Traffic Ticket “Amnesty” in California Starts in January 2012. But Is It Too Good to Be True?

UPDATE: [January 14, 2012: We have received anonymous reports (unverified) that collection agencies including GC Services are telling people they are not eligible for amnesty because there is a civil assessment on the case, or another FTA case open. DO NOT TRUST INFO on whether or not you qualify for traffic ticket amnesty from anyone other than: 1) the superior court traffic court Division Clerk; or 2) an Attorney who checked with the court. OK- as you were]

Hoorayh!!!! Suspended Drivers License? Failure to Appear? Missed Court date? Missed Fine Payment! Happiness bounds in the land of Honnalee for you because there is a new California Traffic Ticket Amnesty Program!

Sound too good to be true? Well, your instincts are right. There are lots of restrictions, and even if your case(s) qualify, you only get a 50% discount on the court’s insanely inflated fines, fees, penalties, civil assessments, penalty assessments, and imaginary “abstract fees”.

And some drivers who qualify, such as victims of identity theft, can actually benefit by declining the Amnesty Program and instead demanding a trial.

Our end conclusion is that the Amnesty Program is really more like a coupon for only those people who can pay in full and want to plead guilty to everything.

But there is a lot of good news here too. People with lots of old traffic tickets can actually save a lot of money by acting fast, and some people may be able to get their drivers license back faster than they thought.

But as we will see below, even with the Amnesty Program, people with old traffic tickets from many years and bench warrants, or misdemeanor charges will benefit from hiring an Attorney to solve the whole problem.

In this free legal self help article, we break down California’s 2012 Traffic Ticket Amnesty Program for you.


1. Amnesty Program Only Lasts 6 Months.

For the next six months, Starting January 1st through June 30th, 2012, Certain unpaid traffic tickets are eligible for a 50% discount – if you pay the claimed “debt” in full during this 6 month amnesty period.

After this six month period, the Amnesty Program ends completely.

2. Limitations of the Traffic Ticket Amnesty Program.

The program includes all unpaid adult and juvenile vehicle code and non vehicle code infractions prior to 2009.

Now here’s the fine print: ALL of the following conditions must be met to be eligible:

a) You have an outstanding traffic debt that was due to be paid in full before January 1, 2009.
b) The last date you made a payment was on or before January 1, 2009.
c) You either failed to appear in court or failed to pay in full.
d) You don’t owe restitution to a victim on any case within the county where the violation was filed.
e) You have no outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants within the county where the violation was filed.

If your case qualified, the total amount you owe can be cut in half. You will have to pay if off in one lump sum.

Source: CA Judicial Council


1) Tickets issued after January 1, 2009 Do Not Qualify.

Failure to Appear cases From January 2009 – now do not qualify. Your failure to appear / failure to pay case must be at least 2 years old to qualify for the amnesty. (local courts are allowed to make exceptions, but we do not expect any exceptions).

2) Cases Involving Driving on a Suspended Drivers License (Veh Code 14601.1), DUI (Veh Code 23152), and Reckless Driving offenses Do Not Qualify

Cases involving misdemeanors are not covered.

3) Bench Warrants Disqualify a Person from the Program

If you have a warrant pending in the county where your old traffic tickets are pending, you are disqualified from the program completely. 1 warrant = none of your cases qualify for the Amnesty.

4) If You Have a Defense, The Amnesty Program Will Not Help You.

The Amnesty Program requires defendants to plead guilty to everything in the court’s file, including failure to appear violations.

For defendants who are victims of identity theft, the court ignores you and the Amnesty Program will not allow you to present evidence that it was not you.

Defendants who did not receive any notice of the violation do not benefit from the Amnesty program. There is nothing in the Amnesty program to help those people who had the court change their date without notice, and who then later ended up with a suspended drivers license. To use the Amnesty program, these drivers must admit they intentionally skipped a court appearance – even if they did not.

Defendants with Proof of Correction violations cannot show proof of correction. So if you have proof that you sold that car with the registration violation, you may actually be able to save more money by ignoring the Amnesty program and going in to ask a judge to accept your proof of sale.


Step 1: Figure Out Which of Your Cases May Qualify.

If you have failure to appear cases that you think may qualify, you need to get a list of them. You need: 1) the case #; 2) the date of the citation; 3) the courthouse location.

You can get this information by contacting the court clerks office, or in some advanced courts, checking the court’s on line services to look up the case. Going to the courthouse in person is best.

If you have no idea what court your case is in, you can probably contact the Department of Motor Vehicles “Driver Safety Office” to get information on the cases causing a suspension on your drivers license. The DMV can give you the courthouse location(s) for your drivers license holds caused by failure to appear cases (VC 40509.5 holds).

Warning!: DO NOT TRUST THE CASE OR DOCKET NUMBERS THE DMV GIVES YOU. THEY ARE FAKE NUMBERS MADE UP BY THE DMV AND THEY VERY RARELY MATCH THE REAL COURT CASE #s. The only info you really want from DMV is the courthouse location. Then contact the court for details on the case.

Getting a copy of your driving record will not help you, because generally those reports do not show the courthouse locations on the FTA holds – instead they list some completely useless DMV “Court Code”. Because of this DMV stupidity problem, you must go to DMV in person or talk to a real human on the phone for the info.

Step 2: Take Care of Any Pending Warrant Cases First.

If you have a bench or arrest warrant for a case, take care of that first. It is the #1 priority. Request a Free Attorney Case Review from us if you want an Attorneys help. Sometimes attorneys can clear minor bench warrants in a day or two.

Start early on the warrant problems. Like Now. I say this because it may take time, and any time you have a pending warrant, jail time is a possibility.

Step 3: Pay Off Any Restitution You Owe First.

If you owe a victim in a court case restitution (because you crashed into the quickiei mart while drunk and high on GHB), you have to pay it all off first, prior to taking advantage of the Amnesty Program.

Step 4: Go to the Courthouse With Money and Ask the Court Clerk to Apply the Amnesty Program Discount.

Once you have determined that your case(s) do qualify and you have cleared the warrant and restitution issues, you need to go to the courthouse and:

a) ask for the Amnesty Discount;
b) pay in full;
c) get proof you paid;
d) ask the court clerk to release the drivers license holds (VC40509.5 holds); and then finally,
e) go to the Department of Motor Vehicles in person to get your driving privilege reinstated (once all holds are cleared, even if you never had a drivers license in CA).

And that my friends is our best advice on how to take advantage of the Traffic Ticket Amnesty Program.

There are many cases that may qualify for the 50% discount, but it may not be a good idea for the defendant to plead guilty to everything and take the discount. For example, what if you are the victim of identity theft and dont want to pay at all? Or what if you have a serious DMV negligent driver points problem, and pleading guilty to everything will give you a new drivers license suspension?

Well, in those sorts of cases where there may be a defense or better option (like maybe traffic school?), requesting an Arraignment and working on the case may produce a better result.

What if you have a pending driving on a suspended drivers license case with a bench warrant and you are afraid of jail time? Want us to sort it out for you?

You can hire an Attorney to clear up all of your outstanding cases whether or not you qualify for the Amnesty Program.

Request a Free Attorney Case Review, give us as much info as possible on all open cases you have, and we will try to figure it out for you!

Questions? Leave a Comment. We try to answer them all.

Primary Sources:

Judicial Council of CA Description of Program.

Secondary Sources:

14 years of Courtroom Experience.

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, DMV News, Going to Court, Suspended Drivers License, Tickets in Collections, Traffic Court Fines and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Traffic Ticket “Amnesty” in California Starts in January 2012. But Is It Too Good to Be True?

  1. Matthew Kaney says:

    Sir I believe that you are incorrect about Bench Warrants disqualifying people for amnesty. Per subsection (d) In addition to and at the same time as the mandatory one-time amnesty program is established pursuant to subdivision (b), the court
    and the county may jointly agree to extend that amnesty program to
    fines and bail imposed for a misdemeanor violation of this code and a
    violation of Section 853.7 of the Penal Code added to the
    misdemeanor case otherwise subject to the amnesty.

    • Mattew,

      I hear what you are saying, but I am right. You can check for your self at the Primary Source, the Judicial Council of CA list of disqualifying factors. I linked to it in the article. It’s very, very clear. I can tell you did not read that part where they say warrants are a disqualifying factor.

      Now it does say that counties may choose to expand coverage in some limited ways, but as far as I know, It will not be done by any county. Do you really ting a judge who has issued a warrant is going to give a person who ignored their order a free break on a traffic ticket amnesty program? I say no……

      Amnesty program for CA traffic tickets relates only to fine. It’s like a coupon for a fine. When you have a warrant, you a fugitive from justice, and you are facing a jail sentence, not just a fine.

      But, if you really think you are right – go try to take care of a warrant case with the amnesty program. Send me proof you did it, and I will publish it all and give you full credit and maybe a TCP sweatshirt that says “I fought the law and won.”

      If you know of a county that is doing it, tell me and I will confirm and publish.

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