A Traffic Ticket With Your Signature is a Promise to Appear in Court. Read It!



If you sign a traffic ticket, do not put it in your glove box and wait for the court to mail you something! At Traffic Court Pros.com we get many case review requests from people who state:

I got a ticket, but the court never sent me anything. I put it in my glove box and forgot about it. Now my license is suspended!

Of course there is a way to solve this problem.  However, technically, when this happens it is the fault of the driver, not the court. Here is the explanation as to why, and tips on how to avoid the common failure to appear suspension.

A traffic ticket is actually known legally as “A Promise to Appear” in court. When an officer gives a driver a citation, he or she writes several things on the ticket:  1) the alleged violation; 2) the drivers identification and address info; and 3) a court date and time (usually at the bottom).

When a driver signs the ticket, he or she is signing an enforceable promise to appear in court. Once a ticket is signed, there is no requirement that the court send you anything (unless they change the date).

When that date comes around, if the driver does not appear in court, the court will usually add a new charge of “failure to appear on signed promise to appear” to the case (in CA see Vehicle Code section 40508a), and add a drivers license suspension (in CA see Vehicle Code section 40509.5).

If an officer tells you that the court will send you something, do not wait for it. Take the ticket, read it carefully, put the court date on your calendar, and pay attention to it. Make sure your address is correct with the court and DMV at all times.


Then, if the court does send you a courtesy notice, it will have further instructions on how to pay and admit guilt if you wish, or how to appear in court. But if nothing comes from the court, you must go at the date and time listed on the ticket. Once in court, get written proof that you were there. Do not leave court without proof you were there, even if the court says they have no record of your citation.

By following these simple rules, you can avoid the nightmare of having your license suspended and a failure to appear charge because you missed the court date.

Visit TrafficCourtPros.com. Free Self Help. Free Attorney Problem Reviews.

If you do have the problem of a drivers license suspension because of a failure to appear, there is a way to solve the problem quickly. For more info, visit www.TrafficCourtPros.com and get a Free Attorney Case Review.

Question about this article? Post a comment.

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 Correctable Violations, Courtesy Notices, Going to Court, Suspended Drivers License and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Traffic Ticket With Your Signature is a Promise to Appear in Court. Read It!

  1. Shradha says:

    I got a ‘promise to appear’ ticket last week for – driving without licence & failure to yield to emergency.
    I have recently shifted to usa & I am yet to take a driving test to get a license. Plus when the police car was following me, I did not realize they were actually getting me (coz I was busy focusing on the road & my driving practice).
    My intention was not to break any rules, but I got stuck with a ticket even b4 starting a life here.
    What really happens in a court & what is the possible course of action for the citations I have recd.? Pls help.

    • Shradha,

      I have some bad news for you. It is illegal to drive without a drivers license in America. You are not allowed to practice without a drivers license.

      In mexico, egypt, goma, congo, india, you would probably be fine. Not here. You must have a drivers license (or learner’s permit and a licensed driver) to drive. And you must know the rules of the road. If you do not, please do not drive at all. I dont want you behind me.

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