it’s your own fault. You have to make sure the information about you listed on a citation is correct before you sign it.

      And even if you did sign it with the wrong address because the officer forced you to (which I would have a hard time believing), the correct thing to do would be to send the court a notice of change in address to make sure you received anything they sent out.

      It sounds like you did everything right, except show up for your court appearance. I cant tell if you had a trial or an arraignment scheduled.

      Normally, if you show up in court on the date listed on your citation you can plead guilty in person at the clerk’s window. No court appearance required if you go on time and want to plead guilty. Just walk up to the court clerk’s window and say “I want to end this case today”.

      Unless you were charged with a misdemeanor of some sort. Then a court appearance would be required. But for just an infraction, you can plead guilty and pay by mail, in person at the court clerks window, or even on line in most CA counties. THere is no need to wait for anything in the mail.

      I’ve got some bad news. Your drivers license might be suspended. Hopefully not. But you should not drive at all until you speak with someone at DMV and confirm the status of our drivers license as of right now.

      If it is suspended, you will need to end the case, and then go to the DMV in person to pay a reissuance fee before your drivers license can be reinstated.

      The petition to vacate civil assessment may work for you if you were really there at the courthouse and they would not let you in. But they should have sent you a 10 day warning notice of the civil assessment as required by Penal Code section 1214.1(b).

      What was your defense to the speeding charge again? Did I miss it?

      Palo Alto courthouse? 10 minutes late? I know what happened. You got confused as to which door to use, right? That place is screwed up. The front door is permanently locked. The public entrance is actually a tiny little loading room door in the back of the courthouse. It’s very strange there. The first time I went there, I tried and tried to get in that big ol front door. You know – the one that looks like a real courthouse main entrance. I waited, no one came. Door was locked. I looked in the window, saw some people, but no one opened the door. Finally I got frustrated, and decided the place was closed. I tried to leave. I made a good faith attempt, could not get in, and decided to just go home and fill out some billing slips. Then my car would not start. I have no idea why, but it just died right there in the court’s 2 hr parking. I was stuck there for more than 2 hours. When the tow truck came, magically, the car started and ran fine. No tow truck needed. It was very strange.

      But while I was waiting for the tow truck, I ACCIDENTALLY discovered that the real entrance to the Palo Alto Courthouse was in the back of the building, on a lower level. A tiny little single door in the back of a giant courthouse. very odd. It caught my eye because there were people going in, and there was a little paper sign that said “law library down stairs to left”.

      I was able to get into court that day on the 1:30 calendar instead of the 8:30, but I had to wait a few hours. Moved the car to permanent parking just in case.

      While I was waiting for 1:30 court to start, I tried to go down and check out that law library in the basement. Know what I found? A sign that said “Closed.” permanently closed law library. In a courthouse.

      It was a strange day. Ever since then, I have warned many, many people about the palo alto hidden entrance door. And many people have thanked me after going.

      Maybe that problem can help you?

  12. Carla D says:

    I wanted to share with others how successful my experience was with The Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment with Declaration in Support. The Traffic Court on Homestead Rd. in Santa Clara County is the court.

    I had received a ticket for no tags for not passing smog. I had missed the court date and went in to schedule one. I found out the ticket was $285 and the civil assessment fee was $300.

    While I was there trying to fill out their Petition, I just didn’t know what legitimate reason to list, as “I didn’t receive notification” isn’t convincing. They told me go ahead and fill out the form at home and put it in the night drop box, and it will be marked a received that day.

    I went home and found your website, and downloaded the form. I added my name to it and customized it. I stapled it to their one page, lame, Petition to Vacate, not really filling it out, just attaching it with a “see the attached document”. I dropped it in the night drop box.

    (I appreciate knowing not to try to fill out their form, but to instead attach it to theirs. Their form was very restrictive and ominous like they were motivated to say no automatically.)

    I realized afterwards I had not customized a few of the fields where it says on the form “Insert Your Name Here”. So I figured the court could tell the form was from a person as opposed to a lawyer, and perhaps they would laugh at it with my mistakes. I didn’t expect it to work, I thought I would have to ask the judge when I went to court.

    About a week or so later, and before my court date, I received a letter from the court telling me my request was granted, the $300 civil assessment fine had been removed!! I did not even have to speak to anybody!! It was fantastic.

    I went to court later with proof I had sold the car and I paid a $25 dismissal fee. While in court, other people asked the judge to vacate the assessment, and every single one was denied. It was brutal, the judge flatly denied every request, saying when you sign the citation you agree to appear whether you receive notice from the court. I felt so sorry for them! I was sitting there already knowing my request had been granted.

    $300 for a mistake is ridiculous, especially in this economy. I may just have to stand in the court parking lot and tell people – get your case continued, and submit your petition. You have nothing to lose!

    Thank you so much for this website, for truly understanding the law and making it your passion to help others. I am so grateful.

  13. Anthony says:

    So the balance i owe the GC services there’s no way i could get my license back for just driving to work with the balance not paid in full?

    • Anthony,

      You do not owe GC Services anything. You owe the court. GC Services is just a for profit middle man collection agency. They call you about the court bill, then 30 seconds later, they call someone else about a bad check to PG&E, then they call someone else about a pay day loan, and then they take their 7.5 minute break, walk out of their cubicle and smoke a cigarette and practice their profit making scripts before calling the next 30 suckers. That is my opinion, which is not based on facts I have personal knowledge of.

      Deal with the court directly. Do not attempt to solve this problem by phone. If you want the best result, go to the courthouse in person, deal with the court clerk in person.

      Sadly, I must say that if you have already been convicted and sentenced, there is no way that I know of to get your drivers license hold released before full payment, unless you can get a new payment plan from THE COURT CLERK (EMPLOYEE OF THE STATE OF CA, not a collection agency).

      That is my defense attorney opinion. Dont trust anything a GC Services or Alliance employee tells you about your rights in court. They are not court employees, they have not been to law school.

  14. Anthony says:

    Is there anything i could do if my license is being held by failure to pay?

    • Anthony,

      Great question. Very simple. People have this questions a lot.

      A “Failure to Pay” case (in CA Vehicle Code 40508(b)) is different than a “Failure to Appear” (Veh Code 40508(a)).

      A Failure to Pay means you have already been convicted. You no longer have the right to a trial. You have already been sentenced. Your case is over.

      With a Failure to Appear case, there has been no trial yet. Defendant is still presumed innocent. Still has the right to cross examine witnesses, still have the right to subpeona witnesses, etc.

      With Failure to Pay cases, you are screwed. They are over. Cannot be reopened. Especially if you lost a trial. Double especially if you plead guilty.

      There are some exceptions in criminal law. It is some times possible to recall a guilty plea – but not in traffic court.

  15. Unhappy Customer says:

    I had a lighting equipment ticket that I failed to get signed by the date due. The ticket was issued in April and now in October is the first time I received a notice from the debt collection agency and saw online that I had a FTP notice against my account.

    I had not received any notices, which may or may not have been sent to an old address. The thing is that I had told the cop that the address was not the most recent one and when he handed me the ticket he did not mention that I needed to contact the courts and change the address.

    Will the mentioned procedures help with the Santa Clara Court? I went in today to talk to a clerk and he said that there was nothing that could be done once the case is handed over to the collection agency. Is there anything I can do to at the least get the assessment revoked since I was not aware of any fine being levied in the first place? The clerk said they are under no obligation to send notices and the original ticket is all that is required by law.

  16. aron says:

    i have one FTA and the court put a hold on my license, but the DMV hasnt suspended it yet. my question is if i go to the court to enter a not guilt plea and post the bail will they stop the hold on my license?

    • Mohan Shah says:

      Yes, Once you post the bail you can set a court date and go for arraignment & then trial or you can file trial by written declaration with your bail so you can get two shot at winning your traffic ticket. Court should release your license and FTA. Make sure you verify with court clerk when you pay the bail. You can also verify by requesting DMV report online for $2.

  17. Melissa Burkett says:


  18. Cody says:

    Mr. Dort.

    I got a 7 year old judgement overturned where I failed to appear. I used P.C. 976 to attack Subject Matter Jurisdiction. Although the court may go to trial in absentia, it may not simply do away with arraignment. I believe 40903 (Which in your article appears as 40503) should only be applicable to failure to appears for TRIAL and not for arraignment. Please contact me at if you would like to talk more about it. Thank you.

    • Cody,

      Sounds interesting.

      1. What kind of judgment?
      2. Which courthouse?
      3. What method did you use to get the court to review your argument? a) petition b) in person arraignment c) motion d) appeal ????

      Tell us the details.

      • Cody says:

        Mr Dort,
        I was sent a collection notice from GC services for an amount owed to Nevada County Superior Court. The NCSC never actually entered a judgement into the record and the docket also did not show an civil assessment. The court clerk apparently just closes the file when a failure to appear occurs and sends the case to collection without even entering a judgement.

        I filed to motion to declare amount owed to be void as there was no judgment or in the alternative declare the missing judgment void for lack of both Personal and Subject Matter jurisdiction. The court ruled that there was a judgment, but also that the judgement was void.

        Section 976 of the Penal Code requires all defendants to be arraigned. The arraignment is necessary to comply with “Right to notice” and if not done should strip a court of SMJ. Also the arraignment is needed to bring the defendant under “In Personam” jurisdiction. Signing a ticket on the side of a road is not a voluntary appearance, nor is the ticket a summons.

        Also if there is no plea there is no Subject Matter Jurisdiction because the court needs to try a controversy, IE two people saying different things, State says Guilty, Defendant says Not Guilty, now the court has a contest to hear. No plea = No justiciable issue.

        Since Subject Matter Jurisdiction is never waived I simply filed the motion to declare void in the original case that was 7 years old.

        • Cody,

          My response is:

          Yea, you got the problem alright. You understand. That actually is a good argument. Sort of makes sense. About halfway makes sense.

          A Signed Judicial Council Form Traffic Citation in CA is, as a matter of law, a summons. You are sort of ignoring that part of the settled law. But it’s ok. Keep going on that thread.

          I doubt you will find a judge that will dismiss all failure to appear cases where there is no in person arraignment.

          Maybe. Maybe there is something to build from here.

          Let us know what happens. Post your motion if you want others to have access.

          If it does not work, your strategy would give you access to a federal court appeal, I think. You can keep fighting for years probably.

          Instant Complete Warrant Search
  19. Luke Brockman says:

    Hello Mr Dort

    I have about 14 FTAs for driving on suspended. the total owed to richmond court is 0ver $15 thousand. i get letters from collections all the time. i got the tickets from 2009 till present. can you please help me ??
    thanks Luke B

    • DortLaw says:

      [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="468" caption="Instant Complete Warrant Search"]Instant Complete Warrant Search[/caption]


      I’ve got some bad news. If you have 14 citations, even if you resolve all of the cases, you will have way too many Negligent Driver Points on your record for a valid drivers license. I think. Probably. Maybe. Probably.

      This breaks the record. I once had a guy with 7 in the same court.

      But with this kind of problem – there is very little that can be done. Judge wont give you any breaks. You dont have any due process problems.

      Unfortunately I have to say I cannot help. Your days of driving legally are probably over for a while. All I can say is pay, get proof you paid – then – go to dmv in person to try and get them to reissue a new drivers license.

      14? How in the world???? I want to say that you are a horrible driver and should not drive anyway (which is what everyone is thinking), but I know from my experience that most of those are probably started by a registration sticker problem – right? “Rollin PC” as we call it. What’s “Rollin PC”? Same thing as “Rollin Kilog” but the PC means “probable cause” instead of a kilo.

      Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

      Free Attorney Case Review from

  20. Marco Belmonte says:

    Mr. Dort,

    I purchased “Failure to Appear Self Help Forms Package” and have started my fight with Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County. Even if I lose I already feel better just knowing that I didn’t take it up the you-know-what willingly. I even got to use your “you’re a clerk – clerks file – judges judge – so make sure this declaration gets filed so he can do his job and we can know you did yours” – or something that sounded like that ;-)

    Here is my question. You say above, “do all these things at the SAME time” – but I’m only on #1 and don’t I need to wait for a response to do #2?

    Thanks for your website and materials! Best $50 I ever spent. I even got a credit card for one purpose only – to pay the bail amounts and make them work to get my money!

    - Marco

    • Marco Belmonte says:

      Never mind, I realize now you really do mean file them all at the same time…

      Yay, now you don’t have to insult me! ;-)

    • DortLaw says:

      Instant Complete Warrant Search


      Thank you for the kind words! I truly hope you get some relief. Dont be afraid to use the forms as a basis to learn the law and come up with your own ideas. You have have an idea I did not think of yet.

      You should also know that by fighting – even if you get screwed and lose every single argument – you are a part of a collective movement to stop injustice!

      • Mohan Shah says:

        Yep. Thank You, Mr. Dort for helping innocent people of california from the “so called” People of the california.

    • Marco Belmonte says:

      Just wanted to give you and everyone an update – maybe documenting this process will be helpful for future visitors?

      I accomplished everything listed in the above blog post, but did it all by registered mail including a copy of the signature sent to me upon delivery. I got both signatures back so I know the court clerk for both the LA County and San Bernadino County got my “care package” ;-)

      Now, it’s been several business days and I have received nothing back from San Bernadino which I think is a good sign that my documents have been filed. I’m assuming all I can do in the meantime is wait for a response.

      BUT… the same day I got my receipt of signature from LA County I also got my documents mailed back to me with a cover letter saying “According to our records, your citation has not been satisfied. DO NOT contact the Court. Your case has been referred to a collection agency. For further information regarding this case, contact: GC Services, etc.”

      It is not signed with ink, but it does have two names at the bottom of the letter – one is the name of the Executive Officer Clerk and the other one is the Deputy Clerk.

      Is this response with this letter enough for me to file an appeal for a new trial or do I need an actual written and signed in ink response?

      In reality, I’m actually thinking that BOTH outcomes so far work in my favor – but I’m such a noob I might be smiling all the way to the gas chamber.

      - Marco

      • DortLaw says:


        Good work. Keep fighting.

        I do not know your situation. But if that is what you got from LA County – it sounds like a “failure to pay” problem, rather than a “failure to appear” problem. They are different.

        If you have a “failure to appear” problem (veh code 40508(b).) – your case has already been adjudicated and it is over. If you have a “failure to appear” problem, you have not yet had your right to a trial.

        For the LA case I would encourage you to go to the court in person and see what is going on in person. Ask the court clerk to show you the court file on the case.

        Not sure if that helps.

        If you need to appeal – just use whatever the court gives you.

        Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

        Free Attorney Case Review

    • Marco Belmonte says:

      Mr. Dort,

      I got a letter from the San Bernardino County Superior Court tonight! I was told that I must either file a Waiver of Arraignment/Trial Date Request and post bail amount of $673.00 OR…

      the court offered me an option of pleading guilty to 22349(a) speeding and 1214.1 civil assessment and they will dismiss one count of failure to appear 40508(a).

      They want $100 for the speeding ticket and $200 for the civil assessment and $35 installment fee (whatever that is) – combined total $335.00 and check this out! … payable at a rate of $25.00/month!

      I’m sure I don’t have to tell you or anyone else how much of a reduction that is compared to what I was facing and my motion for Court Notice to DMV was accepted because it wasn’t dismissed like my Motion to Dismiss Civil Assessment.

      I’ve got 30 days to write the court back – I’m going to take the offer since it feels like a win even though I’m pleading guilty. I’ll save the bail money for Los Angeles County since I have a feeling they won’t be nearly as merciful.

      I feel so empowered – thanks Mr. Dort – I’ll keep you and your readers updated on Los Angeles County. I refiled my original documents with a threatening letter to the clerk using the argument you suggest below to another person about filing a “Writ of Mandate in the Court of Appeal with the Superior Court Clerk listed as the Respondent, and ask the court of Appeal to Use their power to force the court clerk to perform their duty”, etc.

      If that doesn’t work – I will be heading down there in person like you’ve suggested.

      - Marco

      • DortLaw says:


        Sweet! The Motion to release the drivers license hold (which I made up one day after studying the issues) worked! Again! I am glad you got some relief. I wish I had a magic motion to get rid of the whole think for you.

        Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

        Free Attorney Case Review

        • Cody says:

          “I must either file a Waiver of Arraignment/Trial Date ” That is it right there. If there is no waiver of arraignment they cannot proceed to judgment. I would File a motion to declare judgment void due to lack of arraignment or waiver thereof. Site PC 976

    • Marco Belmonte says:

      Mr. Dort,

      I have an update I’d like to share – it’s quite unbelievable, actually – I’m so glad I knew what to do based on educating myself on your website.

      First off, I did in fact plead guilty for my ticket issued in San Bernardino and that has all worked out to my satisfaction – the hold taken off my license, the clerk’s office didn’t try and stop me from filing, a judge gave me a new trial if I wanted it and also offered me a deal (which I took) and $25/month to a reduced fee savings of $500 despite having the infraction on my driving record – well – it was all acceptable to me. I gotta say this, since I was so impressed by how they dealt with me – but the clerk’s at the Rancho Cucamonga court house were friendly, helpful and informative.

      Now, Los Angeles County – specifically the Alhambra Courthouse – should be the poster child of everything that you describe in your blog as dark and dirty. As you know from my above posting, I filed the exact same documents with Alhambra as I did with Rancho – but my first attempt was simply a generic letter (a long with my documents) saying that I had to deal with GC Services. You had written in several places that this should be expected – that some clerks offices’ would in fact try and defer their responsibility as public servants from filing and infer (incorrectly) that the only course of action was to deal with the collection agency – which in fact – as you also have pointed out – would result in an automatic guilty plea, points on my license and the maximum amount of money to be paid.

      So, as described above, I made a second attempt at getting my papers filed – but this time I attached a letter to the clerk’s office outlining my intentions if they refused to file my declarations and motions. Once again, as stated in an earlier post – I used the suggestion you gave to an earlier blog poster but changed it a bit to fit my scenario.

      So here is the good part. A week or more had gone by since I got the signature back from the post office showing me that the clerk’s office had received my documents and I had not heard anything. I knew they had the documents and I had not received them back nor had I been sent another generic letter saying I had to deal with GC Services so I felt those were both good signs that the clerk’s office had filed my stuff. So yesterday I came the Alhambra Court House a call. Specifically the Traffic Division. They have weird hours where they will only take your calls from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM. I called at 1:30 PM and the message was “we only accept called from such and such a time blah blah blah” – suggesting I was calling at the wrong time. So, I tried at 2:00 PM. Same message. WTF. So, I call the Criminal Court Clerk – located on the same floor, same place according to the website directory. One ring – clerk answers. I ask her if she can look up my case # and she tells me that is a traffic violation and I need to talk to the Traffic Court clerk. I tell her no one is there. She tells me she can see them and they are there. I tell her about the message and she tells me that message always plays and there is no queue and no “waiting time messages”, etc. Basically, if the clerk is on the phone – that is the message that plays – which is so freakin’ misleading and just leads to more frustration which I’m sure is designed for one thing – to DISCOURAGE CITIZENS FROM EXERCISING THEIR RIGHTS and to just give up and pay the court the money which goes to pay the fat pockets of uneducated Union Workers who get $100,000 pensions for putting pylons down on the highway (instead of the money being used to actually fix the road) – but I totally digress…

      Where was I? Oh ya – so – get this – the Criminal Court clerk puts me on hold and I wait for 15 minutes! I assume they were just hoping I’d hang up. Well, I didn’t… eventually, the clerk picks up again and tells me I should phone such and such a number – which was NOT THE NUMBER ON THE WEBSITE and is not a number I can find anywhere as being listed – but apparently it is a magic number because when you phone it you are instantly connected to the traffic court clerk… No phone message, no nothing – it rings and the clerk magically answers. LOL.

      So, I ask him (it’s a he this time) if he could give me a status on my filed papers based on the case ID. He tells me they have received my documents and that they are behind – which was fine – I just wanted to know they would get filed. He said they would probably be ready to file them by tomorrow (which is today as I write this).

      So, this morning my phone rings. Ready for this? Ready to have you freakin’ mind blown by just how much some courts are in bed with GC Services?

      It’s THE COURT CLERK FROM THE TRAFFIC OFFICE AT ALHAMBRA. The same one I talked to the day before. He tells me that he is the clerk which is “assigned” to filing my documents and that although they are taking my filing serious (because of the letter I sent – he stated that when he called me) that because I’ve been sent to collections my arraignment must done through GC Services. Well, fortunately for me, I read a lot of your blog and knew this was not true despite being a tactic the clerk sometimes uses. So, the first thing I did was tell them I was documenting the conversation. Then I told them I had already spoken with GC Services and had requested a court date (LOL – why not say that, right?) and that GC Services would only give me one option – to pay the $953 to clear my debt. At that point, the clerk said these words: “I’m only telling you what the judge will tell you…”

      I figured this was a good time to ask the question, “What would Mr. Dort do?” (as opposed to Jesus).

      “With all due respect, there is no one on this planet who can presume to tell me what the judge would tell me – neither GC Services or the public servant who acts as a clerk for the court – not even God Himself – but by making that statement you’ve clearly revealed the whole reason I’m filing my documents in the first place. Can I tell the judge that you’ve made this statement?”

      The next thing you know, the clerk launches into this long disclaimer that he has not offered me legal advice, that he doesn’t speak on behalf of the judge and that as a clerk his responsibility is to file EVERYTHING that is sent to the court. He then tells me that although the “proper” procedure is to go through GC Services – if they in fact aren’t doing their job and giving me an option to schedule an arraignment/new court date – then the only other option is to file my declarations/motions.

      You know what pissed me off the most, Mr. Dort – despite getting my way? That for the 20 or so minutes that this clerk was arguing with me was 20 minutes that all the other people trying to call in and deal with their citations were getting a crappy phone message suggesting that no clerk was actually in the office.

      Because they have been so slow, the date of my suspended license has now entered the “suspension” phase which is a major inconvenience. I’m 5o+ miles to work – 100+ miles round trip every day. Sure, it would be way easier to just pay Gestapo Court Services and have it all go away, but I’m prepared to put ropes on trees and swing the 50 miles to work if I have to rather than have these gangsters bend me over a park bench.

      Once again, thanks, Mr. Dort. Hopefully my next post will be my last post – and it will be a favorable outcome (which I realize is all relevant – lol).

      - Marco

      • Marco Belmonte says:

        Mr. Dort,

        Every day I check the Alhambra Court House website to see if there is a status update on my ticket. Tonight there was an update – and although I haven’t received the official response in the mail rest assured it is in the mail on its way to my address :-) Here is a screenshot showing my new trial date! September 13th, 2012! Notice it says I’ve been sent to collections but I also have a new trial date set?

        So that’s it from me, Mr. Dort – thanks for everything – I’ll never be ignorant about the law again – thanks for educating me – I hope others will get to experience the feeling of liberation that I feel right now… The bottom line is – I didn’t take it up the you-know-what…

        Not sure if you allow screenshots or links – I’ll post both – feel free to edit for one or the other or remove both it’s against the rules.

        Kind Regards,

        - Marco

        Link to Ticket Update for Alhambra Courthouse

        • DortLaw says:


          Good work! So what does that say about the collection agencies telling people they have no rights in court once the case is in collections? Do you feel like you have been lied to about your rights in court by a collection agency?

          • Marco Belmonte says:

            I was told that I had to pay GC Services and then I would get a new trial date! In reality – it would’ve meant that I plead guilty with NO CHANCE OF A NEW TRIAL.

            It WAS a lie!

        • Neese says:


          Wow! I read your posts like the latest page-turner. What finally happened at the new trial?

          • Marco Belmonte says:


            I’m happy to report that after it was all said and done, the officer didn’t show for the trial at Alahambra and the ticket was dismissed!

            So, in the end, because of this website and educating myself with Mr. Dort’s help – I got one ticket reduced to $25/month and the other was dismissed!

            - Marco

      • Cody says:

        I would never let them arraign me. If there is no arraignment there is no jurisdiction.

  21. Rocio says:

    I hope you can help me.
    In 2009 I got a fix-ticket for not having the current year sticker on my plates (the registration had been paid already) and I never took care of this. They suspended my license for a FTA and sent me to collections. They are charging me for not having paid my registration which I did (i just never sent the proof of this) instead of the fix-ticket plus the civil assessment. I know they are charging me the civil assessment since I did not take care of this on a timely manner, but it’s unfair that they are charging me for not having registration when I did. What can I do?

  22. T.T. says:

    Hello Mr. Dort,

    Any comments or suggestion you have would really help me out. I received a failure to stop citation on February. My court appearance was scheduled for April 16. However, I’ve been busy with work and had forgotten about the ticket and missed the court appearance date. In the past, I received a notification to pay the citation well before the court date. But this time, I didn’t received anything. I just received a letter from GC services with a balance due of $920. I think this is outrageous for a minor infraction. I called them and they said that there is nothing I can do other then pay the balance. They even said that my DL may be suspended, which I have not receive from DMV and I know they have my current address because my registration was mailed to my address several months ago. I think GC services scared me to the point that I actually made the payment today. If I pay the full amount now and hopefully check with DMV to see if they can re-instate my DL if it is not suspended yet. By paying the amount, will this tarnish my credit? Will I have a FTA warrant record?

    • T.T. says:

      Mr. Dort,

      After reading all the blogs and your responses (BTW, very educational and helpful for citizen who are not law savy like myself), I realize that I should not have made the payment to GC services and go to Alhambra Superior Court tomorrow and ask for a walk in court appearance or a new court date and release on the VC 40509.5 hold. I checked the court website today and there is definitely a hold which probably means a suspension notice soon from DMV. I was either too dumb or busy to have done all this before which really doesn’t take long (more like latter of the two). The court’s website shows a second appearance date of 5/8/12, which I had no idea about. Starting to believe that the court is sending notice (if any) to an old address because the officer who filled out the citation had two addresses written on the citation (one from DL and one from proof of insurance). The insurance one is the correct one which DMV also have.

      Should I call the credit card company and ask them to void the payment and continue the case through the court? I fear that this may take too long asking the court to lift the hold (if the court clerk can’t do it tomorrow and I have to wait for the court date, who knows when that will be); therefore risking the chance that I would be driving with a suspended license. Also, how will this (balance due) be addressed with GC services if I send them a dispute of debt?

      • DortLaw says:


        If you signed a traffic citation with an incorrect address on it – it is your own fault, not the cop’s mistake.

        If you already made a payment to GC services – you have actually pled guilty. It’s over. Probably.

        But you can always go to the court and try. To tell you the truth – I am not sure what would happen. It is unlikely GC Services tells the court about a partial payment from a defendant immediately.


        Unless you have an extra car you want to donate to the government and you have an extra $2000 lying around and you don’t mind doing 1 night of volunteer for at the county jail for your cell.

        Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

        Free Attorney Case Review

    • DortLaw says:


      The amount GC Services is claiming you owe is not a fine on a traffic violation. If is the fine on a traffic violation plus a fine for a failure to appear violation (VC 40508(a)).

      If you pay the collection agency (instead of going to court in person and taking care of the case correctly) – you are admitting guilt to everything in the file.

      You need to contact DMV right now to check the status of your drivers license. It is probably suspended. Then, once you do that – go to court in person and either give up and pay in person and get proof you paid in person – or work on getting a court date and a trial if you think you have a defense.

      But it does not sound like you have a defense. Nothing in that comment says “innocent” to me.

      If you pay GC Services – you are at their mercy in terms of when they notify the court of the payment and then when the court notified DMV of the payment and then when DMV takes the hold off of the drivers license.

      I – personally – if this were my case – would go to court in person right now.

      Or …. or you can hire an attorney to do the work for you correctly.

      Once you get the drivers license hold released, you need to go to DMV in person to get a new drivers license reinstated. It will not happen automatically.

      Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

      Free Attorney Case Review

  23. Nick says:

    I received a traffic ticket in California (Palo Alto) over 2 years ago (while visiting, before I lived there). I did not try to contest the ticket and paid it through the mail (or… at least thought that I had paid it). After that, I thought no more of it.

    Now, 2 years later and now that I have moved to California (and gotten a job here), I have received a letter for wage garnishments from my employer, with the county claiming that the ticket was never paid. With all the extra fees, the cost has more than tripled that of the original ticket.

    I showed up to the Palo Alto court house and talked to the clerk today, and she advised me that there is nothing that can be done (and no chance to appeal).

    I have no proof that I ever tried to pay the original ticket (the check that I wrote was never cashed, it seems. Although at the time, I never noticed). All of the notices that the county sent me were sent to an old address and I never received them.

    I’d be happy to pay the original cost of the ticket, but do I have a case for appealing all of the extra fees, on the grounds that I was never notified (or at least, received notice) that I was being asses these?


    • DortLaw says:


      This is actually a super common question. To answer, I will just give you the universal rules.

      1. If you do not have proof you paid, you did not pay;
      2. If you moved after getting a “promise to appear” (traffic ticket) and you did not notify the court of your new address, it is your own fault;
      3. Your drivers license is probably suspended. Contact DMV right now to verify the status of your drivers license. Do not drive at all until you do that. If you did not receive DMV suspension notices – it is probably because you failed to notify DMV of your current address at all times as the law requires.

      Browse Our Attorney Drafted CA Self Help Forms

      Free Attorney Case Review

  24. Mark Gallagher says:

    Anyone dealing with these issues in Southern California can feel free to contact me directly. I work with Chris Dort and I cover the courts in LA, OC, the inland empire and beyond. Every court is different so if you need info on how to fix your problem or want me to fix it for you call me at 800-797-8406 or email me at

  25. Alanna says:

    This has been so informative! Thank you!
    The clerk in Contra Costa told me I had to pay in full before she could accept my appeal for the civil assessment. If they approve me they would send me my money back? It sounds unconstitutional. This is for 2 speeding tickets & 2 FTP

  26. Jacob says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for your website. There is a lot of insightful information that is related to my case, but I’m not sure exactly where my case fits in nor how to proceed. Here are the facts. In September of 2011, I was a Pennsylvania resident with a PA driver’s license visiting family in LA County. I was pulled over by the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. and issued a ticket for going 45 in a 35. I went back home to PA and, like an idiot, lost the ticket and did nothing about it. I never received anything related to the incident in the mail in PA. As fate would have it, I am now in the process of moving to LA County. When I went to the CA DMV to apply for a CA license as a new resident (though I have lived in CA in the distant past), they would not issue me a license because I had an outstanding Failure to Appear and outstanding Failure to Pay on my record. I went to the Torrance LA Superior Courthouse traffic clerk’s office where they gave me the option of paying $900 to “make the whole thing go away” or paying $10 to temporarily remove the DMV hold on my license and also appearing in court in a few months. I chose the latter. I have decided to hold off on completing the driver’s license issuance process for the time being until I do something about these charges and get them taken care of.

    I have a few goals. 1. First and foremost, I don’t want anything on my permanent criminal or DMV records. (I am especially concerned about the Failure to Appear charge, which I have heard stays on your record if you are convicted.) 2. I am willing to pay something, but I am seeking substantially reduced fines. 3. I would like to remove any points from my DMV driving record and thus keep my insurance down. I am willing to do traffic school. 4. I want to close this matter ASAP and, again, have it completely gone from any of my records.

    Is it possible to get all of this removed from all of my records? Should I hire an attorney for $600? If I go it on my own, how should I proceed? In order to expedite the closure of the case, should I do a walk-in court date instead of waiting until my scheduled (“reappearance”) court date in August?

    Sincerely – thank you.

    • Jacob says:

      I’ll try rewriting this in a more concise, universal form that I think a lot of readers probably can relate to and benefit from:

    • Jacob says:

      Six months ago, I received a typical moving violation traffic ticket for going 10 mph over the speed limit in LA County. I made the mistake of doing nothing about it and neither went to court nor paid any fines. (I received nothing in the mail regarding the matter, but this, I have learned, is irrelevant, as the court is not obligated to notify you.) Trying to renew my license at the DMV the other day, I was unable to do so – because, I discovered, I had an outstanding Failure to Appear and Failure to Pay on my record. I went to the LA Superior Courthouse clerk’s office to attempt to clear this up. They offered me two options. I could pay $900 to clear all of this up and settle the matter. Or, I could pay $10 now to temporarily remove the hold from my DMV record. This would allow me to get my license renewed immediately. This second option was also accompanied by the scheduling of a court date in 5 months from now at which I must appear and plea my case. Not wanting to fork out $900, I chose the second option.

      Now what? Most importantly, I want all of this removed from both my permanent criminal and my DMV records. I also would like the $900 substantially reduced, I would like the option of doing traffic school to remove the moving violation from my record, and I would prefer to have this matter closed well before 5 months from now if that is possible. How should I proceed? Also, I have been quoted about $600 for an attorney to take care of the case for me. Given that the fines total $900, is it worth it to hire an attorney, or should I go it alone? Where do I go from here?

  27. Bill Alexander says:

    Also what happens if you win your traffic case but you lose the petition to vacate the civil assessment fine?
    Can you appeal the latter decision and how?

    Thank you very much beforehand.

  28. Bill Alexander says:

    My county’ Superior court states that once a 15 days period following a civil assessment notice has elapsed, a civil judgement will be entered against the defender.
    I am wondering whether the civil judgement is what gives the court the authority to add the $300 fine or is it a different thing.

    Further I understand that Alliance One can and do report the fine to the Credit bureaus, however can the civil judgment be reported to the bureaus as well? And if so, by whom? (i.e. Alliance One or the Court itself)

    • Bill,

      Good question. I’ll try to give an intelligent answer.

      What your county is talking about is the 10 day warning period required by Penal Code section 1214.1(b). They are giving you 10 days warning, and 5 days for service of the warning notice by mail.

      Yes, I believe once they add the civil assessment, give warning notice, and the warning passes, that part of the case can automatically become a civil judgment. But you have a right to challenge that judgement, just like any judgement using authority of penal code 1214.1(d). Read it.

      Then there is the question of the underlying, un proven allegations for which you are presumed innocent by law and for which you have a right to a trial. That right to a trial does not automatically disappear just because you got a civil assessment.

      The reason this works and makes sense is because of there is a signed promise to appear in the court’s file – and you dont show up – proving the failure to appear is a matter of looking at the court’s file. The evidence is all there.

      But the unproven allegations of the citation are a different matter.

      TO make the unproven allegations of the original citation a civil judgment without you, from a defense attorney’s point of view, the court must first treat your failure to appear as if it were a request for a trial by declaration. (Veh. Code 40503 I think off the top of my over burdened head).

      Then they must actually have the trial by declaration (without you), make a ruling on the trial by declaration, and then provide you written notice of that decision on the mandatory judicial council Notice of Decision on TBD Form.

      Then, after notice of the Decision, you get time to file a request for trial de novo following a trial by declaration. If you fail to request a trial de novo after a trial by declaration (with or without your own participation), on time, then the court can enter a judgement on the allegations of the citation without you.

      But – what I have seen in county from county – courts (or court clerks) skip the trial by declaration process for the underlying citation and just assume that adding a civil assessment means that you lose the right to a trial on the original citations.

      And that my friends, from a defense attorney’s point of view, is an illegal denial of due process and an illegal government taking. Your right to a trial cannot just disappear into the air. It;s like a chemistry equation: if there is a right to trial in the beginning, if it is not there at the end, you must be able to account for it or the equation has failed.

      Some courts do it totally right in my opinion. If you go ask for a trial, even after a civil assessment, even after submission to collections, they will give it to you. You have to show up in person and ask for it, and you may have to post bail, but they will give it to you.

      Some counties double screw people.

      To challenge the process in whole, you need to fight the civil assessment and demand a trial on the original charges separately.

      Yes, you can appeal an order denying a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment. You can appeal any order creating a judgment. But there are time limitations. And you need a written rejection or minute order to make it work. File a Notice of Appeal Form from the Judicial Council Web Site if you think the court make an error of law on your case.

      • Bill Alexander says:

        Wow, what a wonderful and insightful response. Thank you for shining some light for all of us laymen about the obscure workings of the courts.

        BTW my previous post was regarding an unknown red light ticket for which the civil assessment fee went into collections.

        I have indeed requested a trial for the original infraction. And submitted a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment. We’ll see how it goes, but I heard that almost all such petitions get denied.
        Hence I am preparing myself for the appeal process. However, I just don’t know how cumbersome this appeal might be? Which begs the question: Should I just deal with the Collection Agency and settle the fee?

        Truly the deciding factor would be: Can the court report the Civil Judgment on my credit report? I know alliance one reports the civil assessment to the bureaus, but in your experience, have you ever seen a civil judgment being reported under the “public records” section.

        I’d love to hear your answer, though I know (and respect) your feelings about the use of credit reports in Capitalist societies.

        Thank you.

    • Bill,

      Yes, the civil assessment is a civil judgment once entered by the court. It’s not really a “fine”. “Fines” comes with rights that you dont get with a civil judgment.

  29. E says:

    Hello Mr. Dort,

    My license is suspended due to failure to pay a 4000a violation. I paid the fine online,
    (and the registration is now current.) Is there anything else I need to do? Can the collections agency still force me to pay them?

    • E,

      I cannot tell who you paid. DMV? Court Clerk?

      You have to end the case with the court. Get proof you paid, get proof the case is over. Then, go to DMV in person.

      Once you end the court case, no, the Collection agency cannot force you to pay again. But beware!!!!!! over the last few years, in my made up false opinion, I have seen and possibly collected fake innuendo and possibly real evidence that they lie to people about the status of their case and they may sometimes try to trick you into repaying or paying their late fee that they cannot collect if you end the case in court. If it were me, I would never respond to a single attempt from them to contact me. Or sue them. You can sue them in small claims court for harassment if you think they have violated your right to privacy or the Fair Claims and Debt Reporting Act.

  30. KEVIN says:

    I went into West Covina Court to get the petition to vacate and they said its impossible and refused to give me thr form. This pisses me off. Im thinking of filing a class action lawsuit. Ill stand in front of the gc services window and collect signatures. Whos in?

    • Kevin,

      If they do not have a local form, write up your own. Or, use another county’s form, and scratch out the county name. If they refuse to accept it and file it, get proof you tried to file it (maybe a rejection letter), and file a Notice of Appeal based upon the denial of the right to a trial, and denial of your right under Penal Code 1214.1(d) to file and have heard a Motion to Vacate Judgement.

      Sounds like you are getting screwed. Then, if you really want to load for bear, file a Writ of Mandate in the Court of Appeal with the Superior Court Clerk listed as the Respondent, and ask the court of Appeal to Use their power to force the court clerk to perform their (her) administrative duties by accepting the Petition filing as your challenge as allowed by PC 1214.1(d). The refusal to file a PC 1214.1(d) challenge is an unconstitutional denial of due process provided specifically by statute, and therefore is also something you can sue for in Federal Court.

      If you want to sue the Superior Court for damages based upon an illegal government taking and denial of due process, you have to do it in Federal Court. But people sue state courts in federal court all the time – its a common thing.

      What they are really doing is preventing you from using the challenge allowed by law under PC 1214.1(d). And they dont want to spend money on listening to you in court.

      My brain just over heated.

  31. Sammy says:

    Thanks, Mr. Dort, for the info you provide!

    I have an FTA from July 2011. Currently facing 40509.5 hold as well as original VC 22349 (speeding) as well as a denied petition to vacate civil assessment (Sep 2011).

    My case has been sent to the Department of Revenue in Santa Clara County (Palo Alto courthouse) which apparently is the County’s collection arm. I went to court at 8:15AM today, as you suggest in your blog, and asked the Clerk for a walk-in appearance. At first he was open to it but said all the Judges are currently out of session until Dec 28 due to the Holidays. Then I mentioned my 40509.5 DMV hold that *begins tomorrow* and he said now it would not be possible for a walk-in date anyway b/c “the ‘code’ in the computer won’t allow lifting of the hold until [i] pay in full…” Clerk as gatekeeper. I explained to him this was my 2nd time in court seeing the Clerk to get a walk-in appearance and that this very fact should allow him to lift the DMV hold (since I’m in court and trying to see a Judge), but he said “it’s not done” in Santa Clara County; neither by the Clerk or the Judge b/c I am “guilty by Trial in Absentia” due to my FTA. I saw the Clerk before, in November, prior to case going to Department of Revenue and asked Clerk for a new Court date so that I could ask the Judge to spread out my payment, but she flat out denied me a Court date and told me to either come up with the payment in full asap or my case was going to collections.

    Do I have any recourse at this point? Since I’m “guilty” by Trial in Absentia (but have never plead guilty) is there any chance of me receiving a better resolution other than license suspension?

    • Sammy,

      If you lost a petition to vacate the civil assessment 2 months ago, your case is way, way, way, over. You just have to pay. I can suggest a whole lot of things that wont work, but you are not paying me to do that.

      What should you have done?

      Immediately upon discovering the case had a failure to appear charge, you should have filed a request for Trial De Novo to counter attack their Trial in Absentia crap. Then if you lost that, file a notice of appeal on the grounds that 1) they did not advise you of your rights; 2) they denied you the right to trial by not giving you notice of the trial in absentia date; 3) they denied you a trial by not sending you written notice of the trial in absentia decision on the required judicial council form (and thereby prevented you from knowing you have the right to a trial de novo); and then 4) demand an in person arraignment; 5) file a petition to vacate the civil assessment;

      And then appeal everything and waste as much of the county’s money as possible until you get some relief.

      But here, you waited too long. If you lost the petition to vacate months ago, you have no other arguments. You had about 20 days to file a notice of appeal, and you missed it by a couple of months.

      What should you do now? Pay it off completely ASAP and get proof you paid. Then go to the DMV in person to get your drivers license reinstated.

      • Sammy says:

        Mr. Dort,

        Update for you; I took your advice. At 1:48pm yesterday, I paid online (original $706 fee plus $15 ‘convenience’ fee) through the Department of Revenue [DOR] website thinking it was the safest option to record payment as made yesterday (suspension to take effect today). I personally took the DOR web receipt to the DOR building in San Jose just *20 minutes later* to make the Web receipt ‘official’ (stamped) and something the courthouse would accept. At the DOR, I was told the payment did not ‘show a zero balance yet’ in their system so they could not give me a receipt to show the Court. I had just paid online; made no sense. At 3pm, I went to PA Courthouse as a Hail Mary; they told me they could not notify DMV to lift impending suspension until the DOR system showed a zeroed out balance (even though I presented them the Web receipt from DOR’s own Website that confirmed payment earlier that day, full amount paid, and confirmation number). Apparently if you pay online, the DOR can “take up to two days” to process the payment. The Court said “we know you already paid today, but we can’t lift your hold yet until DOR tells us we can.” So I paid by the deadline, but b/c of the DOR’s antiquated “database system,” my license is suspended as of today anyway. I paid $2 on the DMV website and ordered an unofficial driver license report this morning to verify:



        DRV LIC SUSPENDED*EFF:12-21-11*ORDER MAILED:11-21-11*
        11-03-10 07-26-11 22349A VC 0291170 43460
        405095 VC

        Yep, suspended. Ramifications? Now I have to pay $55+ to reinstate license but more importantly, the suspension will show up indefinitely on my DMV record and affect my car insurance (SR-22, higher rates, etc). By tomorrow, the Court will most likely have notified the DMV to release the hold on my license; something that should have been done yesterday if not for the incredibly retarded DOR payment process. In previous blog posts you mention you have not seen successful expungement of DMV suspension records. Do I have a chance of expungement?

        Thanks again for your reply and let my situation be a lesson to your readers. Pay in person. Even in 2011. Even in the heart of Silicon Valley (now I feel like it’s the armpit).

        • Sammy,


          The Santa Clara County Superior Court is far, far far far from being the leader in using the internet to be efficient. They are like 10 years behind everyone else in providing on line access to criminal case info.

          They think they have on line access to traffic court cases, and they will tell you they have it if you ask. But it is totally useless. It was not at all designed by a person who understands what the public and/or attorney need prior to going to court. Just a total and complete lack of vision. Their version of “on line access to traffic court case info” has no information other than the name of defendant and case number. Nothing useful for an attorney trying to advice a poor client for free, no required details for a person trying to solve an old problem suspended drivers license problem. Unlike mmore advanced courts who have used some thought, there is no info on the charges in a case, no listing of the bail, no listing of the prior hearings, no listing of the officer who signed the citation, no listing of the status of the case (for ex 40509.5 hold vs. warrant), etc. Just pucking useless. But they think it works. They have no understand of how the other courts do it better.

          I’ve written to them more than once and told them that it was useless – but they dont fix it. They want you to drive there and pollute and talk to a troll in person to get info on charges or warrants.

          (And by the way, just for the record, I have also told them that the way they have attorneys and court personnel cut in front of people in the security line is dangerous – it’s only a matter of time before some psycho or distraught parent flips their lid in that line because they dont understand and then stabs someone. I’ve seen it coming. But they continue on.)

          In Santa Clara, the on line case access joke is totally, completely a wasted pile of resources and garbage compared to a real high tech court like Ventura Superior Court. And they think it works! Trolls who dont understand how to use the internet to save money, improve public access and to make operations more efficient. That is what they have working there.

          Way back in 2004, I think, they had a notice on their web site stating that criminal case info would be available on line by Dec of that year. I was stoked, because they were way behind San Diego and Ventura, and Orange County, but I wanted to take cases there efficiently, without having to call one of the trolls to get info on charges. But then they changed it to read “criminal case access not available until further notice”. That was like 6, 7 years ago. And there has been zero improvement that I can understand. Horrible. Primitive. Tijuana style . . even chula juana is a more efficient court. (chula vista I mean).

          Yes, silicon valley is dead. It dies shortly after james bond and duran duran left. Im reminded of it every week as I drive up 880 and flip off Solydra out the window.

          There are some good side effects though. All of those tech nerds have stopped clogging up Santa Cruz beaches in their jeans. And I do get a lot of emails from programmers in India who have FTAs to take care of before they come back. Some of them have paid me to handle cases while they sit in India enjoying a hot chai.

          For the record here I must say I dont think I have ever recommended that a person pay a fine on line. I would never do it. Pay in person, get immediate prof you paid. Pay in cash or money order (no personal checks).

          It does not surprise me that they screwed you. They are all in cahoots – DOR, department of revenue, the trolls who lie to you about your right to a trial, the losers sitting in their collection agency cubicles – yes I said it – if you did well in school you would not be calling poor unemployed people at dinner time telling them you are going to ruin their life over $800!

          Trolls. Trolls. That’s all I got to say. Trolls in Cahoots.

    • LJ says:

      Mr. Dort,
      Like an idiot I didn’t pay a fix it ticket for no tags in time. Vehicle was registered the entire time and I got the citation signed off about 2 weeks before the court date but like an idiot forgot to pay before the court date.
      The ticket went to collection and I just received an FTA and notice my license will be suspended. From reading this page and your replies it appears my best course of action would be to schedule a court date and try to get the judge to accept the signed off citation, is that correct?

  32. izraul says:

    I know this will not receive good feedback because I have gone through this many times with several people on different sites but I feel I have to try in hopes of some kind of possible remedy.

    I have gone to trial and was confident I would win because I was beyond a doubt not speeding. The officer testified and had all his calibration documents and so forth. That was of no concern to me. The officer stated I was driving an unsafe speed for conditions. 45 in a 35. When my turn came to cross examine my first question was how far back was I when he first clocked me. My 2nd question was about the condition, weather, and so on. It was a clear day. No pedestrians. My 3 rd question was, how close was I to the car in front of me? to which he stated, and I quote “You weren’t too close” “You were at a safe distance” “You weren’t tailgating or anything!!” I asked how many cars in front of me? 5 maybe 6!

    I said your honor, how is it possible I could be speeding at an unsafe speed, with cars in front of me that were obviously doing the speed limit if he did not pick them up on his radar, and yet still maintain a safe distance from the cars in front me. It is scientifically impossible if I was doing 45 in a 35. 10 more mph than all the other cars yet maintaining what he stated his self to be a “SAFE” distance. “UNSAFE” speed maintaining a “SAFE” distance?

    Her reply was, “I’m going to find you guilty on a 2006 survey!” Not guilty of what I was being accused of but guilty on a survey! To me this is nothing more than extortion. I planned to appeal but I missed the date due to the death of someone very close to me. I cannot afford it. It has already gained interest. It makes me angry that I have no recourse! I would rather sit in jail than let them extort me out of 1 dime!

    I really don’t want to believe that we as american’s have no options when it comes to this sort of crap. It really angers me to think we are just helpless. I have enough to worry about with the bank trying to steal my house which is a whole other matter I am fighting. Grand Theft from one side Extortion from the other and no one who has a duty to prevent these criminal acts and/or regulate them is doing anything about it. When is enough going to be enough?

    • Izraul, Thank you for the comment.

      But you are making a logical error here. Non sequitor – look it up in a latin dictionary.

      Just because you were a safe distance from the car in front of you does not mean you were complying with the law.

      I cannot tell where this is,but I can say it looks like the court found you guilty because the evidence showed that you were traveling in a speed that an engineering survey determined to be unsafe. THat means if the official engineering survey says your speed way unsafe mathematically, then you have violated the law regardless of how far away from the car in front of your that you were. In other words, you are failing to understand that “unsafe” is an objective, quantitative measurement determined by a survey of engineers, not a determination of the safety of your subjective driving at that time. It is an “a priori” standard, in other words.

      How far away from the car in front of you that you were position is not relevant at all.

      And here is another logical mistake you are making : Appealing would not prevent you from having to pay. You have to pay the fine and comply with the sentence even if you appeal And you can only appeal errors of law – not errors of factual finding, such as the judge’s finding of your speed from the evidence presented at the trial.

      PS – If a bank if trying to “seal” your house, it never was your house. It was all smoke and mirrors. Trickery, magic. You thought it was your house when they gave you the keys and the fake appraisal, but it was not really your house. It was always bank property and they were playing games with your dreams and your money.

      The only people who actually own property are those who hold no debt secured by it.

      So dont feel bad, it happened to everyone. Get out while you can, by south african gold.

      • izraul says:

        Yes you right. “Engineering survey” is what they found me guilty of. It just seems to me a bunch of BS.
        1. That is not what the charge was.
        I wasn’t found guilty of what I was accused of. It’s crap! and really just another way to find a reason to extort money.

        2. They did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I WAS guilty of either charge. I am in no way attempting to avoid responsibility of something I did. I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, NOT GUILTY of either charge.

        I was well aware of my surroundings and conditions. I am not saying I didn’t do it. I am saying it was impossible for me to have done it. PERIOD!

        3. Unsafe speed for conditions…

        Officer. What were the conditions like? Was there anything dangerous about them that day? No! Why? Whats that got to do with anything? Well, what was the visibility like? Foggy? Stormy? Dark? Wet? Construction? NO! Clear. Sunny day.

        Where there pedestrians present? Children? Old people? School zone?.. No. Not that I recall.

        Officer. Did it seem like I was in danger of my life? Someone else? Objects? Animals? .. NO!

        Officer. At anytime did it seem to you that I was not in control of my vehicle? NO!

        Do you recall what lane was I in? Right lane… Wrong! It was the left.

        Officer. Any other vehicles present at the time? Yes! Do you recall what type of vehicle was in front me? NO. not to my recollection. Well I do.. White van.. handicap plates.. wheelchair on the back!

        How far was I from you would you say when you clocked me? About 200 yards.. (he knows this since he stated earlier he was trained in the visual art of guessing)

        So can you tell me about how close was I to the vehicle in front of me? Not too close. You weren’t tailgating or anything. Fairly safe distance.

        Fairly “SAFE” distance … What an odd term to use since the charge was “UNSAFE” speed for/or “UNSAFE” conditions!
        Even more so being nothing unsafe about the conditions that day. Cars on all sides of me.

        But just for the sake of argument, lets say I WAS speeding. OK? Either scientifically or just plain common sense.. For me to be able to maintain a “SAFE” distance from the vehicle in front me, while speeding… Would require that sed vehicle to also be in fact speeding. As would it require the same of the car ahead of him. .. and so on.. and so on…

        That being said.. and using plain OL’ common sense.. obviously would indicate at least the 4 to 5 cars ahead of me were in fact speeding. So what? Was his radar not working?

        From the red light to where he was positioned is 371 ft. that is the equivalent of 123 and 2/3 yards.

        From 0 to unsafe in say .. 124 yards.. in traffic… and his visually trained guessing has me at about 200 yrds… Uh huh!

        Argue it in legal ease, japanese, chinese, .. It doesn’t matter.
        It all translates to “SANDPAPER CONDOM”

        4. Is it the defendant’s job to prove they’re not guilty, or is it the other parties job to prove “beyond a doubt” they are?

        Was there any actual proof of guilt? NO!

        But we need money! AND SO.. I’m not going to find you guilty of what your accused of.. (since theres no proof). and we will just say some guys who did a survey 5 / 6 years ago on that road said you are .. Dismissed.

        Extortion is against the law. It’s no secret it happens. It’s not about guilty or not guilty. It’s about getting railroaded in the name of law, in a court of law, by people who took an oath to uphold the law.

        and the law says… Prove..

        Traffic courts business isn’t law, it’s money. and technically… the conduct is absurd as a matter of law considering the law concerning victimless crimes. But that’s a whole other issue

  33. Ayman Hawari says:

    Hello chris thanks for your cheap paper work and help. I bought everything last month and filed everything in june 9 2011 it been 31 days with no response including a trial de novo. how long do they have to respond before i have a right to take it to the applette court. I also have a FTA which is a misdemeanor do I have to pay to have a hearing on that as well as my no headlight ticket? IS it easy to file a waiver t the applet court on that. san jose wants 1500 on a 300 ticket with 3 civil assessments attached is that legal. How do I go filing a waiver for the fees on the misdemeanor please email when you have discussed this on here

    Ayman Hawari

  34. Lisa R. says:

    Hi Chris,
    Well, I fought it and lost. I submitted the Petition to Vacate Order and included a letter stating this fee would present a financial hardship on me. I work as an independent contractor and can barely make ends meet as it is. I also included a letter to the court stating that fact.

    I got a response within a few weeks and was denied by the judge. Such a corrupt system! If I had $300.00 I’d get medical insurance for the love of god. I contacted the court clerk who fields inquiries about the Civil Assessment Fee and she said I have no other recourse, but to make payments (which I belive costs more with the inclusion of a service fee). I could cry. I have less than $10.00 in the bank at the moment and bills waiting to be paid.

    So that’s it? I just have to suck it up and pay this fee because I paid the fine late two years ago?

    Lisa R.

    • Lisa, I am sorry they denied it. Well, if you lost, you lost. They disagreed. And they are the deciders.

      You can appeal the order denying a Petition to Vacate a Civil Assessment. You need to file a Notice of Appeal within 20 days with the court clerk. There is a Standard Judicial Council Form for a Notice of Traffic Court Appeal. After the notice of appeal is filed, the Appeal Court will contact you and give you a deadline to submit a written brief to describe why the denial of the petition was an error of law. If you used my Declaration in Support of Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment, the legal arguments are the same, and built into to it. Just copy them, really.

      I wrote an article on how to appeal a traffic court case in here somewhere.

      And then if you appeal gets denied, you can file a Writ of Habeous Corpus in Federal Court on a denial of Due Process and Illegal Government Taking grounds.

      But all of that work is not worth $300. And if you appeal, you still have to pay and hope you get a refund.

      I am just answering questions here for free – but there have been times in the past where I have just told some clients they cannot afford to drive. Driving is not a right, it is a privilege that is reserved for people with money. I wish it were not true, but that is actually what the law says.

      There is no government program to help people pay the costs of buying safe tires, paying fines, paying tolls, registration, licensing fees, gas, gas taxes, auto liability insurance (actually there is a DMV program for that). But the point is this – if it is impossible to pay the $300 civil assessment and get your drivers license reinstated (with the DMV reinstatement fees, and proof of insurance) – you may have to consider forgetting about driving for a while until the conditions improve for you. But they will eventually.

  35. fred b says:

    Hi Chris.
    When my son was 17, he recd a violation for riding a dirtbike on a highway. Turns out, he was found not guilty because the cop wrote up the wrong violation, as they were not on a highway. However, the imposed 1214.1 was upheld by the commissioner! There had been 2 extensions given before my son failed to show and the $300 was added. Keep in mind my son was still a minor at this time. How can the court rule this way? It defys all logic since my son was found not guilty. How could he be penalized for not showing up when in fact he shouldn’t have had to show up at all since the cop wrote up the incorrect violation in the first place?! In other words, he didn’t do what he was accused of doing, so why does he even need to appear. I think it should have been thrown out and it is disgraceful to do this to a young kid. We’ll be filing an appeal. Do you think we have good cause and do you have any suggestions?

    • Fred – Woo Hoo! a real question. A good one to.

      This is a common problem. But its not really a problem if you understand what is happening.

      Based on what I know, it appears your son had 2 separate charges: 1) the original violation; and 2) a failure to appear after signing a promise to appear (citation).

      He was acquitted on one charge, and found guilty of the failure to appear.

      It makes sense to me. What is the defense to the failure to appear charge? It does not go away because he wins on the original citation. In the court’s eyes, if he did not show up – he’s guilty of that charge.

      Winning on the original violation does NOT MEAN HE DID NOT HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO APPEAR IN COURT.

      OK – lets review his defenses to the failure to appear charge:

      1. “He was 17″ = Not a defense to a failure to appear charge (Vehicle Code 40508a);
      2. “The cop wrote down the wrong violation” = Not a defense to a failure to appear charge (Vehicle Code 40508a);
      3. “He got 2 extensions” = Not a defense to a failure to appear charge (Vehicle Code 40508a – unless he showed up on time and had written proof of the claimed extension).

      You know one thing that I notice about this fact patter is that no where in there is a statement: “He showed up on the right date, at the right time.”

      Remember = you can only appeal errors of law. What is the error of law you want here? The court failed to dismiss the failure to appear charge after finding defendant not guilty on original violation?

      That is not an error.

      And that is why it is risky to have a trial on a case with a failure to appear if you are guilty of the FTA. You can win on the original violation – and if the judge convicts on the FTA and the judge thinks you wasted court time and resources on a day when the court clerks are getting laid off – he/she can actually give you a misdemeanor record and 6 months in the county jail. No Chit – read the statute (VEh Code 40508(a) in CA).

      Now, if you have proof you showed up on the right day at the right time and the judge refused to accept it – then you have an error of law. But I did not hear that in your submission. Hum . . . I suspicious. I bet he does not have that proof. If he does – FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

  36. Cindy says:

    Hi Chris,
    Not sure if this is an issue you can help with but, i’m going to ask anyway. My husdband got pulled over on his way home from work & when the officer ran a check it came back that his license was suspended the day before & that he hadn’t been notified of this yet. The officer told him that he was sorry but he had to impound the truck & put a 30 day hold on it. After the 30 day hold had passed we recieved a lien notice from the tow yard, we couldn’t afford the fees & when he did go to court he plead not guilty due to the fact he hadn’t been notified of the suspended license. He was found not guilty and when i went to chp to get my truck released with no fees, they wouldn’t do it. They said it didn’t matter what the court said and we lost our truck.. The fees to get the truck were almost $3,000.00-they sold it for $700.00

    • Cindy, assuming this is a CA problem – I have to point this out: CA law requires DMV to give a person 30 days written notice prior to suspension of a drivers license. The DMV sends these 30 day suspension notices via certified mail (usually) to the address they have on file for the driver. You are required by law to maintain your current address with DMV. So if they did not have your address (husband’s address) it’s not their fault. And worse yet, the law in CA presumes that if DMV has proof the sent the notice, then you have notice, regardless of whether or not you actually read it. Even though he was ultimately found not guilty of the crime of driving on a suspended drivers license, the car was probably, technically, not towed as punishment for the crime. Instead, the car was towed because he did not have a valid drivers license in his possession. No drivers license in your packet = car impounded legally, regardless if you had the required state of mind for a criminal conviction (mens rea in latin). Even if he did not know, he did not have a valid drivers license in his pocket. That fact is not disputed. Thus it is possible the car was towed completely legally. And if they sold the truck – there is nothing you can do now. Its too late. The correct thing to do would have been to pay the tow fees, and get your car back. Then later, if you have the time and energy – try to get your money back in small claims court. Sorry this happened to you. Note to others out there: CALL DMV RIGHT NOW TO VERIFY THEY HAVE YOUR CURRENT ADDRESS. READ EVERYTHING THE DMV SENDS YOU.

  37. Lisa R. says:

    This happened to me, but *after* paying the fine (cell phone use while driving). I thought it was a done dealio until I received a collection notice from Alliance Management (almost 2 years since the initial citation). Apparently I paid the fine *late*; 6 months after the citation rather than the 90 days on the docket, which is technically an FTA. The judge made no mention of this in traffic court and I never received a courtesy notice. I contacted the court and was told judge’s have no ability to waive a CA. I also did some research into this and apparently the revenue generated from this absurd fine goes into a state employee retirement trust. Um….what the what?!

    I have to file a form that proves I went into court by the due date or whatever to have it waived. I don’t even know if I have the docket and receipts anymore. Although I went to court and paid the fine for this extremely minor infraction.

    Lisa R.

    • Lisa, if someone in a CA court tells you that a judge has no authority to waive a Civil Assessment under Penal Code section 1214.1 – they are not telling you the truth. I want to say they are lying to you, but they might just be uneducated and unqualified to do their job. What proof do I have to back up my claim – I have had probably more than 100 cases where I have had judges dismiss failure to appear charges and the Civil Assessment that comes with it – it happens everyday in places like LA, San Mateo, Santa Clara, (yes, it happens there, I’ve done it), Sacramento, Orange County, Ventura County. AND FURTHER – they law clearly says the judge has the power in Penal Code section 1214.1(d) (READ IT YOU COURT EMPLOYED SHOULD BE LAID OFF DUUFFuSes) which provides a Defendant the right to challenge a Civil Assessment in any way you can challenge a civil judgement and in Penal Code section 1385, which authorizes a judge to dismiss any just about anything in the interests of justice. They were not telling you the truth – they were screwing you out of your right to challenge it. They get away with it because of the small amount of money involved it too little to get me to work on it in federal court.

  38. Rima says:

    Hi Chris,
    I got a cell phone violation ticket March 2010 and since I wasn’t carrying my license with me (I was on my way to deposit some money in the bank and grabbed the wrong purse) the officer wrote me no hands free ticket and driver unlicensed. I was supposed to go to Walnut Creek court. I live in Union City and work in sunnyvale and with my grandmother being very ill (suffering from cancer) and my work not permitting me enough time to drive up to walnut creek, I forgot about the ticket. I did get a couple of notices but let it go. Anyway I received a $917 fine notice and a civil assesment of $300 notice late april and by the time i got to the mail the due date of May 6th had crossed. I called the court on May 16th and that evening they made a decision on the case. I went to court today may 18th but they want me to post bail in cash in the amount of $627 to go for trial de novo and I have to deal with the Civil Assessment fee of $300. Is there any way I can avoid posting that bail and request to vacate that civil assesment. I don’t have a job and am not able to pay this amount. What are my options here?


    • Rima, forgive me if this sounds rude, but I have to do it for the benefit of the entire audience. There is help at the end: 1) It does not matter at all where you live: 2) it does not matter where you work; 3) it does not matter that your grandmother was sick (oh I wish I got paid for every time someone told me they failed to appear in court because a relative was ill!); 4) you re guilty, you have no defense; 5) your drivers license is probably suspended now because of this case, so you do not have a valid drivers license to show the judge; 5) you are lucky they did not issue a bench warrant on a misdemeanor Veh Code 12500a charge; 6) you are luck they did not impound your car; 7) you waited too long;8) . . .

      OK – Now you have to change the way you look at this problem. This is not a just a $650 problem. If it was, you should just pay when ever you want to. Why worry about it? Ohhh., but that is not what it is anymore. This is (probably) a suspended drivers license problem (call DMV right now to check the status of your drivers license as of today and verify that they have your current address). This is a $3k criminal case (Veh Code 14601.1) car disappearing sticky time bomb waiting to explode on your way to work, or the store, or to the post office.

      Assuming I am right, the #1 priority is not to try to fight to save $300 (that is really the only thing you even have an argument about) – rather the priority is TO GET YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE REINSTATED ASAP. To do that, you have to pay now. Then go to DMV in person. Get proof you paid. Pay in person. Do not try to do it over the phone.

      If this were a $10k w/ 20 days in jail problem, I’d say FIGHT! FIGHT ! FIGHT! But it’s not. It’s a $650 problem.

  39. Kimberly Arias says:

    i pled guilty on my speeding ticket, can i still do a trial de novo on it to get the assessment fee taken off??

    • Kimberly, No. Once you plead guilty, you are admitting guilt and then you get sentenced. You cannot go back later to dispute something because you dont like the sentence. Game over, insert new quarter.

  40. CNS says:

    Hello Mr. Dort,

    Please help me. I lived in CA and moved out in OCT 05 to GA. I forgot about a ticket I got in LA county (yes my fault and accept full responsibility) but moved away before my court day in NOV 05 even though i paid the $50 for an extension.

    Long story short it just now 6.5 yrs later popped up on my GA license and i cant renew it because of this. I sent the court a payment for the original amount, minus the $300 assessment fee per the clerk, along with a letter to the judge explaining why i didnt appear and to drop the $300 assessment months ago and they still keep giving me the run around saying they cant find it. I need my license here in GA but they are treating my case like crap and i dont have the $750 total to just pay GC services. What else can I do?! Help!!

    • CNS,

      Dont write letters to the judge. It’s a giant waste of time. Never Works. If you paid someone $50 for an “Extension” you got robbed. You dont pay for an extension. That’s actually kind of funny. I wouldnt doubt there is some court clerk out there in LA selling extensions. I’m shocked but not shocked.

      The best way to handle this case is to hire our local LA County Sponsor Attorney Mr. Mark Gallagher (Attorneygallagher(at) He can probably clear up a case like this in a few days. He gets good results in LA cases. If your job is on the line – send him.

      Or just pay. It’s really a small problem. You can end it today if you really want to just admit guilt and send in the money and get convicted of the failure to appear. No – send Mark.

      You really have only 3 choices: 1) go to court your self and deal with it; 2) pay in full; 3) send an Attorney to do it right

  41. Datt says:

    Hello, Last year I was pulled over by a California Highway Patrolman on 101. Right after I was pulled over, while I was sitting in the car, before I spoke with the officer, he kept pointing the gun at my car about 5 times.

    When I asked the officer why he pulled me over, he said I was speeding. However I was not. When I requested to see his radar gun reading, he advised me that he had already cleared it. He then advised me if I did not sign the ticket, he would impound my vehicle and take me to jail. Therefore, I signed the ticket and promised to appear.

    A month or two passed and I was living in Oakland at the time. I was severely assaulted and taken to the hospital code 3 with severe head trauma. Do to this trauma; I have had constant memory loss. I often lapse on remembering certain dates, and in this case the court date for this ticket. I received about 2 weeks ago that I missed the court date and have been assesed a $745 fine. The paperwork says I must pay this or appear on or before April 26th. Due to the assault, I have not been able to work. I do not currently have a vehicle. I do not have any money to pay any fines. The court I must appear at is about 60 Miles away. I am not sure what to do….

    • Datt,

      I have concealed your identity because I have an unstoppable urge to be rude here. Please dont take it personally – somewhere in here there is good info.

      Thank you for the pile of words. 90% of them are not needed here. What you are really asking is:

      “I have to go to court before the 26th, and the court is 60 miles a away. I cannot drive there. Do I still have to go?”

      Answer: You have to go to court anyway.

      And if it were me – I would have no problem riding my bike to court, even if I had to leave at 3 am. Cycling is a superior method of transpo anyway. Screw those carcinagen spitting, asbestos shredding cars. They should be outlawed. But I’ve actually spent years racing bicycles in at least 5 different countries – and I’ve done the Markleeville Death Ride many times (starting at 3:30 am and riding 129 miles through snow, hail and over 5 mountain passes of 8,000 feet altitude). Tour of the California Alps they call it. Takes me 12 hours. All you need to do is the tour of the California Courts. And sounds like you get the pleasure of going to a courthouse near the ocean – well maybe its not really that nice. The 101 goes through Burbank too.

      Anyway: You can hire an Attorney to go for you, but if that is impossible – you have to find a way to go. I would ride my bike. No kidding. 120 miles? Along the California Coast?

      But you have to stay focused here.

      It does not matter that the cop pointed his gun at your car 5x;
      It does not matter that the CHP cop refused to show you a radar reading;
      It does not matter that the cop threatened to take you to jail if you refused to sign the citation (if you dont already know that, you should not be driving);
      It does not matter that the court is 60 miles away;
      It does not matter that you were injured – unless you were in the hospital;
      It does not matter that you are unemployed;
      It does not matter that you were living in Oakland;

      And it does not help to tell the judge that you have a memory loss problem when it comes to important things – because if that gets into the official court record, you may have DMV problems later.

      Here is what you should not do:

      1) dont try to call the court for an extension. It will not work. Just go;
      2) do not write to the judge and tell him why you are not there. It will not work;
      3) Do not ignore the problem;

      You still have time to do it right! FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT. Call amtrack, greyhound, and horse rental agencies. Get there, and you’ll be surprised at how good you’ll feel when you get there and get a good result.

  42. Matt says:

    You are saving my life with this website. Thank you so much!

    I will be back with questions, I need to think some stuff through.

    Thanks again, so much. This is beyond helpful!

  43. nikita says:

    Iam an international student and so is my brother. He got a traffic ticket for speeding and got himself a court date. However he had to leave the country as he was done with his studies. Now I received a letter from GC services and it is for collections. WHat do I do? I doubt if he will even come back to the country.

    • Nakita,

      Sweet! I always wanted to write to someone named Nakita. Ever since that James Bond movie. Well . . . if it has gone to GC Services, the court is treating it as a civil matter, not as a criminal case. Civil problems – such as: “you owe me money!!!” do not lead to warrants or immigration problems.

      But – if GC Services is contacting you about a traffic citation – your driving privilege in CA is suspended (probably). You cannot drive here.

      But if you never come back, who cares? If you never need to rent a car in the US, who cares?

      So far as I know, there is no country out side the US that honors a CA driving Privilege suspension. But that might change one day. Computers are getting better, not worse.

  44. Laura says:

    Hi All,

    I have now gone through every post of this article and thank you for all the information.

    My husband got cited for expired tags that were held up because of transferring the car from his mom to him-mute point. Anyway he stuck ticket in glove compartment, 2 weeks later new tags arrived. Time goes by & by…I just now received letter from county of Monterey revenue division saying we now owe $631-331 fine, 300 assessment…before reading all this I asked if we could go to court, lady said no. My purpose for wanting to go to court was to see if we could get fine reduced seeing it was a fix it ticket and like most of america, money is tight, house is under water, salary decreased etc, etc. That is why we had this car, needed a car, could not afford one and mom in law gave us hers…anyway it seems from reading that we’re SOL, that there is no way to get back into court to see if fines can be reduced. Is this what counties are doing now because the state is broke. I understand I owe a fine but $631 seems excessive. But if I read right we’re just screwed really?

  45. cindy says:

    Hello Mr dort,
    I really need your help. I got a fix it ticket back september in inglewood. I went to the chp and got it cleared but i never showed up for court didnt think i had to since i had gotten it cleared, i was completely clueless about that. when i recieved the ticket back in september i had an old address. So i never recieved anything through mail. I searched the ticket online and it said they sent me to a collection company(gc services). I couldnt believe it. I called and my totak amount is about $800. This is unbelievable for a tailight that was out.. Can you pleasse help me…PLEASE….

    • Cindy, that you for the comment. First, I am going to be rude, and then I will try to offer some help.

      Step 1: I Must Translate the Question:

      I received a correctable citation in LA County in 2010. I got proof of correction, but kept it a secret. I did not read my citation before or after I signed it because it was full of bad vibes. Afterwards, I moved and I decided to keep that a secret from the court also, because I was pretty sure they would give up and leave me alone.

      The court never sent anything to my new, secret address and I am therefore innocent.

      One night, I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. I was panicked, because I was having a dream that I was driving in my underwear and was pulled over for driving on a suspend drivers license. The police towed my dream car (a pimped out Pinto with a big screen TV) and they left me on the side of the 405 on a Friday afternoon standing in my underwear.

      So I woke up from the dream and searched the internet for my ticket, to make sure the court gave up. And I found it! But the computer said the fine was now $800, probably because my secret about the proof of correction was still intact.

      But nonetheless, I did not believe what the computer said and I went back to sleep. Because I am in denial, I thought about calling the DMV to check my drivers license status, but decided not to because they are stupid and ugly. If I call them, I may have to give them my secret address also.

      Now I need someone to tell me what to do for free.


      Go to the courthouse clerk tomorrow at 7:30 am. Ask the traffic court clerk for a walk in court appearance. Once in court, try to talk the judge into accepting your proof of correction.

      Ask the court to release the drivers license hold.

      Go to DMV in person. Verify your address and the status of your drivers license.

      Send GC Services a NOTICE OF DISPUTED DEBT (I wrote the form for you already) to protect your credit as much as possible.

      OR: – Just Hire out local LA Sponsor Attorney Mark Gallagher (attorneygallagher(at) to do it for you CORRECTLY.

      Mark can get your drivers license back ASAP – and can do a better job of getting you out of trouble. But you have to pay him to endure the stress and frustration of going to court in LA in the morning.

  46. Paul says:

    My son called the collection agency for San Diego County courts about a civil assesment fee on an unpaid cell phone ticket. He was asked for his social security number and gave it to them. What are the risks with them having this and is there anything to do about this.

  47. Bob says:

    This is for San Diego Superior Court / Vista.

    I got nabbed for talking on the cellphone. I had a court date of 11/16 but failed to pay or show up. Now I have to pay the Civil Assessment fee.

    The reason why I didn’t go was because my girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer several days before the court date. Everything else in my life just became insignificant, and I just flat out forgot.

    I don’t have the exact dates, but I know that in the ten or so days surrounding the court date (I.e. the biopsy was the 14th) I took her to her MRI, three doctors appointments, a biopsy, and eventually she was rushed into surgery. Certainly I was not incarcerated, doing military service, or anything like that, but would the judge be understanding of the situation? Would this be worth even explaining?

    The silver lining is that my girlfriend is doing great, and she should recover just fine. Honestly, $300 is nothing compared to the good news we have but we could use the money to help with all the medical bills.


    • Bob, the best option is to go into the court clerks office at 8 am on a weekday and tell the court clerk that you: 1) have not been arraigned; 2) have not had a trial; and 3) want an in court arraignment. Most courts will give you a walk in court appearance. Once in court, ask the judge to remove the Civil Assessment and allow you to go to traffic school (if eligible) for the original violation.

      Do not wait, your drivers license is probably suspended due to this problem.

      Once in court, or once you have set a court date, ask the court clerk and judge to release the Vehicle Code section 40509.5 drivers license hld that is causing a suspension of your drivers license. Once you get a VC 40509.5 hold released, YOU MUST GO TO DMV IN PERSON TO GET A DRIVERS LICENSE REINSTATED. And its not free.

      As a side note, the San Diego County Superior Court Traffic Division states that you will get a Penal Code sec 1214.1 Civil Assessment penalty of $300 if you miss the deadline on the ticket, but they do not tell you that Penal Code section 1214.1(b) requires them to give you a 10 warning before the Civil Assessment is applied, nor do they tell you that Penal Code section 1214.1(d) requires that you be allowed to challenge the Civil Assessment by all of the sames means a civil judgment can be challenged, such as a motion to Vacate Judgment based upon the fact that you were denied the right to a trial as required by the 14th, 6th, and 5th Amendments to the US Constitution. And with that argument, you can get all the way to Federal Court, if you want to spend part of life on this problem. … . … . … . …

      If you are in a court that refuses to allow you to have a court date for Arraignment, get proof you were there. Then ask if they have a local form for a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment (and/or Notice of Motion to Vacate Judgment).

      Then, I recommend that you file a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment with an Attached Declaration (I wrote a Declaration Self Help Legal Form for you already to use as is or as a guide), and also my Self Help Legal Form: Motion to Dismiss (in the interests of Justice Penal Code 1385).

      And if that fails, Appeal. Here is the Notice of Appeal (Traffic Court) Mandatory Form:

      Read my blog article on how to Appeal a Traffic Court Case.

      Then, if you really want to go over the top, file a concurrent Writ Of Habeous Corpus in the San Diego Federal Court (No kidding, this is what the Writ is for!), and argue that you have been denied the right to Due Process and that the government has made an illegal taking of your property and right (privilege) to drive.

  48. Andre says:

    Hello Mr. Dort,
    Last month I went to court for a speeding ticket and returned to workout payment, I was notified of a ticket in 1997. That particular ticket was a problem from the start and to make a long story short, I fought, lost and the commissioner told me, I could not appeal this decision. It went to collections, I filed Bankruptcy against the court and GS services. I filed my bankruptcy discharge with both parties, and never heard from them. So, when the court clerk explained that citation under bankruptcy usually get dismissed by writing a letter to the judge in regards to the discharge. I did, and got slapped with the “C.A.”. Can I beat this?

  49. Kelly says:

    Not sure if you can help with this one . . .

    I got a ticket for making an illegal left turn on October 6, 2010. I misplaced my ticket so I just decided to wait to receive the courtesy notice and take care of the ticket by attending traffic school. I didn’t want to take a chance on having a point on my record and was eligible for traffic school. I didn’t receive a courtesy notice. I’m unemployed so between looking for temporary work, long term work and networking activities that will provide job leads I forgot to follow-up and figure out how I would take care of the lost ticket. Well, I just recently took the car in for repairs and in the process found a copy of the ticket, almost two and a half months after the date of the ticket.

    [TRANSLATION: "I got a citation and the deadline passed two months ago."}

    I noticed that the ticket has my old address from five years ago. The officer did correctly record the address for the registered owner of the car which is my current address. Both my driver's license and car registration have my current address on them so I didn't check this portion of the ticket when I signed ticket and it was a dusk so a bit hard to read through the information in dim light. Not sure where the officer found my old address as it was not on any of the documents I gave him.

    [TRANSLATION: "I think I failed to read the citation before I signed it, and I think I allowed the officer to believe an old address was my current address. I wanted to read what I was signing, but I could not because it was dark."]

    Having found the ticket, I call in to the
    system and after multiple hang-ups and lengthy hold periods finally got through to a live person who informed me that the ticket has been transferred to the civil assessment division and I have no choice but to pay it. A courtesy notice regarding the ticket was sent to my old address but was told that this fact is irrelevant because I had agreed to appear when I signed the citation by the date specified in the citation. And that a courtesy notice is just that, it does not in any way affect my obligation to take care of the ticket by the date stated on the citation.

    [TRANSLATION: "I called and tried to take care of it on the phone, but just got some asshole telling me I was screwed. I think he was in a cubicle in India, because I could hear other collections people in the background talking."]

    Is there anything I can do? Or am I SOL? Ideally, I just want to have a chance to go to traffic school so I can avoid having a point on my record and haven’t really explored potential defenses I may have to the illegal left turn. Though I suspect it’s probably going to be hard to find defenses to such a violation. Do I take a chance and request a trial date in the hopes that they refuse and then appeal to have the ticket dismissed? Or at least have the civil assessment penalty removed as I am a bit tight financially? Is this even an option at this point? I did go to the court to see if I could get copies of the notices or any other proceedings that may have transpired but was flatly told they do not have any copies, that there is nothing I can do about it except pay the fine and the $300 civil assessment. Not sure if I have any other choice but after having read the other posts on this blog I thought I’d see if you had any thoughts.


  50. Jimmy says:


    I’ve read through the blogs and first I’d like to say thank you for your hard work and free advice! I was hoping if you could help me out with a current issue.

    My girlfriend got a ticket in Santa Clara, CA. for not completely stopping at a stop sign and she’s okay with paying those fines but for one reason or another she got confused and missed her court date and now she has an additional $300 charge for missing the initial court date.

    We went in person and got a new court date for the initial incident. However is there anything we can do to get rid of or reduce the added $300 fees? We got the “Civil Assessment Petition And Order” form but was hoping you could tell us our best options or recommendation on what to write on this form so we won’t have to pay.

    Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated. THANKS in advance!

  51. Justin Baden says:

    Hi Chris,

    First off, thanks for all the insight into the traffic legal system. I’m sure I speak for all of us when telling you how much help this website provides. Free legal counsel! I felt like I was in Disneyland when I stumbled across this website.

    I have a similar case with an FTA. Initially, I received a ticket for expired tags in the San Fernando Valley. I went through GCS and had the matter resolved, got my new tags, and paid off the fine. (All is kosher, right?) Apparently not – when I went off to college out of state in the summer, I received a letter in the mail from GCS informing me that I had a failure to appear.

    I couldn’t make the court date because I was 2,000 miles away, nor did I know that I had a court date because I had thought the matter was resolved. I was told through GCS (not credible) that I received another FTA, because I had to bring evidence to the court confirming that I had re-registered by vehicle; although, the DMV in Sylmar told me that they would relay that information to the court. I suppose I was a fool to think that were would be transparency between government and bureaucracy!

    I received no notice of a trial decision, no presumption of innocence, just another 939.00 fine that I had to pay. I’m a college student with loans, and there is absolutely no way I can afford another 1,000 dollar fine. Should I file for an arraignment, ask for reappearance in court, do I have valid arguments to make a case in court?

    After an arraignment should I plead not guilty, or nolo contendere? Will the judge always side with prosecution even in extenuating circumstances like mine? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but I’d appreciate it if you could answer as many as you have time for.

    In a related blog you mentioned that the LA superior court would lift the VCS 40509.5 hold immediately upon request for arraignment ONLY if you ask for it. Is there any particular wording of the request that you have found effective? Also, when filing for an arraignment and setting up a court date, is my date subject to the court’s discretion? I won’t be home again until after December 16th, and I’ve already feel victim to the courts un-timely appointments while I’m out of state.

    Lastly, if all goes horribly in the justice department and my case is not dismissed, or I don’t receive a decreased fine, can I find any comfort in the DMV? I’ve heard rumors that you can appeal for a restricted license for work in the case of minor traffic infractions for FTA holds. Is this true?

    Again, any insight much appreciated!

  52. Justin Baden says:

    Hi Chris,
    First off, thanks for all the insight into the traffic legal system. I’m sure I speak for all of us when telling you how much help this website provides. Free legal counsel! I felt like I was in Disneyland when I stumbled across this website.
    I have a similar case with an FTA. Initially, I received a ticket for expired tags in the San Fernando Valley. I went through GCS and had the matter resolved, got my new tags, and paid off the fine. (All is kosher, right?) Apparently not – when I went off to college out of state in the summer, I received a letter in the mail from GCS informing me that I had a failure to appear. I couldn’t make the court date because I was 2,000 miles away, nor did I know that I had a court date because I had thought the matter was resolved. I was told through GCS (not credible) that I received another FTA, because I had to bring evidence to the court confirming that I had re-registered by vehicle; although, the DMV in Sylmar told me that they would relay that information to the court. I suppose I was a fool to think that were would be transparency between government and bureaucracy!

    I received no notice of a trial decision, no presumption of innocence, just another 939.00 fine that I had to pay. I’m a college student with loans, and there is absolutely no way I can afford another 1,000 dollar fine. Should I file for an arraignment, ask for reappearance in court, do I have valid arguments to make a case in court? After an arraignment should I plead not guilty, or nolo contendere? Will the judge always side with prosecution even in extenuating circumstances like mine? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but I’d appreciate it if you could answer as many as you have time for.

    In a related blog you mentioned that the LA superior court would lift the VCS 40509.5 hold immediately upon request for arraignment ONLY if you ask for it. Is there any particular wording of the request that you have found effective? Also, when filing for an arraignment and setting up a court date, is my date subject to the court’s discretion? I won’t be home again until after December 16th, and I’ve already feel victim to the courts un-timely appointments while I’m out of state. Lastly, if all goes horribly in the justice department and my case is not dismissed, or I don’t receive a decreased fine, can I find any comfort in the DMV? I’ve heard rumors that you can appeal for a restricted license for work in the case of minor traffic infractions for FTA holds. Is this true?
    Unfortunately I can’t afford an attorney, so this is all I have before taking on the courts. Again, any insight much appreciated!

  53. mary says:

    i got a ticket on my way back from san francisco to san diego, lost the ticket had no idea of what county i was in just rememebered that the cop said i would receive something in the mail by september (i got the ticket in june. i moved outta my parents house but still checked for mail and didnt receive anything but something saying it went to collections and there was a 300 civil assessment fee which i cannot afford. is there any way i can vacate the fee?

  54. Sam says:

    Hey Chris,

    I made the mistake of misreading a Nov 1 court date as Nov 10, and now am being charged with a $300 civil assessment fine. I had already pleaded guilty to the court and the only reason I had to come back was to come and request traffic school from the judge in court. I even marked in my calendar day that Nov 10 was the day.

    Now I am charged with an original 446.00 citation amount for the traffic violation plus a 300 civil assessment. I only work 16 hours a week and am a full time student. The only way I could pay this off would be from loan money.

    This was a human error, but I figure the court won’t care. What if I have a serious problem and can get a doctor’s note saying I’m ‘dyslexic’ have a condition that made me get my dates mixed up. I suspect I might, unless the court grants me mercy and allows a rescheduled court date minus the assessment fine.

  55. Colin says:


    Thank you for this great blog. I have a quick question for you on a matter I am dealing with in Santa Clara County.

    I found myself receiving the civil assessment fine (40509.5B) after failing to pay an HOV infraction (21655.5B).

    This is where my question varies a bit from what you have been saying. I went to court and made a pleading of guilty during the Arraignment for the HOV infraction. I was unable to pay the bail amount at the time because I was unemployed. So the court gave me 3 months to pay it.

    MY QUESTION: Since I already had my arraignment is there no way to fight against getting this additional fine? Your argument seems to be based on the idea that you where not give due process from your original violation but what about the civil assessment violation.

    I was unaware that I was going to receive this additional fine because I had moved to Southern California for a new job so I could pay the original violation. I finally received a notice through mail being forwarded to me from my old address, but it was already beyond their date of requesting this fine be revoked. I would like to fight this if at all possible and they tell me there is nothing I can do because they have already sent it to DOR. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for your time. Keep up the great blog. We need more Lawyers like you out there.

    • Colin, thank you. all of your comments came through (even though it looks like you got an error message). PEOPLE – ignore the blog error message. I do get the comments. Dont know why its doing that.

      Anyway, if you have plead guilty, you admitted guilt. There is no way to go backwards from that. But if the court added a Civil Assessment of around $300 (penal Code section 1214.1) and they are in the process of suspending your drivers license (vehicle Code 40509.5), you can try a Petition to Vacate the Civil Assessment and Motion to Release Drivers License Hold.

      Dont confuse Due Process on the original citation, with Due Process on the Civil Assessment. If you plead guilty to the violations listed on the citation, that part is over. No Due process left to explore. But the Civil Assessment is a product of a new allegation – an unproven allegation that you failed to pay on time (or appear in court for many people who have not plead guilty yet).

      Penal Code section 1214.1(d) states that you have a right to challenge this new unproven allegation. In fact, the law states on its face that the Civil Assessment is subject to all challenges that a civil judgment is subject to (like a motion to vacate judgment based on new facts, violation of Due Process, etc).

      Here is what I would recommend: 1) go to court to ask for a walk in court appearance. If they let you in to see the judge – ask for more time to pay, ask them to lift the Drivers LIcense hold, and to vacate the Civil Assessment. If that does not work, the same day, file these forms with the court clerk:

      Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment (Santa Clara) with Supporting Declaration; and
      Motion to release drivers license hold (all CA Counties – same form).

      I wrote these forms myself and sell them as cheap as I can. I wrote them for the most common facts, but you might have to edit them a bit.

      I cannot promise they will work every time (because in reality you have no defense – being poor is not a defense to a failure to pay a fine), but at least this is a way for you to make a real challenge.

      The forms come with detailed and EZ instructions. And you can edit them if you want to write your own situation out.

      For everyone else, I see the Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment for many counties, and the Motion to Release Drivers License Hold for all CA courts. Visit my forms store at:

      OK – that is my best free advice.

  56. Colin says:


    Thank you for this great blog. I have a quick question for you on a matter I am dealing with in Santa Clara County.

    I recieved the civil assessment fine (40509.5B) after failing to pay an HOV infraction (21655.5B).

    This is where my question varies a bit from what you have been saying. I went to court and made a pleading of guilty during the Arraignment for the HOV infraction. I was unable to pay the bail amount at the time because I was unemployed. So the court gave me 3 months to pay it.

    MY QUESTION: Since I already had my arraignment is there no way to fight against getting this additional fine? Your argument seems to be based on the idea that you where not give due process from your original violation but what about the civil assessment violation.

    I was unaware that I was going to receive this additional fine because I had moved to Southern California for a new job so I could pay the original violation. I finally received a notice through mail being forwarded to me from my old address, but it was already beyond their date of requesting this fine be revoked. I would like to fight this if at all possible and they tell me there is nothing I can do because they have already sent it to DOR. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks for your time. And keep up the great Blog. We need more Lawyers like you out there.

  57. paul says:

    if i went in to the clerk and filed my motions, and also had the clerk stamp my copies as received, is that sufficient proof that the files were received? i’m a little unclear as to whether mailing the proof of service was the alternative to that, or if it’s something you do in conjunction with filing it in person. thanks in advance!

    and i’m down and willing to put in on a joint fund to pay Christopher to fight this and change the way the courts operate here in California! let’s do this! if i had the legal knowledge and capability to fight all the way to the supreme court, i would! i am the fighting type, and am currently spending all of my free time researching the california court’s procedures, rules, statutes, and case law in order to fight my case as well. i have to say, it ain’t easy, and i wouldn’t want to do it for free either.

    and a BIG THANK YOU to Christopher Dort for all the information and help you’ve already provided for me along with everybody who’s ever stopped by this informative blog. you are doing a great service for us all, and i don’t think you get the credit you deserve.

    • Paul, thank you for the kind words.

      Yes, a “received” stampted copy of the motions you filed are effective.

      The way you would use them is this – if you had to appeal, you would file a notice of a appeal witht eh court clerks office listing the denial of that motion as the judgment you are appealing from. Then, in your appeal brief, you include a copy of it in the index, with a declaration that states you filed it with the court clerk and that it was denied.

      So basically, you just want proof you filed it with the court clerk. They have a duty to put it in the court file. And if they do not take action, you can appeal that failure to take action.

      Motions are requests for a court to take action. Once you get it to the court clerks office – they have to either deny it, or grant it. There is no ignoring it option.

  58. Devin says:


    This might be a little off topic, I apologize. I was given a correctable citation in Solano county back in 2008 for expired registration tags, and I failed to appear on my court date. Later on, after providing proof of registration, I was told that due to the FTA my case was sent to collections, and so I was told to pay the original $15 fine in addition to a $300 civil assessment fine. I was totally guilty of failing to appear so I paid everything. My worry is that I just checked my driving record and noticed it has a 40508A (FTA) misdemeanor on it. Is there any chance of a bench warrant still being out for my arrest? How long will this misdemeanor stay on my record? Will it show up on criminal background checks?

    • Devin,

      Dont confuse DMV records with court criminal histories. They are not the same thing.

      Just because DMV has a mark of FTA 40508(a) on your DRIVER HISTORY REPORT, it does not mean the court case is still pending.

      If you got convicted of a VC40508(a) misdemeanor in court, that is a criminal conviction that will remain on your criminal record forever as far as I know.

      But the court may have convicted you of an infraction 40508(a) – even though the law says its a misdemeanor, courts sometimes title it an infraction so that they can prevent you from having the right to a public defender and a jury trial. – Basically – its a way to screw you out of your right to fight the VC40508(a) charge, despite the law. (yes, it’s wrong – but no one at the courts care).

      If you are worried about the case may still pending, or if you are worried that you got convicted of something that you do not understand – the ONLY RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION ON A COURT CASE IS THE COURT CLERK.

      DMV records on what happened in court cases are not reliable. Have you been to DMV lately? The people who work there are not there because they did well in school, or because DMV is really good at recruiting the best of the best. They are there because …..well, because they could not get jobs as Phildelphia Parking Enforcement officers, . . . no, no that’s not true. They are there because . . . . . wait. This is just my opinion, and I should not be saying things like that. I’ll leave the rest of my opinion to your imagination.

      I would not trust anything those laqies told me without double checking the PRIMARY SOURCE of the information. In this case, the PRIMARY SOURCE is the court.

  59. Deric says:

    How do you use a 1805vc an who can use one?

    • Deric, Your question is a classic example of a question that makes no sense at all. If you are referring to Vehicle Code section 1805, it’s obvious that you have never read that section – because it states:

      “The failure, refusal, or neglect of any such judicial officer
      to comply with any of the requirements of Sections 1802, 1803, 1804
      and 1816 is misconduct in office and is ground for removal therefrom.”

      How do you use something like that? Stick it in your pipe and smoke it too. Thats what I say.

  60. DERIC says:

    Hi,my name is Deric I live in Los Angeles county Lancaster Ca. On 5/17/08 I was cited for 4000(a)1vc the officer noticed my license plate was expired but the reason he pulled me over is because the plate is blocked by my tow hitch, which happen to be a bogus charge . He issued a citation an I was on my way. I had just bought the truck I transferred the title payed my fee’s like I was told to do all I needed now was a smog cert, and a bill of sale. I was issued a temp permit 1/20/08 the truck had a few problems I had to fix before I could get it smoged, well it wasn’t long before I got pulled over and I noticed that my permit was missing that was on the window understandable ?

    When I do go to court I usually go Pro Per I was able to have the charge dismissed for the hitch but not for the registration I plead not guilty an ordered to come back so I did on that day I plead not guilty again but this time they wanted me to post bail to come back I didn’t have the money to do that so the commissioner or who ever it was fined me $35.00 + penalty ass for a total of $208.00 I wasn’t getting any where with this guy so I figured I let it go to warrant an take care of it then! bad choice it didn’t go to warrant it went to collections an now it’s $509.00 + my license is suspended an they tell me I can’t see the judge what kind of bull s_ _t is this ? I am convinced Lancaster is the most corrupt city in Los Angeles county where you have to brake the law to enforce the law. I showed the clerk the code right out of the book
    she still refused to do anythig 40509.5 (h) A violation subject to Section 40001, that is the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle, shall not be reported
    under this section.

    • Deric, RE: “so I figured I let it go to warrant an take care of it then!”

      Your legal instincts are bad. You should get a refund from your law school.

      Driving with expired registration is a citation that goes to the driver, not the owner. It’s illegal to DRIVE a car with expired registration tags.

      I get really sick of telling people that.

      There is one exception – driving a company car in the line of work. Then the citation goes to the business, not the employee driver.

      But in general, as in your case, it is the drivers responsibility. I am not surprised that the court clerk ignored your offer of the law – the court clerk does not make legal decisions. You were not talking to the decider. There was nothing she/he could do even if they thought you were right. A court clerk never makes a decision as to guilt or innocence.

      My best advice is to file a demand for a trial:

      And Motion to Dismiss under Penal Code 1385:

      Or just pay the bastards.

  61. Rubi says:

    I desperately need help! I just received a Collection Notice on Friday stating that I hadn’t paid $125 for a tinted window ticket and now had a $300 civil assessment added to the original fine. I also got informed after speaking to one of the clerks that my license was and will be on hold until I pay the fine in full. Other than the Collection Notice I had never recieved any previous notice regarding the ticket. The clerk mentioned to me that the reason was because all my notices were being sent to my physical address instead of my PO Box, which is in my drivers license. I don’t mind paying the fine, since I no longer have that vehicle, but dont want to pay civil assessment. I already have a form of Request to Vacate the Civil Assessment but don’t know what to write exactly so it will be granted for sure. Do I pay the $125 before I get granted the waiver or is that like me pleading guilty?

    • Rubi, If you signed the citation when the officer gave it to you – that is your notice. A citation is a legal “Promise to Appear” and by signing it – you are verifying that you have read it, that the address on the citation is correct, and that you understand you have to go to court on the date listed on the bottom. Once you sign that citation, the court is not required to send you anything. So it sounds like you have no defense. If you have no defense, there is no way to write a petition to vacate civil assessment in such a way that it will be granted for sure. Maybe you are guilty? Because this is only a $430 problem, I would recommend that you just pay ASAP. The amount of money is too small to give up part of your life in an LA Court for.

      But if this were a bigger problem, I would recommend that you go in to the courthouse in person and ask for a walk-in court appearance and see if you can get something done. If they will not give you a court date, the best argument for the Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment is that the court has denied you the right to a Due Process Review of the justification for the Civil Assessment that is required by Penal Code section 1214.1(d).

  62. Bill says:


    Thank you for the clarification and all the advice in the blog that I have learned from.
    I would like to fight the ticket and the additional fines on the basis that the courts are not abiding by the USPS recommendations for the mailing of an “important document” (page 11 in Domestic Mail Manual 100 Series PSN: 7610-05-000-5072).

    It is my understanding that some other states have determined that simply dropping a ticket, summons, or judgment in the mail is not sufficient service yet it appears that in California we are willing to roll over and let this happen. Mail gets lost, stolen, or returned all the time. Proof that someone dropped something in the mail should not be proof that it was delivered to the intended recipient.

    I have several addresses that the DMV sends my bills to. My last issued CDL lists one street address but the zip code on the CDL is for another rural address.

    The Rural address is not having mail delivered to it as the USPS is being difficult as there is no PS form 4232 (Rural Customer Delivery Instructions) on file with them for the address (not legally required).

    While there is a requirement to keep my current address up to date with the DMV there is no law requiring me to be there, or apparently for the USPS to actually deliver the mail to the address.

    I think that allowing the courts to have an arraignment, trial, and issue a judgment with no confirmed notification of the accused is just wrong. How do I go about getting this corrected?

    Thank You,

    • Bill, thank you for the good question. I assume this is a California problem.

      I like your idea, but I have some bad news – (forgive me for sounding rude, but I get sick of telling people this) – THE COURT IS NOT REQUIRED TO SEND YOU ANYTHING AFTER YOU GET A CITATION !!!!!! AGHHH!!!!!!!!! NOTHING, NADA, ZERO. Your signature on the citation is an enforceable “Promise to Appear” in court. Nothing more is required for the court to jack you up if you do not show up on time.

      You cannot fight a ticket on the grounds that you did not receive anything in the mail. That is not a defense. Don’t waste your time trying.

      Having said that – there are 2 exceptions to the rule that the court is not required to send you anything: 1) red light (or other) camera citations; and 2) when the court adds a civil assessment to your case after you miss the court date listed on the bottom of your ticket next to your signature (see penal code section 1214.1(b).)

      If you are talking about a red light camera violation, you might having something. But I can tell you this – you are required by law to keep DMV updated as to your current mailing address. If DMV does not have your current mailing address, it is your own fault – and it is actually a misdemeanor crime to fail to notify DMV of your correct mailing address within 10 days of a change.

      The issue regarding the address on your drivers license is totally irrelevant because it is your responsibility to ensure that the address on the citation you get from an officer is correct BEFORE YOU SIGN IT. If the address on the citation is not correct, and you sign it, it’s your fault.

      When a person receives a citation from an officer, at the bottom of the citation is the date, time and location of the courthouse where you must appear. If you do not show up and get prof you where in court n that date and time, you are guilty of a failure to appear, regardless of whether or not the court sent you anything.

      Now if you found out that you got a red light violation ticket and the court mailed it to an address other than the address DMV has on record for the registered owner of the vehicle, then you may have something. But if you signed the citation, you’re screwed, dont waste your time.

      If this is a red light camera problem, give me an update and I’ll try to offer more advice for that problem.

      For other people out there, here is my best advice:

      1) do not ever sign a citation without reading it to make sure your address is correct and that you can read and understand the court date at the bottom;
      2) do not ever fail to notify DMV of a change of address in writing, and get proof that you notified them;
      3) do not ever wait for the court to send you something after receiving a citation
      4) if you do go to court on the date and time listed on the citation, get proof you were there.

    • Bill, it just dawned on me that you might be talking about a problem where you did not receive the 10 day warning of a civil assessment as required by Penal Code section 1214.1(b). That is a warning that the court is required to mail to you. Sorry if I missed that point (I’ve been writing all day).

      If you want to challenge a civil assessment on the grounds that you did not receive the Penal Code 1214.1(b) notice, you also should challenge the problem on the grounds that the court has not allowed you a motion to vacate judgment as allowed by Penal Code section 1214.1(d) at the same time.

      My best advice for doing this is to file a petition to vacate civil assessment on those grounds, and when the court denies it, appeal.

      As far as the post office recommendation for mailing important documents goes, that is very creative. I like the idea. But the law only requires “mailing” it does not require “receipt” of the notice. So – and this is where a law degree helps – you have to present the issue like this – (put this n your petition also):

      Penal Code section 1214.1(b) violates the Constitutional requirement of Due Process Under the 5th and 14th Amendments because it allows a government taking of money without assurance that the defendant has RECEIVED notice of the assessment. If the defendant does not receive notice, there is no DUE PROCESS.

      So the challenge for your idea would really be to the statute’s requirement of “Mailing” instead of “Proof of actual Notice”.

      I would not recommend arguing that they must follow the post recommendations, but you can use that to state that there are “reasonably available” way to ensure actualy notice that the government is not using “because they do not want the defendant to have actual notice”.

      Challenge the statute on Due Process Grounds, not the method of mailing. Does that make sense? If you have follow up questions, I am happy to try to answer for free.

  63. Bill says:

    Hi Christopher,

    Is the free (still) document at …… the same as the recommended Demand for Trial after Civil assessment that is recommended by you?

    I have just received a notice of a pending suspension of my CA Drivers license from the DMV. The DMV is citing an infraction that I was not ever notified of (red light camera). I am planning on filing the demand for trial tomorrow and pay the bail if it is required. Are there any other filings that I should be aware of?

    Also how do I arrange a phone consultation with you?

    Thanks Bill

    • Bill,

      The most current version of my form for demanding a trial after a civil assessment is available for $10 at:

      I do one hour attorney conferences for $89 – That is the best way to get my advice on a specific problem. Once you pay by credit or debit card, or even pay pal, I’ll contact you to schedule a discussion. I can review your paperwork in advance of our discussion.

      If you did not get any notice of a red light camera violation, it is probably because your address with DMV is not current. I recommend calling DMV to verify your address right now. It is a misdemeanor crime to not keep DMV updated as to your current address.

      There may be something strange about your issue, because usually a Red Light Camera ticket cannot cause a failure to appear or the related VC40509.5 suspension because there is no signed “Promise to appear”. You dont sign citations issued by red light cameras – they come in the mail to the address of the registered owner of the car.

      Take a look at Vehicle Code section 40518: They can suspend your license if they send a proper notice to your DMV address.

      But yes, your best option is to go to court tomorrow and ask for a walk in appearance and try to resolve the case. If it is you in the photo – I would not recommend pleading not guilty and having a trial, because you are almost certain to lose. But if it is not you in the picture, demand a trial.

  64. Eric says:

    I just got denied in my petition to vacate the $300 Civil Assessment fee for a fixit ticket and says it is now due. Is there anyway if I go to the clerk at the court and ask for more time to pay or set a payment plan? How long do I have before they send it to collection?
    This is from Court of Santa Clara

    • Eric, I get this question over and over. It is a common problem. Once you miss the deadline for a “correctable” violation, it is no longer a “fix it” ticket. You missed the deadline to fix it. So now it is a regular violation. I can say you are not “entitled” to an extension to pay – if they give you one it is only because they are being nice to you. You should go to the courthouse and ask the traffic court clerk for an extension to pay before the suspend your drivers license. I recommend going at 8 am in case they tell you that you have to see the judge to get an extension. But the best option is to just do what you have to do to pay it off ASAP.

  65. Theresa says:

    I got a fix it ticket back in feb of 09 due to no plates and registration on a car i just bought. i have a son with severe autism and who gets sick constantly he also had a ton of therapy and doctors appointments. Anyway The ticket slipped my mind. I got it fixed and had an oficer sign off on it but I missed my trial date and my licence was suspended. When I went down to the court to try andget a new trial the clerk told me it was already in collections(GC Services)and I couldnt get a new trial til I paid the fine. I went to the window and found out that my fix it ticket went from $0 to $748. I told them the situation and they could care less and said it wasnt their problem and I had no right to see a judge. Like a fool i believed them and made a payment of $100.
    Its now been almost a year and I just found this site.
    My question is (1) since i paid a payment twords the fine does that mean i plead guilty and now have no right to a trial?
    (2)I know there is a civil assment of $300 for not appearing but why am I being Charged $748 on a fix it ticket.

    I called GC services and was told nothing about the break down of the fine. I was also told that I had to make a payment of $200 if I wanted to start the payment arangement and could only do it through western union. I just lost my job due to my sons disability and being sick all the time. We are living on his ssi and my cash aid which doesnt even pay half the bills.
    Im so mad it was a free fix it ticket its not like i was trying to avoid paying something. My life is just so hectic I barley remember to do anything for my self.
    Is there anything I can do?
    I was never sent a 10 day warning of the election or the required notice of a decision on the trial I dont even think they had a trial they just saw I didnt appear and sent it straight to collections.

    • Theresa,

      Here is my impersonation of the judge imagining your comment:

      “No! You cannot have a new court date. And No! this is not a zero dollar ticket. If you plead not guilty, got a trial date, and failed to show at the trial, your case is over. Game over, insert new quarter in the form of a cashier’s check for $786. What [probably] happened is that the Police Officer showed up to testify against you, and when you did not show, I ruled on the officer’s statement. There was no evidence to show you were not guilty. Thus, you are guilty – we had the trial without you. You were sentenced and now you must pay. The fact that you or your son may be sick is not a defense. Poverty is not a defense to anything.”

      Then, because the judge was pissed off that you wasted the court’s and the officer’s time, stuck it to you to try to recoop some of the money it cost the court and the county to deal with your failure to register the car.

      So, unfortunately, if you scheduled a trial and did not go, there is not much that can be done. Look at it this way, in the old days they would have issued a bench warrant for your arrest. Now, all they want is your $$$.

  66. Erin P says:

    This is an excellent site – I’m at work and need to read it thoroughly – evidentally I have rights that I didn’t know about, and have already paid the state over $1500 for several lack of registration tickets – 2 I got within days of each other (paid the reg. but couldn’t get vehicle to pass smog – most cops let me go when they saw the proof of pmt. but some didn’t). I’ve already paid the state $1040 for one ticket (that they refused to give me a court date for). The problem is dealt with now (new car), but after going to court today and having a ticket dismissed (for the same problem), I find out that I still owe $300 since they say I was late in responding – to my recollection I was not, but need to find paperwork to substantiate this. I cannot continue to pay this much money to the state. Hoping there’s something I can do. Will check back/educate myself on this a bit later…

  67. Lurch says:

    Hello, if the court says I can have a court date but I have to post the full bail amount and wait 45 days, is that legal?

    p.s. Thank you for all you do to help us.

    • If the deadline listed on your citation (at the bottom), or in your courtesy notice (you may not get one) has passed, some courts will require that you post bail to get a trial date. But technically, if you ask for a trial during an in person “Arraignment”, they probably have to give it to you without bail. Try asking the court clerk for a walk in arraignment (instead of pleading guilty at the counter or by mail). At your arraignment in person, say not guilty, that you want a trial, and that you cannot afford bail.

      Bail is really a deposit that the court holds to make sure you show up. If you have already missed a date, it is sometimes hard to get around a court clerk that wants to demand bail. Once at the Watsonville Courthouse in Santa Cruz County, I had this problem. Client had hired me to take care of several cases, and I tried to set them all for a court date. The court clerk told me we had to post bail for a trial, and I said I don’t want a trial, I want an “Arraignment” to decide if I want a trial or not. After all, it’s at the arraignment where the charges are read to you, and where you get the court to state your rights in person. Why would you decide to plead guilty or not guilty prior to being read the charges and rights? Denial of the reading of the charges and rights is a Denial of Due Process under the 14th and 5th Amendments to the US Constitution. [As a side note: I'm a former editing Member of the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, and this is my favorite argument for all obstacles the court throws in front of you]

      So anyway, she insisted that I had to post bail to even get an arraignment. After the head clerk came by to sort out the issue, we pulled out the clerk’s white binder titled “Operations Manual” and found a page that states Attorneys can set cases – including old traffic infraction cases – for arraignment without paying bail. The manual actually said that itself. I got my court dates without bail. So then, finally, once I got into court, I told the judge what happened, and how ridiculous it all was. The clerks office was denying court dates when they should not. The judge called the head clerk, asked for an explanation, and actually said they were going to make sure it did not happen again.

      I believe that they cannot legally deny you an arraignment because of inability to post bail. Then once in court, pleading not guilty, the court cannot deny you a trial date due to a lack of money (but they can keep you in jail on a misdemeanor).

      You can appeal an order denying a request for court date without paying bail, but that would almost certainly be a waste of time and effort. The main problem is that is just an order, and not a final judgment. For more info on how to appeal a traffic court case click here.

  68. Steve S. says:

    On your not guilty plea/demand for trial form where it says declaration of (blank), I put my full name correct? Also if the court says I can have a court date but I have to post the full bail amount and wait 45 days, is that legal?

    p.s. Thank you for all you do to help us.

    • Steve, some courts will let you have a court date only if you post bail.

      If you are using my form to demand a trial, and they offer to give you one if you post bail, you need to file a declaration stating that you are unable to post bail, and ask for in person “Arraignment” instead of trial. See if you can fit it in there to say “I cannot afford to post bail”, or add a single page.

  69. steve says:

    On the form “Declaration of Defendant in Support of Not Guilty Plea” where it says declaration of (blank), I put my full name correct? Also if the court says I can have a court date but I have to post the full bail amount and wait 45 days, is that legal?

    p.s. Thank you for all you do to help us.

  70. jim walthall says:


  71. emily says:

    Very helpful suggestions, Thank you. One follow up– can I plead guilty to the infraction, but not guilty to failure to pay?

    • Emily, Yes, you can plead guilty to one charge and not guilty to other charges. But in your case it doesn’t make sense. The only reason to plead not guilty is if you have a defense. To have a defense to a failure to pay charge, you need to have proof you paid. If you don’t have proof you paid, don’t waste your time.

  72. emily says:

    I just received a DENIAL of my appeal for a civil assessment waiver (So frustrating as I actually called the court a few times/ and checked the website as well. The court clerk told me sometimes the officers forget to file/ to keep checking back– well I did for a few months, and then forgot. I NEVER got a notice about the ticket in the mail). I really can’t afford the $300– I will pay the $142 cell phone infraction (guilty).. but the fee is ridiculous.

    Other than filing the appeal as you suggest above (with these laborious instructions fro m the gov.. cr141: )

    Any suggestions?


    • You can appeal an order denying a Petition to Vacate a Civil Assessment on Several grounds, including: 1) Court’s failure to comply with Penal Code section 1214.1(b) [10 day notice requirement]; and 2) illegal government taking in violation of US Constitution Amendments 5 and 14 [Due Process Requirements]. But if you do not want to do that, I’d recommend trying to go to the court clerks office in person at 8 am and asking for a walk in court appearance. Then, once in court, plead not guilty and demand a court trial. Once in trial, make those same arguments.

  73. Rod A says:

    I have a couple of tickets that I have not been able to pay because I am unemployed, tickets are over one year old, Now I may be receiving a job offer that requires I have a valid drivers license, my license has been suspended. I don’t have the money now to pay the fine, is there anything I can do to reduce the fine or make payment arrangement with the courts.

    • Rod, you should go to the courthouse(s) in person and request a walk in appearance. Once in court, maybe you can talk the judge into releasing the drivers license holds without payment. I’d recommend hiring an attorney to do the work for you, because an attorney can get it done in most courts within a few days.

  74. Franky Torres says:

    Hi Mr Dort, before anything, I would like to express my gratitude for everything you’ve done for me in the best way I know, for months i’ve been trying to find the way to get my drivers license back with no success, till i found your website. thanks for your expert advise, I am closer than ever to getting my drivers license back. I understand if you can’t help me for free anymore so, how much would you charge me to write the motion to dismiss form and for instructions on how to file it? please let me know how I can get you a check or money order and tell me what the next step will be. Thanks again for your help, Franky Torres.

  75. Franky Torres says:

    I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, I’ll try to explain: on february 29 i posted a comment that said: “That was only for 1 of the 2 cases that are holding my drivers license. I haven’t heard from the other one yet. I’ll come back with the update” I have 2 different cases in solano county, 1 of them, in the city of vallejo and the other 1 in the city of fairfield. on dicember 29 for both cases I dropped off the demand for a trial forms in person and got them to stamp my copies. About 7 days later i mailed forms for both cases following your instructions. i got a letter from fairfield where i was granted a court trial date on feb 8 (not on the 10th like i had originally said) and about 8-10 days i received another letter from fairfield that said: “Mr Torres, please be advised that the court had previously received your plea of no guilty form on 12/29/2009″ In other words, fairfield court responded to both of my atempts to enter my plea but vallejo court hasn’t responded me at all. I hope all this makes sense. thank you so much for all your help on this matter.

  76. Marc says:

    The court finally responded to the Notice of Not Guilty form. My court date is March 10th. I guess all those court employees and collection agents were wrong after all. I couldn’t have done it without your help Mr. Dort.

    I never received the ticket or notices because they went to the address of the OTHER owner of the car, my ex-wife. I hope that defense will knock off some of the fines. I’ll let you know how the trial goes.

    Thanks for everything!!!!

  77. Marc says:

    After being told by several court employees and the collection company that it can’t happen, the court finally responded to the Notice of Not Guilty form by giving me a trial date of March 10th. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without your help, Mr. Dort.

    I’ll let you know how the trial goes. The reason that I never recieved the ticket or notices in the first place is because they went to the address of the OTHER owner of the car (my ex-wife). I hope that defense will knock off some of the fines.

    Thanks a ton!

  78. Franky Torres says:

    tomorrow saturday 13th is the 45th day after i filed my Demand for Entry of Not Guilty Plea and i never recieved anything from the court. what’s the next step? file a motion to dismiss based upon a violation of the right to a speedy trial? how do I do that? thanks again for your help.

    • Franky, the bad news is that on January 24, you posted a comment stating that you were given a trial date of 2/10/10. So I don’t really believe that you did not receive anything from the court (unless there is another Franky Torres with the same problem and same email address). If you did not go on 2/10/10, you are double screwed and should hire a licensed attorney to help. If you missed it, you missed your chance. Sorry. But if you went, and the court did not allow you to have a trial, then you need to write and file a motion to dismiss for denial of the right to a speedy trial. That’s about all the free help I can provide.

  79. Franky Torres says:

    Now that I’ve been granted a court trial, i have some questions about what’s gonna happen there: Is the citing officer required to be there? If he is and he doesn’t show up, is my case dismissed including the FTA? Will I be offered a plea bargain by the DA before trial? Will it help my case if i disqualify the comissioner and demand for a real judge to hear my case? if so, when would be the right time to do it? your help will be appreciated. thank you.

  80. Sam Ali says:

    Mr Christopher Dort,

    Thank you for helping us fight our traffics and ridiculous fines.

    At my initial arraigment at the San Francisco Hall of Justice I appeared before the requested date and declared I was not guilty. They gave me a court date (own recognizance agreement to appear in lieu of posting bail) on the 27th, which I missed do to very important college classes. I tried calling but I the lines were always busy, and I myself being busy, could not frequently stay on hold.

    I see you mentioned legitimate reasons for missing a date such as active duty, or hospital emergency, but what do you think would happen if I explain my situation in writing to the court-

    That being that- I tried reguraly to contact, could not be directed to an answering machine (the phone system got me no where), and had to prioritize my education (and I was also feeling terribly ill that day from food poisoning), and that in the end my only option was to miss out on court date and explain my situation to them later.

    I can not afford 300$ in addition to my traffic ticket- and they have threatened to issue a warrant for my arrest or suspend my license

    Please help,


    • Sam, I cannot tell if this was a traffic ticket or a misdemeanor (such as driving on a suspended license under Veh. Code section 14601.2). So I will try to answer both ways.

      If you schedule a trial in a traffic court (infraction) case, and do not appear for the trial, the court will have the trial without you, and take testimony from the officer. Of course, if this happens, you lose the case and are found guilty. In that case, you’re screwed, there is nothing you can do but pay. There is no way to get a new trial date. The courts hate it when this happens, because they have to go through the time of subpoenaing the officer, and having the hearing.

      If it was a misdemeanor case, and you plead not guilty and got a “pre trial conference date” then missed it, the court will usually issue a warrant and add a charge of failure to appear under Vehicle Code section 40508(a) or penal code section 853.7. If this is what happened, you need to go to court immediately and ask for a walk in appearance from the court clerk.

      Attempting to call the court to tell them you are going to miss a date is a waste of time. Even if you got through, they would have just told you that you need to show up. You cannot call the court and cancel a court date. Once a court date is set, you have to go, or hire a licensed attorney to go for you. There is no other option.

      As for defenses to a failure to appear – having to go to school does not work. Being sick might work if you had proof.

  81. Franky Torres says:

    WE won the battle. I don’t think i would’ve made it without your help. That was only for 1 of the 2 cases that are holding my drivers license. I haven’t heard from the other one yet. I’ll come back with the update. Once again, Gracias.

  82. Franky Torres says:

    well, i don’t know if mine are good news but they actually DID give me a trial date. its set for 02.10.10 at 8:30am. since they didn’t refuse to give mea trial date, we won’t be able to appeal and demand for them to dissmiss the case based on denial of my rights, Right? so what do i do now? Thank you again for your help. Franky Torres

    • Franky, good work. You did it. You got a trial date after they told you could not have one because they said your case was “in collections”. You won the battle. You are correct, now that you have a trial, there is no point in appealing due to a denial of the right to a trial. Now you have to present what ever defense you feel you have to the original citation and civil assessment (caused by a failure to appear) at the trial. Somehow you are going to have to explain to the judge why you should not have to pay what the collection agency said you owe. You can still pay in full and end the case without the trial, but I assume you don’t want to do that. Make sure you ask the judge to release the drivers license hold (assuming there is one – Vehicle Code section 40509.5). Once the drivers license hold is released you have to visit DMV in person to get a valid drivers license.

  83. Marc says:

    Good news! I have a stamped copy of the Notice of Not Guilty and Demand for Trial form. I was out of town, so I had to mail it, but they filed and returned the stamped copy w/o delay.

    I’ve already appealed once, but they admitted and documented that no trial has taken place.

    Is my next step an interlocutory appeal?

    Also, I heard a rumor that the camera company that allegedly took my picture, has an incentive based contract w/ the city. Would that mean the evidence was illegally acquired?

    • Marc- Wooh Hoo!!!!!!! Great Work. A+. OK, now we’re rolling and I will help you for free. Here is what we do next – they have 45 days from the entry of a Not Guilty plea to give you a trial. On the 46th day after the file stamp, we will file a demand for dismissal based upon a violation of the right to a speedy trial. I will help you with that motion (if they don’t give you a trial). Then, if they deny the dismissal on that ground, we have many good appeal issues. What is the date on the file stamp? You can send me info @ or (800) 256 5983.

  84. Marc says:

    Unforturnately, I filed my appeal before I saw your last post.

    They would not hear my appeal and stated:

    “Your case never went to trial and the court did not issue a judgement. You need to contact Shasta Collections and may want to seek legal advice on your case.”

    I’ll file the Notice of Not Guilty Form, and then try it again.

    • Marc, you are on track. You need to get the court clerk to “file” that form, and you need proof you gave it to them. The proof you gave it to them can be a stamped copy, and/or a “Proof of Service form”. If you are wiling to do some work on it, I will help as much as I can for free. Please see the comments and replies from Franky on the same topic. I’d love to stop the traffic courts from continuing their illegal denials of the right to a trial.

  85. Franky Torres says:

    well, I went to court this morning directly to traffic window and told the clerk I wanted to file these papers and handed them to her. She looked atg the first page and looked up the case number on her computer and said: “you need to go to window 8 (collection) because this is in collection already” I told her I had no business to do there and that in those forms I was asking for a trial date. she got up noticiably upset and said: “meet me at window 8″ when I got to window 8 she handed the papers to the collection employee and left. The collection employee read what the document was about, stamped it, stamped my copy and told me that I would hear from them in 3-6 weeks. QUESTIONS: what am I supossed to get in the mail from them? I didn’t feel to confortable leaving my documents there since she’s not a court employee but I had no choice. Did I do the right thing? what’s the next step? Thanks For your Help once again.

    • Franky, Nice Work! They have to do something with it. Keep it rolling and I’ll help as much as I can. Here is what I recommend you do next: Mail 2 copies of the “Demand for Entry of Not Guilty Plea” form to the court clerk with a very short letter asking for it to be filed and a “Conformed Copy” returned to you. Include a self addressed, stamped envelope. Include a “Proof of service by mail form” signed by someone else you can get to mail the letter and form. Keep a copy of the proof of service as your proof you served that document.

      Then wait. They will respond somehow. If they do not respond somehow, then the correct course is a “Write of Mandate” which is where you ask a court to order a public official to do their official duty. I can and will help with that if necessary. Technically, it is called an “interlocutory appeal”. If you lose that, you can go to Federal Court and start at the ground. Denial of a right to Due Process is an issue that can go all the way through Federal Courts.

      If anyone else sees this post and is working on the same problem, let us know!

  86. Jonathan says:

    is there a court imposed filing fee for filing an appeal from a decision in traffic court? if so, what is that fee? Thanks.

    • Jonathan, Great question. No, there is no filing fee involved in appealing a California traffic court case. There is a small fee if you want a copy of the recording of the trial (about $10), but no other fees. That why I say Just Do It!!!!

  87. Marc says:

    Oh yeah, thanks for the other info. I’m definitely going to try to appeal.

    On the CR-142 section 2, do I check box a,b, or c?

    I’m guessing it’s box A, because under penal code 1466(2)(A)- “the court may review any order denying a motion
    for a new trial.”

    I hope I’m right, and thanks again.

    • Marc, Check boxes B & C. There are 2 actions you are appealing: 1) Refusal to enter not guilty plea at arraignment (use date you asked for a court date); and 2) denial of your request for a trial de novo (use the date they denied it or refused to file it). Note – you do not have to make your arguments on the Notice of Appeal form, Your arguments come later in the Appellants Opening Brief, which you will file later (when the court tells you to).

      I am interested in helping you with this for free. The courts are screwing people out of trials and if you are interested in working on it, I want to help you get it right. If you will send your phone # to I’ll call you and discuss. Just get the Notice of Appeal filed on time – don’t worry much about what it says. Get proof you filed it.

  88. Marc says:

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    How does this plan sound?

    The court quoted penal code 1214.1 on the civil assessment form.

    1214.1. (a) In addition to any other penalty in infraction,
    misdemeanor, or felony cases, the court may impose a civil assessment
    of up to three hundred dollars ($300) against any defendant who
    fails, after notice and without good cause, to appear in court for
    any proceeding authorized by law or who fails to pay all or any
    portion of a fine ordered by the court.

    However, 1214.1 (d) reads:

    (d) The assessment imposed under subdivision (a) shall be subject
    to the due process requirements governing defense and collection of
    civil money judgments generally.

    Therefore, if I am correct, I have 180 days from the day “I” discovered the assessment to file to vacate it. The closest form that I can find to use is SC-135. I know that will be chore getting it through the clerk’s window with a “TR” case number on it.

    • Marc, you are not really appealing the civil assessment, you are appealing their refusal to give you a trial date. It is a denial of due process on the original violation that is the primary problem.

    • Marc, UPDATE!!! I finally got sick of this problem and did some real legal work. I just wrote a new document for people who have a civil assessment added and the court will not allow them to have a trial date. It’s a real legal form, on pleading paper, instructions included, for a Notice of Not Guilty Plea and Demand for Court Trial. In your situation, I recommend you fill it out and file it right before you file the notice of appeal – (if you can) – so that you have prof they refused you a trial. Here is a link where you can get this form for free for a limited time: After a short free period, it will be available for $9.99.

  89. Marc says:

    I tried to file for a Trial De Novo at the clerks’ wondow and they wouldn’t consider it. They gave me a copy of everything in the case file. The only thing it contained was a copy of the ticket, a courtesy notice, and a notice of intent to impose a civil assessment. No trial by declaration documentation, yet some how I owe the collection agency $865 and my driver license is suspended.

    What now??

    • Marc, Appeal, appeal, appeal!!!!! It’s free. And they are screwing you. Read my article on how to appeal a traffic court case. if they denied or refused to file your request for trial by declaration, you can appeal the case based up that action (or refusal). File a notice for appeal, and list the date of the decision you are appealing as the date you tried to file the Request for Trial De novo. They are denying you the right to a trial and trying to take your property without due process if they deny you an arraignment and trial. They only way they can justify refusing you a court date is if they consider your failure to appear as a request for trial by declaration (as allowed by the Vehicle Code). And they have to give you notice of that decision. If there is no proof that there was a trial in the file, and no proof you had an arraignment or were notified of a trial by declaration, by law you do still have the right to be heard in court. If they don’t let you have that day in court, you are being robbed and denied your right to due process under the 5th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution. Ideally, you force them to give you proof they refused your request for trial de novo by getting a copy of it with the court’s denial listed on it. The courts are getting very sloppy with refusing people their right to a trial date and they can be stopped. The reason they are getting away with it is because the cases are so small that no one has been willing to take real issue with it yet.

  90. Marc says:

    Thanks for the clear and concise info. I have a FTA/FTP in collection for a red light photo ticket that I knew nothing about in Yuba county. They want $865.00 and will not give me a court date. I will demand a “Trial De Novo” all the way up the chain.

    • Marc, Do It!!!!! There is no harm, and it is free. Make sure that on the request for trial de novo that you state you did not receive notice of the court’s decision. If you have to appeal, your appeal should be that they are denying you the right to due process (trial) and taking your property (money) in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution.

  91. jason q. says:

    Hello I received a cell phone ticket in November and it said it was due by the 19th. I get paid once a month and was going to pay today but when i got home I received a civil assessment fee that shot it up to 450. They said I have 10 days to talk to them and give them a reason.
    So far my reasons are I work part time from 8-12 everyday then go straight to school from 12:30 to 2 and coach from 2:15 to 4. This is Monday -Friday to pay for UCI. Do you think the judge might let that slide? I forgot to mention that this at the west justice center for westminister/ huntigton beach area

    • Jason, you need to go to the court clerks office and request a walk in court date. Then, you need to ask the judge for time to pay the fine. They will give it to you, but you have to go now.

  92. franky torres says:

    i went to court yesterday asked them for a court date and they denied it because it was in collection already. i asked them if my FTA was treated as a request for trial by declaration and they looked like they didn’t know what i was talking about. they just told me to fill out form GC111209 and mail it in and wait 2 to 3 weeks with a decision. i asked for a trial de novo and they said i couldn’t get one because there was no initial trial in the first place. thanks again, Franky Torres

    • Frank, when you are talking to a traffic court clerk, you are not talking to a person with any legal training. It is not surprising that they did not understand what you were talking about. If I were there, I would have asked the court clerk if you had a right to a trial, or if they took that away from you. That is really the point here. They are preventing you from having a trial. It’s a denial of due process. Clerks are just hourly employees that are told how to shuffle papers. You need to file the Request for Trial De Novo Form, and get a written denial of the request. Once you have that, you can appeal that denial on the grounds that you were denied due process of a trial. It’s free. See How to Appeal a Traffic Court Case.

    • Franky, UPDATE!!! I finally got sick of this problem and did some real legal work. I just wrote a new document for people who have a civil assessment added and the court will not allow them to have a trial date.

      It’s a real legal form, on pleading paper, instructions included, for a Notice of Not Guilty Plea and Demand for Court Trial. In your situation, I recommend you fill it out and file by delivering to the court clerk it ASAP – so that you have prof they refused you a trial. If it does not work, you can appeal and in my opinion, with a strong case. Here is a link where you can get this form I wrote myself for free for a limited time: After a short free period, it will be available for $9.99.

  93. franky torres says:


    Is solano county one of those other counties?
    thanks again for your help. Frankyt Torres

    • Solano county (at last visit) will not allow walk in court dates on overdue traffic infractions. They consider a failure to appear as a request for trial by declaration – which the defendant always loses.

      My best recommendation on these (if you cannot just pay and end the problem) is to file a “Demand for Trial De Novo” and on the judicial council form state that you never received notice of the court’s ruling on the citation (should have come on form TR-215). If the court denies your request for trial de novo, you can appeal that ruling.

  94. franky torres says:

    thanks for this great website full of information. a simple question: what’s the equivalent form for “petition to vacate a civil assessment” in solano county?

    • Frank, they have their own local form for Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment in Solano that you have to get in person at the clerk’s office. Some courts make this form available on line, but in my opinion, the Solano County Superior Court intentionally makes it more difficult in their court to take care of old citations.

  95. Vic Colborn says:

    So I tried your suggestion about filing for a new trial. Didn’t work for me. The county of Monterey sent me a letter back stating that since there was no initial trial, I was not entitled to a new trial.

    Other suggestions?

    • Vic – Are you the fighting type?

      Now that the court has denied your request, you have a judgment that you can appeal. Here is what is going on, hope it makes sense:

      If they denied your request because you did not have a trial yet, and they will not give you a court date, they are wrong and you ran into a court clerk who does not understand what is going on.

      In order to deny you a court date after a failure to appear on a traffic citation, the court must consider your failure to appear as a request for a trial by declaration under Vehicle Code section 40903. Because you are not present at the trial by declaration and file no paperwork, the defendant always loses. When they use this procedure, they can deny you a court date because you already had a trial and lost (involuntary trial by declaration under VC 40903 that is).

      Any defendant that loses a trial by declaration has 20 days from the date they get notice of the decision to request a new trial. If they deny the new trial, they are clearly making a legal error that I believe should cause a reversal.

      If you request a Trial De Novo, and instead of telling you that you are too late, they tell you that you did not have a trial, then you have now been convicted, and you have the right to an arraignment. If they will not give you an arraignment, and claim that you have not had a trial and will not give you a court date – then you are being denied due process (under the 5th and 14th amendments to the US Constitution).

      This is a great reason to appeal, and a real judge who looks at it may stop the traffic court in their tracks.

      The issue on appear should be presented as: The court refuses to allow me to have a trial; and (in the alternative) the court illegally denied a request for trial de novo after trial by declaration under Vehicle code section 40903.

      You can appear the decision for free. File the Notice of appeal within 30 days of the denial of your Trial De Novo Request. See my post on How to Appeal a Traffic Court Trial.

      Also, Review Vehicle Code section 40903 and my article on Kangaroo Courts.

      They gave you a trial by declaration, but they do not want to admit it, because they did not give you notice of the trial by declaration that would allow you to request a trial de novo. You are getting screwed!!!

      I recommend appealing again and again until you get to the CA Supreme Court on the Due Process Denial claim. They have to let you have a trial if they are going to take your property (money). Screw them, they are WRONG!

      I know it can be done, I just can’t find a client to pay me to do it. I wish I could afford to do it for free, because I am sure if we won the appeal on this issue, it would completely change the way the traffic courts screw people out of court dates and send the cases to collection agencies. But the problem is that the cases are too small to warrant 30-40 hours of an attorney working on it.

    • Vic, UPDATE!!! I finally got sick of this problem and did some real legal work. I just wrote a new document for people who have a civil assessment added and the court will not allow them to have a trial date.

      It’s a real legal form, on pleading paper, instructions included, for a Notice of Not Guilty Plea and Demand for Court Trial. In your situation, I recommend you fill it out and file by delivering to the court clerk it ASAP – so that you have prof they refused you a trial. If it does not work, you can appeal and in my opinion, with a strong case. Here is a link where you can get this form I wrote myself for free for a limited time: After a short free period, it will be available for $9.99.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>