Ideas on How to Write A Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment Under CA Penal Code 1214.1

Related Article: How to Fight a CA Traffic Ticket with A Civil Assessment.

Related Self Help Form: Attorney Drafted Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment w/ Supporting Declaration

Is your ticket “in Collections”? Trying to Beat a Civil Assessment and the court is telling you to fill out a local Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment Form? Court Clerk will not let you have a court date for arraignment? Says you need to fill out a “Mandatory Local Petition” to Vacate Civil Assessment Form?

Here is some real, free Defense Attorney Point of View advice on How to Prepare the most effective Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment in that situation:

How California Traffic Courts deal with civil assessment cases varies tremendously from county to county. But one thing they all have in common is that they are going to try to convince you have no rights if you are late, and that you have to talk to a private collection agency.

Of course, the collection agency works on a for profit basis, and they have incentive to convince you that you have no rights at all. Not True.

If the court clerk tells you “all you can do” is fill out a “Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment” and give it to the collection agency- that is not true. There is a lot you can do. Penal Code section 1214.1(d) gives you the right to challenge a civil assessment in court.

You can file motions with the court that they have to rule on, you can file a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment, and you can use attachments to your Petition to raise appealable legal issues, and you can appeal a court’s refusal to grant you a court date on several legit issues.

Of course, on a Traffic Ticket with a failure to appear and civil assessment, you can always just give in and pay to end the case (so long as there is no warrant or misdemeanor charges). But what if you want to fight injustice and denial of due process in your case?

After handling many of these cases in more than a dozen CA counties, I have come up with this set of options if you want to, or have to, keep fighting:

1) Demand a walk in Court Date from the court clerk in person at 8 am on a court day;
2) File a Motion to Dismiss under Penal Code sec 1385;
3) File a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment that argues legal and good cause issues. Use the court’s local form only if you have to, and object to its limitations on your defenses and it’s exclusion of defenses like: a) denial of the right to trial; and b) identity theft.

Understanding what is going on is important.  Many California Traffic Courts are changing the way they deal with people who miss the court date listed on the bottom of traffic tickets (next to the signature).

In the old days, the traffic courts would issue a bench warrant, and add a misdemeanor failure to appear charge under California Vehicle Code section 40508(a).

Instead of issuing Bench Warrants after a missed court date on a traffic ticket, some courts are suspending the defendant’s drivers license under Vehicle Code section 40509.5, and then adding an automatic $300 “Civil Assessment” penalty to the case under (claimed) authority of California Penal Code section 1214.1.  The Civil Assessment then gets treated by the court clerk as a civil judgment, not a criminal penalty, which limits a defendant’s legal rights to challenge the penalty.

But you do have a right to challenge a Civil Assessment!! – Even if it is a civil judgment.

Penal Code section 1214.1(d) states that the Assessment is subject to all of the same challenges that are available to a civil judgment “Generally” – and this certainly should include a right to a Motion to Vacate Judgment, with an evidentiary hearing and in court testimony from witnesses if there is any evidence the court was not able to consider.

Some courts are now streamlining the civil assessment process with their own rules and limiting challenges.  They are doing this by skipping the required 10 day warning notice before Civil Assessment (PC 1214.1(b)), and by denying defendants the right PC 1214.1(d) right to challenge the Assessment in the same way you would challenge a Civil Judgment.

Specifically, they deny court appearances (in some courts) and tell the defendants the only way to challenge this automatic judgment of a Civil Assessment, is to fill out a very limited 1 page check box mandatory local form they invented called a “Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment” with pre written arguments they choose.

Each county Superior Court limiting challenges to Civil Assessments has a local Petition to Vacate local form based on a similar template. But if you look at all the the different county forms, their inconsistency prove that they are more of an attempt to limit your arguments that a real, useful legal form from an objective court.

For example, some of the local county Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment Forms allow you to claim Clerical Error as a Defense to the Civil Assessment (Contra Costa), Some give you only 3 choices of defenses (Santa Clara County), and others even assume you are guilty without a trial and start out saying “The Following is My EXPLANATION of MY FAILURE TO PAY” [emphasis added].

It seems these Courts decided to forget the solid American ideal of “presumed innocence”.

You can use this violation of law as the basis of a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment even if you have no other defense. Then, if you are motivated, and do it right, you can preserve and perfect many appealable issues.

Here is where to focus:  if you have the right facts, the court is violating the law in 2 main ways.  First, Penal Code section 1214.1(b) requires that the court gives a person a 10 day “Warning Notice” to their last known address before imposing the “Civil Assessment”.

From a defense Attorney’s point of view, if you did not get that Notice, you have a right to it before addition of the Civil Assessment. And that 10 day notice is intended by law to giv eyou the opportunity to get into court in person.

Most courts are either ignoring, or not maintaining proper proof that they satisfied this 10 day notice (PC1214.1(b)) requirement. If there is no proof the court complied with this requirement, you are innocent of the charge of being too late.

Secondly, Penal Code section 1214.1(d) requires the defendant have the same Due Process hearing rights that attach to “Civil Judgments” generally, which should mean the right to a hearing with written brief on whether or not the Civil Assessment can be legally imposed in this case.

By requiring defendants to use a mandatory localized form that limits defenses, and by denying the defendant an in person hearing on the Civil Assessment, the court is violating the 1214.1(d) legal requirement for Due Process of law.

How to Challenge a Penal Code section 1214.1 Civil Assessment (Write the Petition)

My research indicates that the BEST LEGAL ARGUMENTS in favor of a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment are the following:

1) The Court failed to mail a Penal Code sec 1214.1(b) Warning Notice to the correct address. The court has access to DMV address records.

2) Defendant did not have actual knowledge of the Penal Code sec 1214.1(b) Warning.

3) Defendant demands a Due Process hearing to challenge legal application of the 1214.1(a) civil judgment as required by Penal Code section 1214.1(d).

By putting those specific words in your Petition to Vacate a Civil Assessment -  you will give yourself the best legal chance to win the petition and then strong legal grounds for an appeal of a denial of the petition. Just write them in with any other argument you have.

You should then a signed Declaration to the Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment package to establish important facts under penalty of perjury – facts like: “I did not have a trial”; “the court clerk denied my request for a court date”; I did not get the 10 day warning notice required by PC 1214.1(b)”;, etc.

There is a Standard California Judicial Council Form for a Simple Blank Declaration. It is free.

We offer an Attorney Drafted Sample Declaration form that includes examples of how to write your facts, and foundational facts needed to make the best legal arguments.

We also offer the whole package: an Attorney Drafted Petition to Vacate with Declaration in Support of the Petition. It can be used in all CA counties, and it can be attached to a Required Local Form if necessary.

If there is a local form, you will have to find it. You can check to see if your court has a local form on their web site under Local Forms.

Make sure you file everything, including the Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment in person [if possible] at the Traffic Court Division Clerks Office and go home with a copy that has a “Filed” stamp on it. You can demand the court clerk give you proof you filed it. Keep copies of everything.

Do not confuse the “Civil Assessment” with the violations that started the case. They are separate things.  If you want a trial on the underlying violations after you get past the Civil Assessment problem, use this type of Motion:

Demand For Trial After Civil Assessment;

HERE IS THE (UNOFFICIAL) TEXT of California Penal Code section 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 or to pay an installment of
bail as agreed to under Section 40510.5 of the Vehicle Code. This
assessment shall be deposited in the Trial Court Trust Fund, as
provided in Section 68085.1 of the Government Code.
   (b) The assessment shall not become effective until at least 10
calendar days after the court mails a warning notice to the defendant
by first-class mail to the address shown on the notice to appear or
to the defendant's last known address. If the defendant appears
within the time specified in the notice and shows good cause for the
failure to appear or for the failure to pay a fine or installment of
bail, the court shall vacate the assessment.
   (c) If a civil assessment is imposed under this section, no bench
warrant or warrant of arrest shall be issued with respect to the
failure to appear at the proceeding for which the assessment is
imposed or the failure to pay the fine or installment of bail. An
outstanding, unserved bench warrant or warrant of arrest for a
failure to appear or for a failure to pay a fine or installment of
bail shall be recalled prior to the subsequent imposition of a civil
   (d) The assessment imposed under subdivision (a) shall be subject
to the due process requirements governing defense and collection of
civil money judgments generally.
   (e) Each court and county shall maintain the collection program
that was in effect on July 1, 2005, unless otherwise agreed to by the
court and county. If a court and a county do not agree on a plan for
the collection of civil assessments imposed pursuant to this
section, or any other collections under Section 1463.010, after the
implementation of Sections 68085.6 and 68085.7 of the Government
Code, the court or the county may request arbitration by a third
party mutually agreed upon by the Administrative Director of the
Courts and the California State Association of Counties.

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.
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140 Responses to Ideas on How to Write A Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment Under CA Penal Code 1214.1

  1. hi! im kaitie. Recently a friend of mine received a red light ticket in my car. She moved to North Dakota a month before the ticket arrived in the mail. when I confronted her about the ticket she told me to take care of it. Unfortunately I needed her drivers license # and address which she refused to give me and then blocked me from all contact. I recently found out I have a suspended license and a FTA on my record, I got the ticket dismissed but they told me that the FTA must be approved by the court. i never received any of this information via mail. Im worried that the FTA will not be removed off of my record. I was told to submit a civil assessment or petition, but im not sure what to say to have the judge rue in my favor. HELP

  2. Sherrelle C. says:


    The Court failed to mail a Penal Code sec 1214.1(b) Warning Notice to the correct address. The court has access to DMV address records. I wanted to take care of this before it had suspended my license with a Civil Assessment, but the clerk would not allow me to set a court date. Today I tried to resolve this by talking to several persons not a court clerk there only available by appointment or walk-in with a three hour+ wait. My son starts school in two weeks, and i need my drivers license in order to support my household, and support my college student. Please help!!!

    • SHerrelle,

      If the court sent the warning notice to the address on the citation with your signature, you are screwed. If you move after getting a traffic citation, it is your own responsibility to notify the court of your change in address. There is no law that requires the court to check DMV records for your address.

      • Sherrelle C. says:


        Dear Chris,
        Thank you for responding. I got a hold of the court, gave them the correct address and am trying to write a good cause statement regarding financial situation, so I may be able to remove the Civil Assessment, that I may then see the Judge to make payment arrangements, and get my DL renewed. Could you assist me in completing this task?

  3. eric silas says:

    Hello chris
    My names Eric i purchased your 50$ vacate civil assesment package an filed my the motions for two different countys solano and sonma, tickets are one day apart got them in 2010 an did have fta’s on both. They where in collection after my fta but i was able to get a court date in solano an went to my arraignment i found out from the chp the offcer no longer works for solano so i think the case may be dissmissed. Now in sonoma i recived a pettion to vacate civil assesment but i have to pay half of what i owe for courts to consider my motions is this true? Also after requesting a copy of my ticket i found out the date on my ticket/notice to appear is 11/25/2010 wich was thanksgiving that year so how could i be charged with an fta on a court holiday? I know that paying anything is an admitting im guilty so is there a way around or can i object to paying the bail amount?

    • There is no harm in paying “bail” with a “not guilty plea” and “demand for trial”. Be careful what you sign.

      You can get your bail posting with a not guilty verdict back if you win the case.

      They wan the deposit of bail to make sure you show up.

      I would say pay the bail and get a court date set for trial (and written not guilty plea) in person at the court clerks office to avoid trouble. Do not do it over the phone. Read before you pay.

      Good work! Sounds like the template service worked for you a bit.

      Make sur eyou contact DMV right away to determine if there are other holds on your drivers license and whether you have to go in and pay a “RE ISSUANCE FEE” to get your drivers license re issued form DMV.

  4. Natalie says:

    I have read all the post to try to figure out what I should do but am feeling a little confused.

    I originally got a speeding ticket going 85 (22349 (A) VC). I was in the #4 lane about to exit the freeway. I am a little confused because I actually saw the cop getting onto the freeway in my rear view mirror. The cop was about 6-7 cars and a huge truck behind me however I believe he saw my switching lanes and I also noticed him weaving between cars to get behind me.

    Anyways I planned on paying the ticket and was to appear in court on 5-27-14. I went online and filed a 30 day extension which pushed my appearance date out to 6-27-14. I did miss my court date due to suffering a miscarriage the week prior. I was in a bad place and it slipped my mind. I do not have a doctors note or anything as proof and unfortunately I am limited on time at this point.

    On July 26,2014 (date on letter is July 21st and postage on envelope is July 22nd however I did not receive it until the 26th)received a account delinquent letter from the superior court of California county of San Diego. I believe it is a warning because it mentions a 10 day period but in the amount past due the $300 fee is already added to my bill? Also it says to mail to alliance one? Is that the court or collections?

    When does the 10 days start from? From the date on the letter to the time I received it 5 days had passed and I also received it on a Friday.

    Any suggestions on moving forward. Hope you can help. I plan on going to the vista traffic court tomorrow but don’t know how to proceed. Also this is my first violation ever in 14 years.

    • Natalie,

      The one thing I noticed in your comment was that you did not say:

      “I was not speeding!”

      You sound totally guilty.

      Miscarriage? As an excuse for missing court with no proof?

      I refuse to say anything about that because i dont want people complaining.

      I would say something if you said “i was not speeding. Then I missed my court date because I was in the hospital. I have proof I was sick.”

      If that were the case, I’d say go to the courthouse and demand a court date and a trial if they will not give you some relief.

      I’d say just pay and suck it up. If you cannot pay, go to the courthouse in person and make payment arrangements in person.

  5. Michael says:

    Hi Christopher,

    Two friends and I received a jaywalking ticket ($213) around April/May and were told by the officer that we would receive a letter in the mail in a couple weeks, and that it wasn’t necessary to appear in court. This being my first ticket, I didn’t know that it was my responsibility to find out how much or where or by when I had to pay. My friends received courtesy notices but I did not, so I kept waiting. I go to school in San Diego County, but the 10 day notice was sent to my parents’ address. I didn’t even know it existed until I went home for a weekend, which was after July 20th, the end of the 10 days. Now the fine is $513. Can I appeal to vacate the assessment? What do you think my best course of action is? My dad wants me to fight it but I don’t think I have a case.


  6. Brian Miller says:

    Thank you so much for the information. I recently received a letter from GC services, the collection agency for the Ventura court. The letter said I owed 240 dollars for a ticket from 2001. I spoke with a woman at GC she told me the amount they wanted from me was a civil judgement against me. She then said that they could put a hold on my license if I didn’t pay.
    If you have any advice I would be truly grateful.

  7. Ben says:

    Hi Christopher,

    Thanks for taking the time to make this great resource.

    I am in somewhat of an unusual situation regarding imposed civil assessment that seems not to be one of the standard failure to appear ones that others seem to be getting.

    I would appreciate any suggestions or advice.

    The actual part on the civil assessment is from the middle to end of what I am writing.

    This is for California with the Ventura County Superior Court System (adjacent to Los Angeles) in Southern California.

    I originally received a ticket citation for 21453(a) VC – red or stop, vehicles stop at limit line or cross-walk on Nov 12, 2013

    My car had stalled as I was coming up to the crosswalk line in the 1st straight lane just next to the 2nd left turn arrow lane where the police officer was at the crosswalk line (to my left). The car stalled while I was looking at the officer’s car, so it was very hard to brake (power brakes turned off due to stall) so I went past a section of the crosswalk and very quickly restarted and reversed back behind the crosswalk line right next to the officer and waited for the light to turn green. When the light turned green, the officer cut in front of the vehicle directly behind me and then followed me to pull me over.

    (I later found out the car stalled and would later intermittently show the engine light sometimes due to a faulty engine/coolant temperature sensor which I later replaced and the car now runs great.
    I was just unlucky of when the symptoms of the car stalling happened – right next to the police officer)

    My original options in the courtesy notice were to pay or appear by 12/09/2013 with $490
    or pay $555 to attend traffic school

    This was my first ever infraction for moving violation (first real ticket that wasn’t for parking or fix it ticket)

    I did a trial by written declaration and submitted it with the $490 bail amount.

    I received a response for that at the end of March in a letter which said it was filed March 21, 2013 and signed to have been postmarked/certified March 24,2013.

    It just had a check mark for guilty and the fine of $410+$80 = $490 fees was applied

    So, I turned in a request for Trial De Novo
    and I got a trial date which was later changed to
    June 5th.
    (original for end of May but I would be out of country)

    On June 5th,
    I went to trial, the officer was present, and we both gave our testimonies.
    The officer actual either couldn’t remember correctly or did not tell the truth.
    He said that I stopped momentarily and then continued through the intersection on the red light and that he safely turned on his siren and followed me to pull me over (instead of me reversing back, waiting for green, and then him cutting from the left turn lane into the straight lane in front of another car before pulling me over)

    I was told the judge will tend to favor the testimony of the officer’s side.
    So I guess I was out of luck even if the officer’s testimony is not correct.

    Regardless of that, the judge said that I was guilty of count 1 (which is the red light stop law),
    and then offered me traffic school since I am eligible (my 1st ever moving violation in 14 years being licensed)

    I said yes to traffic school.

    He said something about the bail of $490 being applied and that the $68 for traffic school would be included in that.

    He went to continue on to the next case and it was almost 4pm in the afternoon.

    An officer has a yellow print out (Minute Order) and comes over and hands it to me.
    I look at it and since I have never done traffic school and know very little about it, I ask the officer to come over.

    I showed the officer the minutes order and asked him about paying for the traffic school.
    He told me that you pay the traffic school fee to the traffic school.

    So I exit the court room and ask at the security check area about the Room 118 for the traffic school. I am told that they are closed (they close at 3pm). So I go home.

    The minutes order paper shows:

    case total is $558 and Balance is $68 (The $490 bail was applied)

    and it says at the end of the Minutes:

    “The court grants the defendant’s request to atend Traffic School as to count 1. You are to pay the Traffic School fine of $490 plus the Traffic School Administrative fees of $68 forthwith
    in: Room 118 in Ventura, clerk’s counter in Simi Valley, or clerk’s counter at the Juvenile Justice Complex.

    Your traffic school completion date is 08/04/14. A DMV licensed Traffic School will forward the record of your completion to the Court. Traffic School information will be provided at the clerk’s counter or at

    Cash bail applied to fine. Balance if any, returned to depositor.”

    On Mon June 23, 2014, I go to the Simi Valley Courthouse which is the closest one to me to drive to.

    (These courthouse locations are in Simi Valley are open on MONDAYS and TUESDAYS ONLY)

    I go to pay the $68 for traffic school at the clerk’s office window.
    I hand the clerk the yellow minutes order.

    She looks at the computer screen after entering in data and looks confused, and looks around on the computer more, and says they must not have entered in the court/minutes info yet and hands the minutes order back to me and says to wait until they update it.

    Later she asks the other window clerk person sitting next to her about it and then says something about $243.

    She later says that I have a civil assessment of $100 that I also have to pay & that the total amount due is $243 !!!

    I am quite surprised by this as I was just going to pay the $68 and do my traffic school and be done with this ticket.

    I asked her what is this civil assessment and what is it for.

    She tells me that I was supposed to pay the $68 on that day (June 5 court day).

    She points to it on the yellow minute order.

    I said that I thought I just have to take care of everything by the 08/04/2014 deadline for finishing traffic school.

    She points to the word “forthwith”.
    And I ask her what does that mean?
    She says it means “that day”.

    I did not know what the word “forthwith” means.

    So I am upset and puzzled since the minutes really don’t tell me any other dates other than the 08/04/2014 date to finish traffic school by.

    I ask her more about this and what I can do.

    She gets frustrated by me asking questions and tells me to go wait under the sign by the window at the end. This window is “COURT COLLECTIONS”

    So now I have to talk to a different person at that window and explain everything again and about my surprise of the “civil assessment.”

    She says I now have to pay $243. I ask about why it is so much if the civil assessment imposed is $100.
    She says there are “other fees”.

    I ask about it and if there is anything I can do.
    She says the only thing I can do is pay the fine and civil assessment and then I can fill out a petition for the civil assessment.

    She and her supervisor take about 5-7 minutes trying to figure out how much I am supposed to pay (if it is the $243 total, or the $243 + $68 for traffic school)

    They figure out that it is $243 total.
    She says I have to pay that amount before I can fill out the petition form, and she says the petition form is the only way I can speak to a judge about this issue.

    She also mentions that the civil assessment fee was added on June 21st (a Saturday), and that if I don’t take care of this soon, another $100 civil assessment would be added !!!

    She also says that if the judge grants in my favor that I only get the $100 back, and I would not get back the mysterious extra $75 of fees that is not noted anywhere.

    So then I went home to do research on this topic of civil assessments (which I’ve never heard of) before taking care of this and I found your awesome website.

    I think this case may be somewhat different in that the civil assessment was not a $300 fee for failure to appear ( FTA ) on an original citation.

    This is a $100 civil assessment + $75 of mystery fee on a judge granted $68 traffic school fee.

    After looking at your website, I have learned that the court is required by law to give 10 day notice by mail before a civil assessment is imposed.

    I know for sure that I have not received a mail notice at any current or previous address I reside at or have been at.

    The minutes order also does not define any time schedule of fees or anything about civil assessment or anything about any consequences or fines at all.
    The only date it gives is the 08/04/2014 date to finish traffic school by.
    That is what I was going by.

    Also, I did not know the definition of “forthwith”. It is not a commonly used word and probably and old English word. I believe plenty of people do not know the definition of forthwith if they were asked. If language is in clear layman’s terms (i.e. today, right after court hearing, now) or a numerical date is present like June 5, or if the bailiff officer who handed me the minutes order told me the correct information of what to do, then I would not be in a predicament like this.

    Additionally, the room 118 at that courthouse was closed at the time I was leaving the court room.

    And, the closest courthouse (without a very long drive o 1 hour to 1.5 hours depending on traffic for the Ventura Court House)
    is the Simi Valley courthouse (40 min to 1 hour drive) – which is ONLY open on Mondays and Tuesdays

    I would like to ask:

    Do you think I have a chance to reverse the civil assessment of $100 and/or the mystery $75 added to the $68 traffic school fee (total $243)?

    Do you believe the legal argument of not receiving the 10 day notice of the civil assessment will work?
    (there are no notes in the court minutes about any fees or civil assessments, I didn’t receive any letters or warnings, I highly doubt they mailed anything and wouldn’t it be true that they would have to prove it with certified mail and a date for at least 10 days before the $100 civil assessment + $75 mystery fee was added?)

    My reasoning is that if I have no notice of any of this – how can I make an informed action or choice about it or even take care of it without a fair warning. I am just lucky I found out.

    Here are the two forms I could find related to civil assessments but both seem to be tailored to failure to appear and a $300 fee:

    Would you suggest I go through one of these paper forms with my facts of my case
    would you recommend going to see a judge or even the same judge –
    the commisioner (from my case) IN PERSON about it if it is even possible and how I would go about doing that?

    The clerk told me my only option was the paper petition on the civil assessment only after paying the full amount.

    I am just upset about the big $100 civil assessment and the mystery $75 both added on to
    the $68 fee for traffic school.

    I was unaware that they did this sort of thing and also had no forewarning about it in paper or vocal form.

    Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks again for making a great resource =)

    FYI, the traffic school now won’t be of any monetary benefit anymore because somehow, the DMV must already have a record of this red light citation ticket because to my SURPRISE my insurance renewal letter came this month (June) and it seems they have this information as well.

    The insurance papers shows a “Failure to obey a traffic control device”
    and shows 1 traffic violation in 14 years licensed.

    It says I will become downgraded from “good driver with good driver discount” to only “good driver” and my insurance premium will change by going up a lot!

    Insurance premium will be increasing from
    $290 to $470 for every 6 months which is a difference of $180 or a 62% INCREASE!!!
    for each of those 6 months

    Do you know if the court has somewhow messed up or allowed this information to pass before the case was finished and pending? Or if they have any way of fixing this or providing papers or a letter to fix it?

    The date the insurance papers shows for “Failure to obey a traffic control devide” as

    That seems like the exact date that they processed the decision for the trial by written declaration (TBD) but before they sent out the letter of the decision to me on 3/24/2014.

    I have to take care of the traffic school fee and the civil assessment problem first, but do you think if after all this, and the DMV making the traffic violation confidential or masked,

    the insurance company may be willing to retroactively fix this or refund the difference or at least make all future insurance renewals based on a completely clean driving record?

    I am a very good and safe driver. I guess I was just unlucky this time.

    Anyways, Thanks again.

    • Unfortunately,

      I cannot read this for free. It’s too painful.

      Yea, I see the court’s point. They wanted you to either pay in full immediately, or make arrangements in the clerks office to pay in installments (they charge a service fee and make you sign a contract).

      “Forthwith” means “Now, or as soon there after as the court will allow” (to me). Let’s check the law dictionary:

      Here is what they say:

      Immediately; promptly; without delay; directly; within a reasonable time under the circumstances of the case.

      You lost a cow trial, were ordered to pay a fine, and the court thinks you did not do it on time.

      I don’t know what to say about this. It also sounds like you went to the wrong courthouse the second time. That is a recipe for screw ups. I always tell people they have to workout there is in the courthouse where it is filed.

      I really can’t say I see hope here.

      I understand this was a car problem, but if the judge found you guilty, your screwed. The fine sticks. Unless you can appeal some kind of legal error issue.

      This reminds me of my friend who was riding his motorcycle at lunch near his office. He saw a cop on a motorcycle. He waived at the cop, drove with one hand, and while the cop was watching, he crashed into the car in front of him.

  8. Holly says:

    I had my traffic violation (red light ticket) dismissed for reason of “identity issue”. However, I still have a civil assessment.

    The violation happened in 2012 when I briefly lived in Fremont. I received a notification in the mail but never received a court date. After 90 days I went into the court house to inquire and they told me that their system is slow but that my violation would be coming in the mail. I never received anything. I moved out the area about 6 months later never to think about it again.

    As you can guess, the court date never got to me. I think I received the first notice because my address from my previous house before I lived in Fremont sent me the notice but then my forwarding stopped before the next notice came. Regardless, I never got the notice. I did not find this out until 2 years later when I tried to renew my license and found out it had been suspended. I took care of that and got a court date and after much effort got the case dismissed because the photo is not clear and cannot tell who the diver is.

    Now, I still have the civil assessment to deal with. Should I get another court date as you suggest? Or can I just file a petition to vacate in the Fremont court since my ticket was dismissed?

    • Holly,

      This is a great question. I’d suggest filing a petition to vacate the civil assessment.

      You do not have a right to a trial with a civil assessment – only with the original violation. But Penal Code section 1214.1(d) gives you the right to challenge the civil assessment by petition.

      Check with the DMV to see if that civil assessment is currently causes a suspension of your privilege to drive in CA.

  9. kate says:

    I paid my original traffic ticket fine via check in mail, maybe 8-10 days late, and just received a letter saying that a civil assessment had been attached to ticket, with my returned check. I didn’t receive a 10 day warning letter? I only received the notice that it had been assessed. Can I use the 10 day warning to get out of this? The ticket is from Santa Clara County. Anyone have any experience with similar situation?

  10. Lisa says:

    My situation is that, I received a traffic ticket in March or April of 2012 and received a letter to either make a partial payment of my fine or appear in court by May 21, 2012. I chose to make that partial payment of $41 to get the payment plan started as stated in the letter. I mailed it using money order from the USPS on May 11, 2012. Now on May 23rd, I received the failure to appear or resolve citation notice by due date. I was shocked because from where I live, it is only an hour drive to Sacramento, CA so the mail should get there on time. I immediately went to the post office to track down my money order. They said it will take 2 weeks or so for the results to come back. The next day, I went to court to settle the issue and the judge did not give me a chance to explain myself at all. He just asked me why I failed to appear or pay for my ticket. I replied that I did indeed mailed it to the court. He asked the court clerk next to him for the proof of my payment and she told him no she sees nothing. Then he said to me “Well I don’t have nothing here. Are you going to pay in full & go to traffic school or making payments?” I said making payments and then he dismissed me. This was my first time in court for anything I was nervous and in my hand was the proof from USPS that I am tracking my money order, I did utter that I have it but he didn’t hear me. Maybe he just wasn’t trying to hear it. Two weeks after that court date, I received the results from the USPS and yes it was cashed by Sacramento County Court on June 15th. That is a far far date from the date I mailed it. I don’t see how that is my fault but their fault probably lost my money order in their pile of papers. Now I have the added 300 civil assess on top of my ticket, I asked the traffic ticket clerk about it and she says “Just pay the whole thing and then come back with proof that we cashed it and we will refund it” I barely got done with the payment and now when I called the traffic clerk, the guy tells me that that information isn’t true. There is nothing that can be done once its on there. Is that true? Or is there a way I can get that 300 back? =(

  11. Aaron says:

    OK, I filed the form to vacate the civil assessment (I paid the original fine late) and they sent me a minute order. They have set the case to be on calendar on 9/6 (this week) What do I do now?????

    • Aaron,

      SWEET! Proof that if a collection agency tells you that you cannot get a court date after a civil assessment on a California Traffic Ticket they are probably lying to you, or may just be wrong!


      Would you mind writing us to tell us what they told you before you got all legal on them?

      What do you do now? Hell I dont know. Do you have a defense? If so, get ready to present it.

      Ask for dismissal. Demand a re trial. Show good cause as to why you should be given relief. Ask the judge to read Penal Code section 1214.1(d) in court to you; ask the judge to read Penal Code section 1385 to you in court. Ask the judge for proof in court that they actually send you the REQUIRED Penal Code section 1214.1(b) 10 day warning address notice.

      If you are guilty, you are guilty.

      Ask for release of the drivers license hold immediately based upon your personal appearance in court – read Vehicle Code section 40509.5 before you go.

      Once your drivers license hold is released, you need to go to the DMV in person to pay them a reissuance fee. A suspended drivers license will not repair itself. Go to DMV after the court case is resolved.

      Oh yea. If things dont go your way, tell the judge that you have been denied due process (according to some whacked part time Defense Attorney who was making a dog leash out of paracord while answering this imaginary fact pattern question) under the 5th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution.

      Then, immediately after court, go to the court clerks office and file a Notice of Appeal based upon a denial of your Due Process rights.

      Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not sure. Dont trust what I tell you.

      • Aaron says:

        Well, my arraignment date today turned into “lets make a deal” day. They were more than happy to schedule me a court date, but my reason for paying late wasn’t that strong. They basically want hospitalization or Military service orders as an excuse. Any deviation from that isn’t a good enough excuse for them.

        I was in the Rancho Cucamonga court with the corrupt Italian at the helm. He did reduce the civil assessment “in the interest of justice”, but they consider the word of the central collection agency employee as “proof” of sending out the mandatory 10 day notice per Penal Code section 1214.1(d).

        They’re a bunch of extortionists. Everything you told me to do was correct, it made some waves and I did get my amount reduced, but it really comes down to they do what they want anyway. They know they can get away with it because it’s cheaper than an attorney that can probably help you win.

        When I did file the petition to vacate at the clerks window, the guy didn’t know what to do. He went way in the back of the office for a long time. When he returned, he said everything was OK. He did NOT want to give me a copy of my petition with the filing stamp on it. I made him do it.

        Thank you for all your help! Maybe next time I get a ticket, I’ll be better prepared.

        • Aaron,

          Great. The only thing I can say about this is that the court is required by law to send that Penal Code 1214.1(b) notice, not the collection agency. The collection agency is not required to send anything.

  12. Greg Greenleaf says:

    Was originally pulled over in October of 2012 for having expired registration stickers. I did have valid registration at the time, so when I sent proof to the court, they reduced my fine to $25. However, I didn’t know this until the Revenue Division contacted me to state that a $300 civil assessment was imposed. I did not receive a 10-day required notice, I didn’t even know there was such a warning, and I did not get a chance to speak to a judge. My wife and I work and school full time, and it seems that the courts were all too eager to send me off to collections.

    I started the process you detailed in this article. This morning at the court’s opening time, I spoke to a clerk about a walk-in court date and requested the two forms you recommend. Almost verbatim to your advice, he told me that “we don’t have a packet for that” and that I’d have to write a letter to the collection agency. He refused to let me set up a court date to speak with a judge.

    Since your article doesn’t detail what to do when denied directly from “step 1″, I guess I’ll work on that letter they want me to send, and I’ll also try to find those court forms online and send them myself. Any advice would be appreciated, and I’ll keep everyone updated as events unfold.

    • Greg,

      Every court deals with these cases differently. I can tell you are not in Los Angeles, for example. Why? This does not happen in Los Angeles. I can tell you are not in Fresno, because fresno has a required local form for a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment. Many other counties do as well.

      So where are you?

      Doesnt matter.

      Writing to a Collection Agency will not help you at all. Dont waste your time.

      What would I do if this were my case? I would prepare and file the documents in my Failure to Appear package, get them filed (by mail and in person) with the court clerks office (not the collection agency); dispute the account with the collection agency, try to catch them lying to me about my rights in court on the phone, then tell them I was going to sue them in Federal Court (again?), and then finally demand ruling by written and telephone follow up to my motions.

      I would get a response from the court. (I always do). Then, if there were legal errors in that response, I would file a Notice of Appeal immediately, and a renewed motion to release drivers license hold following filing of Notice of appeal.

      If I were getting paid by the hour because I found a very rich and pissed off client, I might consider a simultaneous Writ of Mandate to the federal court asking for an order to the superior court to give me an Arraignment on the charges.

      But, if you are totally guilty, and it is your own fault you did not pay the bail because you did not follow directions, and it is your own fault that you did not get that warning notice because you did not keep the courts and the DMV updated as to your correct address (as the law requires), and it is your own fault that you do not know that your drivers license is suspended because you used that notice from DMV to roll a J or 2 or 3, then you should have very low expectations.

  13. John Earle says:

    First, Kudos on your website, your feedback/help and the legal document kits for use; which are at a “very fair price!

    Three VC citations in 2010.
    1) 22356B (now with 40508A)
    2) 16028A (Now with 40508A)
    3) 4000A1 (Now with 40508A & 405095)

    Lost my home, exhausted savings, car repossessed, homeless and have undergone “major” health issues that are still ongoing.
    Have prepared a detailed declarations of why I was not able to appear (30+ Exhibits each). I do believe the judges will dismiss the cases/warrants.
    However, not sure what the outcome will be on the Civil Assessments that are now in collections. With close to $200K in medical bills (no insurance) and am still legally disabled…Bankruptcy is imminent. Will said BK cover said court collection fees?


  14. Duane Miller says:

    I just got civil assessment on my ticket from failure to pay. I got a payment plan but paid only when I could. My income and hours began fluttanting wildly destroying any buget I tried to make. I have fallen behind on many financial obligations. I have been ignoring the letters they have sent me. I have finally finished paying the initial fine without the assessment, I dont have the money to make regular payment on this and meet living expenses. Do I have any hope of not having to pay the assesment?

    • Duane,

      No, you are screwed and your drivers license is probably suspended pending full payment. Do not drive at all until you confirm with a live DMV human (assuming there are some) what the status of your drivers license is as of today.

      • Ellora Diehl says:

        Greetings Attorney Christopher Dort,
        I have a similar case as Duane. Are you stating that he has NO way to petition to vacate civil assessment?

        I have paid my tickets but I was late. I was charged $600 in civil assessment fees. Can I fight the fees in court? Can I request a trial? Can I apply the fact that I had no knowledge of Penal Code sec 1214.1(b) warning? And can I demand a due process hearing to challenge legal application of 1214.1(a) civil judgement as required by Penal Code section 1214.1(d)?

        I am currently also displaced and without a job. There is no way that I can function without my license. Please advise if I can take this to court.

  15. Tiffany Nicole Hyatt says:

    I recieved a ticket went to court required to pay a fine of 585 dollars at fifty dollar a month payments . I paid every two months 100 dollars instead now they are saying since I did pay the fifty dollars a month as stated in the arrangements that I now have a Civil Assessment of 300 dollars . I only received a letter from the court stating they have added the 300 dollars already to fine to pay it and they also have stated that I can file Application to vacate Civil Assessment . I called and asked should of I received a warning letter before hand and they told me no that was the letter and the money has been added. So I have gone to the Civil Assessment Form online to fill out it only give me three choice for not paying none of which I want to choose . I have been paying the fine but a 100 dollars every two months how should write me Civil Assessment to convince the court to dismiss the 300 dollar charge they added can you please give me an example

    Im am correcting what I wrote I didnt pay the fifty dollars a month as the agreement was instead I was paying 100 dollars every two months

    • Tiffany,

      This is actually a pretty good question.

      What you are saying is basically “I was paying the amount as the judge ordered. They wanted $300 in six months, and I gave it to them on my own schedule.”

      But what the court probably actually ordered you to do was this:

      “Make MONTHLY payments in an amount of no less than . .. $50.00″.

      So what you are having trouble with is understanding that the court ordered you to make MONTHLY payments, and you did not make monthly payments. You made up your own schedule, and the court is not happy about that.

      To me, you sound guilty. But I dont have all the facts.

      Here is what you should worry about: 1) is your drivers license suspended as of today because of this problem; and 2) if so, what is the fastest way to get that drivers license reinstated?

      Now, as far as fighting the Civil Assessment (Penal Code section 1214.1), there is a required 10 day warning letter per Penal Code section 1214.1(b). Look it up, it’s there for all the world to read.

      If they did not send that notice out (which is different than you not receiving it), then in my defense attorney opinion, it is an illegal application of the civil assessment. You have a right to challenge that point in a Motion to Vacate the Civil Assessment per Penal Code section 1214.1(d) – which states . . . any defense that works on civil judgements is a legit challenge.

      I recommend that you read those code sections.

      Now, if their local “petition to vacate civil assessment” that they say you have to use limits your available arguments in complete disregard for the language of Penal Code section 1214.1(d) (can you believe I have all of this memorized?) then, if it were my case, I might use it only as a cover sheet for my own Motion and Declaration in Support of Motion. And in that attached motion and declaration I would write . . . . . . .

      Actually, I already wrote and I sell it online. It works for some people, in many counties. Will it work for you?

      Well, it does argue that there is no compliance with the 10 day warning notice of Penal Code 1214.1(b) . ..

      But I dont know your facts.

      Here is the link to the custom, attorney written forms I might use as a template if I had this problem: (copy & paste it)

      Then again, life is short, and you may not find its worth the effort if you are guilty.

      You already plead guilty right? So, maybe not that much to gain.

      But if you had a case say with a $2300 fine pending, for something you did not do and were a victim of IDENTITY THEFT for, . . . you might need to do everything you can to get a trial date, and create a record for appeal.

      OK that’s all I have to say.

  16. michael christie says:

    Feb. 2009, I agreed to pay a $200 speeding ticket. I was given until Sept. 2009, to pay. May 2009, I was arrested on a non-related charge. Dec. 2012, I was released. When I went to get my license I was told I had a FTA and a FTP, and that they had been coverted to civil penalties. The collection agency told me to talk to the courts. The courts said I could not see a judge. Can they charge me with a FTA when I’m in the same countys custody? Can they asses penalties to my original fine when they prevented me from paying it? The clerks claim its my fault because I got arrested. Many people getting out of prison are having this same problem. Please help.

    • Michael,

      This is a common question.

      When you say “I agreed to pay a $200 speeding ticket”, I assume you mean that you plead guilty and the court sentenced you to a $200 fine. The court gave you time to pay.

      The fact that you got arrested was not the cause of your failure to pay on time. Why didnt you pay the day you were sentenced? Why not 1 month later?

      Answer: Because it did not get high enough up on your list of priorities to get paid.

      Then . . . then . . you got arrested.

      It is true that time in jail can prevent you from showing up to a court appearance on time. And there is a mechanism for a traffic ticket or misdemeanor defendant to ask for dismissal of all pending traffic court cases if they are sent to prison. However, that request (Petition) must be made at the start of or prior to the incarceration. Usually such a petition is made immediately after the person receives a jail sentence.

      But in this case, if you pled guilty – your case was completely over. All you had to do, all that could be done, was to satisfy the judge’s sentence by paying the fine.

      I personally think prisoners should have access to the internet so that they can pay their bills from jail. But that is not possible now because the bad prisoners keep screwing it up by committing crimes even while behind bars.

      If they truly charged you with a failure to appear as a misdemeanor, and that charge is pending, you probably have a complete defense if the date they claimed you missed was a date during which you were at the county hotel. If they charged you with a misdemeanor failure to appear, you have a right to a jury trial.

      But I suspect what really happened is they charged you with a failure to pay (Vehicle Code 40508(b) in CA) – and if that is what happened, on these imaginary facts, you have no defense because you in fact did not pay. It does not matter why you did not pay.

      So here is the part where I help you – I dont see any efficient way of getting relief if you have already tried to get a walk in court appearance. Life is short. Dont waste it in traffic court if you have little hope of changing things.

      There are real consequences to doing jail time. Even a few days of jail time can ruin a marriage, end a career, terminate parental rights, lead to an eviction or foreclosure, get you booted form University, etc.

      In this fact pattern, it’s hard to understand how the county prevented you from paying. The more likely reality is that is was a lack of money that prevented you from paying, not jail time.

  17. CLarista says:

    Mr. Dort,

    I Sincerely appreciate you posting this article it is of great help because I am in the process of filing my appeal for the civil assessment. Yes it was what you described above just a basic form with 3 check marks title “Notice to address the civil assessment” but i added a declaration page here is what it stated below:
    To the Honorable Judge. REQUEST TO ADDRESS CIVIL ASSESSMENTPc 1214.1 (a) RE: Clarista Griggs Case MV165047CG I am a respectable member of society and I am by no means trying to run from my obligations. I have made several attempts to resolve this matter with traffic courts. I am respectfully asking that the civil assessment be removed from my case due to diligent efforts made to resolve this issue. FACTS:
    Attempt 1: Extension notice in October sent regular mail.
    Attempt 2: Received a notice that I did not have to personally appear but respond by a certain date. Transportation issues permitted me from physically coming but since the letter said my mandatory appearance was not required I mailed A Trial by declaration was sent via certified mail in November 2012 #7011 0470 0003 0137 5609 ( Honorable Judge please note this TBD was sent without bail because I could not afford the bail amount at the time. I did not find a local rule or law that says it is mandatory to submit bail with a TBD. I was under the impression I had a right to a trial or hearing even if I could not afford bail. The County of San Bernardino honored a request for TBD without bail because the individual could not afford it. I do understand every county may be different.)
    Attempt 3:You rejected my trial by declaration therefore I responded promptly and sent a request for a Court hearing to explain my situation in front of the judge and request a hearing that has yet to be followed up on in December Certified mail #7012 2210 0001 0144 9176I
    Attempt 4:In the midst of waiting for my request for a hearing in front of the judge to be followed up on I finally scraped the money together to submit my TBD. I submitted the $248 and sent the money order and TBD to the courts certified mail to the courts #7011 0470 0003 0137 5548 I am in receipt of my money order back and a notice of civil assessment.I have never failed to respond or resolve this matter with your courtsI have been diligently trying to resolve this matter with your courts. And have obtained proof of every diligent attempt I have made. I am asking at the mercy of the courts to remove the civil assessments. This letter will be sent certified mail as well #7011 0470 0003 0137 5593Money order resubmitted with Trial by Declaration attached

    I am ready to file my appeal. I would sincerely appreciate any help or input you can make.

  18. Aaron says:

    I came across this page while looking up information for my wife’s issue. She received a notice of failure to appear with a fine of $541. The date and violation code fields were both blank and she has not received any violations in over two years. In fact, I’m friends with a law enforcement agent who looked up her record and can find nothing on it apart from that last ticket that was paid. He said there’s no failure to appear there, no warrants, and no suspended license. What’s going on here and how can we fight this? Is this a mistake?

    • Aaron,

      This is a great comment.

      This is a common situation. And I can provide real help.

      Was that “notice” a real court notice, or a collection agency notice?

      If it was a court notice, you need to check on the status of the alleged case. If there really is a failure to appear on a moving violation, it may cause a suspension of a drivers license. Contact the DMV driver safety office to verify the status of the drivers license as of today. Make sure the DMV has your current (her current) address as of today. Do not drive at all until you confirm the status of the drivers license as of today.

      That’s real, free advice that can keep a lot of people out of trouble. I may have just prevented 1000 impounds. 1 paragraph, 1000 impounds. A paragraph is worth a thousand impounds.

      OK, here is some more free, real helpful advice:

      Do not make decisions about a failure to appear case based upon information from your friends, from your bar tender, from the retired cop across the street, or from your ex wife, or from your son who says someone came to the door looking for you, or from the post office, or from your postal carrier, or from the mexian DMV, or from the Canadian Embassy, nor from the army, . . . navy air force or . . .. . . . . foreign legion.

      Those are not reliable sources of information about a pending court case. Ignore that information. It is not reliable.

      The only source of reliable information about a court case it the court clerk where the case is (was) pending. You need to contact the court clerk to get information on the status of the (alleged) case.

      The best way to do that is check your notice for the court’s address. No court’s address? Probably a collection notice. Collection agencies are not employees of the court, and they are for profit actors in the capitalist game. They are not reliable sources of information about a pending court case.

      That reminds me, you cannot trust what an insurance company tells you about a court case either.

      Marching on . . . . .you need to go (she needs to go) to the court where the case is allegedly pending, a see what is there in person. Best option #2, check with the court’s web site to see if you can get access to the case details (access varies greatly).

      If the court clerk confirms there is a case, there is a case. If the DMV tells you there is a failure to appear suspension, there is a case.

      If there is a case, you have to contact the court clerk to get details on in.

  19. AJ says:

    Thanks for the article!

    Here’s my situation: I received a fix-it ticket for tinted windows in October 2012. The ticket was signed off and mailed to the provided address along with the $25 fee. Then on 1/30, I received the Notice of Civil Assessment PC1214.1 which states that I owe $497.

    I have a copy of my signed off ticket along with a carbon copy of my check. Do I still need to file a petition, or is there an easier way around this without having to deal with all of this paperwork?


  20. Joy Hamman says:


    I received a ticket for turning on a no left turn in San Francisco (22101 d.). I did not receive a warning notice regarding a civil assessment fee, instead I received a letter from the DMV stating that my license will be suspended in 3 weeks and to call the court.

    I learned that one does not always get a notice to appear in court and that I did indeed miss my assigned court date.

    I am now submitting a trial by declaration pleading not guilty to the traffic infraction at the same time as my petition to vacate the civil assessment (stating that under Penal Code 1241.b and d, I did not recive a notice to which I could respond, and was not aware of an actual court date).

    I need clarification around whether I am to send in the full bail amount ie traffic infraction + civil assessment fee, or only the traffic infraction with my trial by declaration and petition?

    Many thanks in advance,


    • Joy,

      Good timing. This is a defense attorney day for me.

      If you want a trial by declaration, you will have to post bail for that. They will probably tell you that you will have to post bail for the civil assessment (allegation) as well.

      What would I do if this were something I was working on? I would go to the courthouse in person to file the documents and post bail. I would get proof of filing (file stamped copies) and proof of payment of bail for trial setting (that is what the check would say).

      Some courts would tell you that you cannot have a trial any more. Some would say that you can have your trial on the original allegation, but you just have to pay and plead guilty to the civil assessment (allegation).

      Some courts will tell you that you cannot have a trial by declaration, because they treated your failure to appear as your first request for a TBD, and you lost that battle. Therefore, if you want a new trial (on the grounds that they failed to notify you of the Decision on the Trial by Declaration so that you could request a timely trial de novo following a trial by declaration in absentia), you need to file a Request for Trial De Novo and have a live court trial.

      And finally, in Los Angeles, all you have to do is show up and wait in that line. With those . . . .Sometimes.

      So, if I wanted to figure out what was going on in this court, I would go in person, and file the papers I wanted to file in person. See what happens.

      But it sounds like you are trying to solve this failure to appear problem by mail.

      The nice thing about going in person is that you can verify what is going on with the drivers license hold that is associated with the case. And you might be able to get it released with an in person arraignment or clerks arraignment before you have to pay anything.

  21. James says:

    Hi I needed some advice, then clarification before I proceed.

    To begin I have had 4 tickets in 3 different courts. The Courts are; Fairfield ($502), Concord ($685), Pittsburg($1145 & $1061). I have paid both Fairfield and Concord tickets per the court to apply for a Civil Assessment Petition. I was wondering what are the chances I could get some money back from the petition, to pay for the other two tickets? Is their any hope of lowering the amount of the last two also since I’ve been paying them off and attempting to redeem my license? Lastly, I was going to purchase one of your packages, but unsure of which one, could you link the best one to help me with the petition ?

    • James,

      Good questions. I guess the court convinced you that you must post bail before making a Petition to Vacate the Civil Assessment under Penal Code sec 1214.1(d).

      What are your chances of getting money back? Let’s check the facts:

      1) you already gave the court your money;
      2) you did not mention any sort of defense to a failure to appear charge in your comment.

      Total points = 0

      If you actually have a defense, like the court failed to give you proper notice under Penal Code section 1214.1(b); or you are the victim of identity theft, your chances might be slightly higher than zero.

      I sell a general all counties in CA – Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment with Supporting Declaration that challenges the civil assessment on a couple legal bases. You can use it as it, or ad your own arguments/defense:

      In Contra Costa County, they invented their own local form for a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment which explicitly limits your arguments to a few little lines, and it purports to limit the defense available to you in the instructions. I wrote a Petition to Vacate using their local Contra Costa Form as well:

      If I were working on this case, and getting paid by the hour, I’d be doing a lot of other things at the same time, such as Demand for Trial De Novo.

  22. Danielle says:

    Hi Christopher,
    Thanks for the information on this site. Trying to discern how to handle this is a real ape train. I have pretty much the exact situation a Bao (posted on Dec. 13th). I got a ticket 10/10 for incomplete stop, didn’t notice that they had my old address listed on the ticket (lame, I know), but they also had my current address listed for my insurance and I assumed they would have access to DMV records and use my correct address rather than what was written on the ticket by the cop (again, lame, I know). I recognize I screwed up here by waiting for this to come in the mail- I blew it and I now owe 580.00. I realize it might just be easier to pay, but its seriously a financial hardship. I see that you responded to Bao who has the same situation as me that he might just want to pay the fines, and yet I see all this good information and advice on your site about demanding a trial after civil assessment, and petition to vacate civil assessment. So I guess I’m confused, do you think it’s worth it to try these methods if it’s a matter of having not received the notices because of an incorrect address? Or do you think one is better off just paying because that isn’t a very good argument and likely to be denied?
    Thanks in advance,

  23. Bao says:

    Hi Christopher,

    I got a ticket on 10/19/2012 for unsafe lane change in San Francisco. I was in a right turn only lane and realized that I needed to go straight so I had signaled and went to the left lane. Just my luck it was a cop that I had just “cut off” – he was not close to be at all. I’m from SJ and rarely come to SF so I was somewhat lost. When he pulled me over he said he had to write me a ticket because he caught me on camera. He actually told me to go to court because most likely I will win the case. He said to wait for the ticket to come home and I can request a written appeal since I live in San Jose to save a trip. I had every attempt to appeal it and was waiting for the ticket in the mail. I totally forgot about it after a couple weeks and never received the ticket in the mail. I just got a letter on 12/05/12 from the Superior Court with the Notice of Civil Assessment. The citation amount owed is $238 and they’re adding on $300! I called them right away and the clerk told me there’s nothing I can do that I need to pay the full $538. She wouldn’t let me schedule a court date. Base on your experience if I show up to Court and ask for a hearing what are the chances that I will get one? It is stated in the notice that even if I want to petition to vacate civil assessment I still need to pay the $538 in full first? Is this correct? What I would really like to do is get rid of the assessment fee then request a hearing in court to appeal the original citation. Is this possible? Any advice will be much appreciated. Thank you!

    • Bao,

      This is a common problem. Waiting for something to come in the mail was a big mistake. The courts are not required to send you anything after you get a traffic ticket. Your deadline to show up in court was right on the citation, right next to your signature.

      If you want to get something done on your case, you need to go to the courthouse in person. Before 8 am. Dont try to take care of it over the phone. It will not work.

      Your drivers license is probably suspended as a result of this case. Do not drive at all until you contact the DMV drivers safety office to verify the status of your drivers license as of today.

      But at $538, it might be easier to just pay??

      • Bao says:

        They are giving me until December 25th to pay before reporting to DMV so good thing is my license is not suspended. I know it’s always easier just to pay but $538 isn’t a small amount especially knowing I could’ve won the case in the begining. I know it was a stupid mistake not trying to contact them sooner. If I show up there will they give me a hearing? Sorry I’m pretty new with this.


    I received a call from an Irvine county clerk three nights ago, informing me that I have a delinquent account balance stemming from a speeding ticket back in 2007, she said I owed another $345 on top my $200 I had paid back in 2007. I live in Campbell, in Santa Clara County, so originally, I had been dealing with that ticket, including corresponding with the clerks office filing the petition to vacate the civil assessment fee. I never heard back from them and had assumed they had accepted my $200 payment for the original fine and and granted my petition to remove the Civil Assessment Fee, and never had a problem with my driver’s license being suspended for failure to pay. Her answer, to my questioning how is this even possible, was simply, “Maybe it got lost in the cracks…”
    I explained that I had moved shortly after this and had since moved another two times since 2007 and never got anything in the mail. My addresses had always been kept current and up to date with the CA DMV and local post offices. She told me that a denial letter was mailed to my old address I lived at when this all took place in 2007 explaining, they only go by the original addresses they have for people on record for at the time of the violation. They are not required to cross reference the CA DMV records. But she did say I was welcome to write the judge and petition this again before this now delinquent account goes to collections. I was left with her name, a contact number, a case number and the fax number to submit my new petition to since I am unable to do so in person.
    Any and all help/guidance will be greatly appreciated, I feel that I should not have to pay this added fee because because they are lazy and bad habits and or bad bookkeepers .

    Thank You, Nelson R.

    • Instant Complete Warrant Search


      Part of the problem here is that you are not understanding what is going on. And you are not understanding the details. Details matter. Focus dude.

      There is no such thing as “Irvine County”. No “Irvine County Court Clerk” called you at night.

      And, . . . if you never hear back from the court on your attempt to get them to do something, you cannot just assume they did it. If you ask a court to do something by mail, and you do not hear back from them, THAT MEANS THEY IGNORED YOU.

      If you ignored them ignoring you, it is your own fault.

      You cannot sole this problem by mail. You cannot solve this problem by fax or telephone. Writing to the judge will not help, the court will not accept a Petition from you by fax. Dont waste your time.

      If you cannot go in person, and you have already started paying a fine (and thereby admitted guilt), you only have 1 option: Pay in Full. There is no other way.

      Get proof you paid.

      Go to DMV in person afterwards.

      If you really think you have a defense and really want to file a new petition or motion – you need to do it in person. If you cannot go in person, pay in full. There is no other option. Except pay an attorney to do it for you, but on a small case that would be a waste.

      Especially if you have no real defense.

    • Stephanie M. says:


      I received a Fix-It ticket while driving my Father’s car. I asked for two extensions and was able to repair the vehicle’s seatbelt, but wasn’s able to report to court on my appearance date. I was bedbound on disability for health reasons. My Father made an attempt to show the courts proof of correction, but was not allowed to represent me that day & was sent home.

      I then received “the letter” informing me of my FTA and warrant. As soon I as I was able to, I showed up to try to put myself on calendar, but the clerk informed me there was nothing I could do. I did this on three separate occasions to no avail. As a student, my income is not enough to cover such a heavy fine, so I did not respond to any calls or letters from G&C.

      I have not addressed this issue in court out of ignorance and fear. It’s been two years now since the initial citation. Upon my graduation, I need to be able to enter the workforce and a clean driving record is a must. How may I work to resolve this? I am unable to pay the $800+ that resulted .

      Please Help.


      • Stephanie,

        Well, this is a common problem.

        You are totally guilty.

        A correctable citation is only “correctable” under the deadline on the citation next to your signature – unless you get an extension.

        Proof of correction is not a requirement for resolving a “correctable” citations. If you dont fix a correctable problem on time, no problemo, just plead guilty, pay the fine, end the case correctly. No proof of anything is required. It just helps.

        If this were a bigger problem, and I thought it might help, I would say go to the courthouse in person tomorrow at 8 am and ask for a walk in court appearance. Once in court, try to talk the judge into accepting your “evidence” of correction if you have any, even though it is years late.

        Your drivers license is almost certainly suspended due to this problem.

        I think you just need to go to the courthouse in person with cash and pay in full. Then go to the DMV in person (with some more cash) and get your new, valid drivers license.

        You are not going to be able to erase the record of suspension of failure to appear on your driver history report. You just have to accept that fact.

        And what if you cannot pay? I dont see any other options for you – because you dont have a defense to anything that happened to you in traffic court.

        But if you can go to court in person mabe something good will happen. Every county deals with these differently.

        What if you dont have any money and dont have any proof of correction and cannot go to court in person and do not have the money to hire an attorney? Dont waste your time. Wait until things improve for you. There is nothing you can do in that situation.

        From the court’s perspective – driving is a privilege not a right.

  25. Sonny says:

    Got a citation in Kern County in 2011. Decided to make payments on it (no way I was going back out there). I made my payments on time every month. I made my last payment in June 2012 (or so I thought)! I got a call from Kern County superior court 2 days ago saying I owed money on a ticket and if I didn’t pay my license would be suspended! I called today to find out what was going on and the guy I spoke with said I had a balance of $59.00 and there had been a $300 civil assesment added bring my total to $359 plus they had suspended my license!!!!! WTH??? What can I do?

    • Sonny,

      Common problem.

      My suggestion? Take your proof of payments to the court in person tomorrow morning.

      If it’s not worth 359$ to go to that beautiful place, then you should pay immediately and contact DMV in person right now to verify the status of your drivers license and to make sure they have your current address. Today.

      I once woke up at 4 am in San Diego and drove to Taft courthouse to try to make a court appearance. I dont think I made it.

      “There aint no Yuppies in Oildale. It’s dam near Yuppie free. You wont find no soccer moms, drivin ’round in SUVs.”

  26. Keith says:

    I live in LA county and recently I got a bail from GC services saying I owe West Covina Courthouse $780 dollars. I contacted them and they said I had an traffic violation on 11/21/11 and I failed to appear in court on 1/13/12. In fact, I neither got put over nor got any citation ticket in the mail in the past year.

    I filled out the dispute letter you provided to me online and what else could I do to help me disputing this charge?

    Thank you in advance.


    • Keith says:

      sorry, I forget to mention that, the courthouse is charging me for civil money judgment. and since I have never got any notice about this citation, i did not notice the court date so I missed that. I really think this is not fair for me.

      • Go to the courthouse in person. Check out the court file on the case. See if there is a citation with your signature on it.

        • Keith says:

          Thank you for your response.
          I got couple questions here:
          1) If I hire an attorney to this, how much does it cost and how likely am I going to win this case? Do I still have to end up going to the court for the trial?
          2) Am I able to make a walk in arraignment for sure? Since I am leaving the U.S. in a week and will be back in December. I dont think I have enough time to solve this case. Is it ok to solve when I come back in december???

          Thank you very much.

    • Kieth,

      Go to the courthouse in person today at 1:30 pm. Ask for a walk in arraignment. Or hire an attorney to do that work for you correctly. Attorney Mark Gallagher (attorneygallagher(at) is very good with these cases.

      Stop talking to GC Services. Deal with the court in person.

      Your drivers license is probably suspended. Do not drive at all until you talk with DMV in person to verify the status of your drivers license as of today. Make sure today that DMV has your current mailing address.

      A skilled attorney might be able to get your drivers license back within a couple of days.

  27. Ian says:

    Hi Christopher.

    I have a $1,600 fix it ticket for not having my current insurance card in my car (I was insured and have proof- I just couldn’t find it in my car that day)!

    First, thank you for this blog. My situation with civil assessment is actually worse- Contra Costa County will not even review a request for dismissal without me having to pay $1,600 (which I do not have) FIRST. The manager in the Clerk area told me that if I send the Petition to Vacate without paying the $1,600 first, It will not even be read, and will be mailed back to me.

    I got pulled over and got off with a warning; but was issued a fix-it because I couldn’t find the current insurance card in my car at the time. I mailed the proof to the proper place (Court says they never received it), and then I LEFT THE COUNTRY FOR 14 MONTHS- never thought about ti again. I returned for a funeral, hit an animal on the freeway in South Dakota returning from the funeral and THAT is when I learned I had a suspended license. nice- huh?! I had to call DMV to find out why- I had no clue.

    Now, the judge will not see me. I was hit with TWO civil assessments and my “debt”, after 2 trips to Collections (trashing my credit), is now with the Franchise Tax Board for collection.

    The clerk sympathized with me but her hands are tied by this “Directive” that went into force 8.2010. She says lawyers have tried to help others in my situation but there is nothing they can do- 100% fail- she says none have even gotten to speak to a judge.

    My license has been suspended 17 months now. I am told I must pay the $1,600 and after paid, I can file to try to vacate the civil assessment part ONLY, because once I have paid the penalty first, that payment is akin to admitting guilt and, therefore, I can never have my day in court and thus, I am convicted of not having insurance even though I had it and have proof. This is America, right?!

    It’s a perfect unconstitutional catch 22. I’m unemployed, live in Texas now. To buy groceries, I have to walk 4 1/2 miles round trip (no buses- Texas sucks). It’s hopeless.

    Given Contra Costa’s uniquely cruel application of this Civil Assessment garbage, is there anything you can think of? The approach you outlined won’t work because of their pre-payment/pre-guilty admission requirement.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this and for being so generous with your time to maintain this website.


    • Ian,

      I get this fact pattern almost everyday.

      In CA, a failure to provide proof of insurance violation (Vehicle Code sec 16028) is not a correctable offense. If you did not show the officer proof you are guilty. You cannot just send in proof of insurance and expect everything to be ok.

      If you had proof of insurance for that day, and if you showed up in court on time in person, you may have been able to talk the judge into giving you a break. But if you didnt go – you are totally guilty.

      $1600? That’s a lot more expensive than insurance coverage. Ouch.

      If you are actually in texas – you could hire an attorney like me to go to court for you in person today with your proof of insurance for that date that you email to me and I could try to get in and try to get the judge to give you some relief.

      Every county deals with these cases totally differently. Some completely unfairly. But some actually do everything right (like have a trial in absentia via declaration after a defendant fails to appear). I cannot tell exactly what happened in your case, and that is why you really only have 2 options: 1) go in person and try to get something done; 2) hire an attorney to go in person; or 3) pay in full. Get proof you paid. Go to DMV in person afterwards to get your CA driving privilege reinstated (even if you do not have a CA drivers license).

      RE: filing of motions – the court clerks will discourage you from filing legal motions and/or a petition to vacate. I say go in person, file in person. If they refuse to file, send to court clerk request filing via US Postal Service mail with proof of delivery requested. Then if they ignore or reject – file a notice of appeal based upon that action (or failure to perform legal duty of filing documents).

      They cannot stop you from filing a document. They can reject it because of a rules of court violation or after review deny the request.

      There is now good way to fight a failure to appear case in CA from TX unless you can hire an attorney to go to court for you and do the work. Dont try to solve it by mail unless you are just going to pay in full.

      • Ian says:

        Hi Chris.

        Thank you so much for the response.

        I’m confused. Section 16026 (e) says:

        (e) A person issued a notice to appear for a violation of subdivision (a) may personally appear before the clerk of the court, as designated in the notice to appear, and provide written evidence of financial responsibility in a form consistent with Section 16020, showing that the driver was in compliance with that section at the time the notice to appear for violating subdivision (a) was issued. In lieu of the personal appearance, the person may submit by mail to the court written evidence of having had financial responsibility at the time the notice to appear was issued. Upon receipt by the clerk of that written evidence of financial responsibility in a form consistent with Section 16020, further proceedings on the notice to appear for the violation of subdivision (a) shall be dismissed.

        I DID send proof to the court, as per this paragraph. You state I am guilty. Ok, but, as I read this, it says I am guilty of not having the proof at the time I was stopped, but that’s ok because the proof of responsibility dismisses the violation.

        Of course, they say they never received it. I went to the court in person in April and I was not allowed to see the judge. I am back in CA now for another 10 days. I will try again and then file a motion based upon being denied again. The clerk’s office told me that attorney’s have tried to see the judge related to cases where a failure to appear was then ruled in absentia- they say no attorney has ever seen the judge since the directive was handed down 8.2010.

        I wish Richmond was closer to you. As it is, I imagine your time to schlep Sac-Richmond-back to Sac would be substantial, and with remote chance that you would get to see the judge when all before you failed, it doesn’t seem like a practical option.

        Thanks again for being so generous with your time…


        • Ian,

          It’s actually section 16028.

          You do have something here. You are right! The code says if you get proof that you were covered on the day of the citation the violation “shall be dismissed”.

          SHALL. SHALL. Clerk SHALL dismiss.

          The correct safe thing to do would was go to court in person.

          Maybe they got your proof, but too late according to them.

          Do you have proof of delivery to the court from the postal service?

          Richmond? No, I will never work in that court again.

          I dont mind driving to Tahoe courthouses though. Ventura – even Ventura. I’ll drive down hwy 101 for a Ventura Case anytime.

          The other thing I am thinking here is that there was a probably a “dismissal fee” that the court required (not listed in the code) and that they rejected your proof (maybe) for lack of dismissal fee.

          I dont have the original comment here with me to review – but I would also be wondering if there were other violations listed on the citation that you forgot about. If that is the case – then even if the insurance violation is dismissed – the whole case does not get dismissed. There may be one or more violations still pending.

          We can assume the police did not stop you for failure to have insurance. The cop discovered that after stopping you. Why did he/she stop you again? Was that the second violation on the citation? (if any?) Could that be the problem.

          You probably just got screwed. If that is the case, I would 1) go to court in person and try to get the case set for in person arraingment; and 2) file a motion to dismiss based upon the proof of insurance you have and 16028(e); and 3) file a petition to vacate the civil assessment and 4) motion to release drivers license hold based upon the idea that you have not had an arraignment or the 10 day warning notice of Penal Code 1214.1(b); and maybe a demand for hearing on a motion to vacate the judgment (if there is one) under authority of Penal Code 1214.1(d).

          Those are all of my ideas.

          If you can get into court in person, you will probably get some relief.

  28. Audrey says:


    I live in California and received a fix-it ticket (expired tags), a few years back in San Mateo County. I requested an extension online and was granted. I then requested another extension and was granted that too. I believe in that county they allow you 2 extensions. Shortly after the second extension was granted I received a failure to appear. I don’t recall receiving any notice stating I had a court date. Due to various hardships I was unable to make it to court to fight the ticket. My account was forwarded onto the counties collection agency and is now over $600. When I telephoned collection agency to work out payment plan I was told the entire amount was due. I wasn’t working during that time, so was unable to pay the entire amount. They have now reported this account to the credit bureaus. One other thing I was told that there was a judgment against me. The judgment doesn’t show on my credit report. Does this mean that I don’t have one or they just forgot to report it? Is there anything I can do to fight this at this point or is it way too late?

    • Audrey,

      Super common problem.

      First let me address your statement (delusion) that “I don’t recall receiving any notice stating I had a court date.” Hum .. . .. what about the notice right next to your signature on the traffic ticket (promise to appear) that you signed? Forgot about that one hun . ..? What about the notice that showed up on your screen right after the first extension you got? . . . or did you get a magic “infinite” extension? Forgot about that notice too . . . .What about the notice you got on your screen for the second extension? Or did you get a second magic extension to “infinity”???? …. What about the notice with alarms that kept going off in your head that caused you to get the extensions in the first place???????

      Duh. Hello. Earth to Audrey. What condition is your condition in, over?

      Where is the question?

      If you have made a payment on the case, you have admitted guilt.

      If the court treated your failure to appear as a Request for Trial By Declaration, and had that trial without your participation, you probably lost that trial and had a court judgment against you for the fine.

      Has nothing to do with credit reporting at all. Who knows what sort of data and sources of data private for profit credit reporting companies use?????

      Just because you cant find something on your credit report does not mean that you did not get hammered by the court. Courts are not required to report to credit reporting agencies. Forget about that part of the story.

      Sounds like you are guilty. You should just pay in full as soon as possible get proof you paid. Check with DMV right now to see the status of your drivers license as of right now (probably suspended – you cannot drive at all). Make sure DMV has your current address. Once the case and its associated Veh Code 40509.5 is cleared by the court (not the collection agency), go to DMV in person to get the drivers license reinstated.

      • Audrey says:

        Christopher Dort, Esq,

        Thank you for responding to my question and apologize if my question was all over the place, as this happened a few years back, so I don’t remember every last detail.

        Your response was a bit insulting, but thanks again for responding.


        • N M says:

          A bit insulting? If I were a professional, I’d be extremely embarrassed to have my name attached to something so rude and condescending.

  29. Cory says:

    Great info,thanks. I’m in Fresno county. Received a no reg no insurance ticket-stupid I did drive a mile to post office box. Anyways. Ticket was $425 around $500 with payment plan. I made $50 mo-only option allowed, then was late,called before due date was told would get a notice with 15 days to pay. I got that first notice and caught up on payments and was in good standing with court still. Then next payment came due I was unable to make so called court before due date and was told the same I’d receive a notice and given 15 days to pay. Well next I receive a GCS services saying I owe $300 civil assessment and remainder of ticket around $200. I called court and was told they don’t have to send a notice to give me time to correct its a courtesy . Not what above says. So I file vacate civil assessment on grounds I’m disabled,not working,not receiving disability ,financial hardship,and not being notified-at time I didn’t know required by law to notify and give 10 days to clear. Got response from judge refusing to vacate civil assessment. It’s been about 2-3 months and I have not heard a word from GCS or court or DMV. I just renewed license right as this was happening. I truely never failed to appear and really made an effort to pay. I have many receipts and all papers from court. Guess I should dispute dept? I’m Wondering if court or GCS lost it in the shuffle?? Guess I shouldn’t just let this go as I’m a paramedic when working and I do need my license. I have a spotless record without a ticket in many many years this has been a large headache when I really tried with Fresno county courts. Thanks for the help your great.

  30. Sarah says:

    I recieved my 10-day ‘warning of intent’ letter today from Ventura County Superior Courts Collections. From what I can tell, the only option on the form is either 1. Have actual good cause for failure to appear/pay or 2. accept the assessment as nobly as possible. Well, my good cause is being unemployed for 9mos since leaving the military, I WAS on unemployment until mental health issues caused it to be denied. I’m leaving the state, one, because im getting evicted, but also to find a better job market somewhere out there. Basically, I don’t have the money, and I’m leaving the state tomorrow. What bothers me the most about this warning is what it says at the bottom: “Failure to show good cause by the above date will result in a hold placed on your driver’s license, notification to the state franchise tax board, and/or a warrant for your arrest.” Now, correct me if I’m wrong, reading legal jargon can be a bit confusing, but under 1214.1 (C) issuing a warrant would be illegal after a civil assessment is imposed, right? Also what is the consequence of the notice to the state franchise tax board? Any suggestions on the “show good cause” part, maybe my 3day pay or quit notice and the unemployment forms?

    Thanks for any suggestions,

    • DortLaw says:


      Go to court in person Monday at 8 am if you have not already.

      Being unemployed is not a defense to anything. Poverty is not a defense. But maybe you can talk the judge into something. At the very least you can get a payment plan w/o suspension as long as you show up on time.

  31. Greg says:

    P.S. Afterwards I went to the clerk for a transcript of what was said. They told me they didn’t have them, but when I pressed the issue and demanded it somehow they came back with the transcribers? name.

    I’m not wanting to continue living in CA and when asked if I could move the court date up I was told no and that I would have to come back to CA for the day of court. So they want an unemployed person to pay for air travel, hotel, and food? They then gave me a sheet of paper with information on how I can write a letter to the LA SUPERIOR COURT in Van Nuys, CA. Supposedly a Judge can then dismiss the issue and eliminate the need for me to come back to CA or they can still require me to appear.

  32. Greg says:

    My original traffic citation (4000 (A)(1) VC – exp reg; and 24252 (A) VC – light out) was corrected, verified by DPS, and submitted with proof and payment to the court. Months later I got a notice saying my license would be suspended due to my failure to appear. The next day I went to the court house with a copy of the proof of corrections and my carbon copy of the check I wrote to the clerk still attached in my checkbook between other carbon dated checks. I was told I would have to see the judge.

    Today was that day. The Judge did not want to see the proof of payment. The original citations were dismissed. However, the Failure To Appear stands. I pleaded Not Guilty. I then asked for a trial by jury. The judge told me no and that I didn’t know what I was doing. She looked over at some man… maybe a DA? Then she said yes, if I want this to turn into a misdemeanor and risk spending 6 months in jail. I said I was confused and she then asked if I wanted that nodding towards the doors to Jail. When she started yelling at me everything went blurry. I said “No” to not wanting to spend 6 months in jail. I didn’t waive my rights to trail did I? After that I asked her if I just needed to walk out the door pointing to the hallway where the clerks where. She said yes.

    I now have a court date for Dec. 13th, 2012. I assume it is solely with a Judge. Does it sound like the Judge today used intimidation to refuse me a Trial by Jury? Can I do anything to take action against this Judge or court so no one is intimidated out of their rights again?

    How would I know if I have Civil Assessments? The Judge didn’t mention them in court today. What should I do?

  33. Lance N. says:

    The backstory is I had a trifecta, three fix-its at the same time. License plate tags, proof of insurance, one headlight. I’m guilty of all three but did not get them cleared for my court date. Now, San Mateo wants $1750. I wish to ask a few separate questions:

    a) Should I request that it be 1 FTA, not three, since it was one ticket?
    b) San Mateo county charges $500 per FTA instead of $300. What is their legal basis for this? Should I demand a reduction to the state penal code amount?
    c) SM has court dates, and I could show up at 5am hoping to get a spot. Is a Trial By Written Declaration as effective as showing up? I go to bed at 5am (swing/graveyard shift) – a court date is during my 3AM and I’m not the most articulate guy in person.

    And of course, about financial hardship (recent large expenses, medical, credit card debt), working graveyard shift, other mitigating factors etc: should I include documentation for any of these?

    Thank you for your time.

    • DortLaw says:


      You should go to court in person today right now. Ask for a walk in arraignment, try to get something done.

      But if you did not get anything corrected – you probably have no hope. If you had proof of correction, you may be able to talk the judge into accepting it late.

      Once in court, even if you have to pay everything, you can arrange a payment plan. Of course they charge you extra when you are poor and need a payment plan.

      A financial hardship is not a defense. But it can help you ask for a payment plan or possibly community service. Sometimes.

      On these facts, it does not appear that they charged you with 3 FTAs at $500 a piece – because if that were true – that is $1500 leaving only $250 of the claimed amount for the original violations. And I know that is not true, because that insurance violation alone is $1000.

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      • Lance N says:

        Thank you for answering, and it was about what I expected. It’s the San Mateo $500 FTA fine that really gets me. Have you heard of other municipalities doing this?

        1) My insurance started on Jan. 14th and the ticket was on the 16th . I will plea “did not get the cards yet”.
        2) I corrected the other two, but in May. Procrastination costs.

        Thank you for your time, and I hope you’re making money out of this.

  34. MARVIN says:

    Hi Mr. Dort,
    I am once again another victim of this Civil Assessment Fee. I was fined for a red light violation over a year ago and put on a payment plan. My original fine was close to $600 and I’ve been making my payments quite well until recently. I was already down to about $200 something. I would have to pay $40 a month and I usually pay it online. This is my first time on a payment plan and as with everybody else, I should’ve paid more attention. I got a letter warning about the Civil Assessment Fee last month. However, because I usually pay online, I was under the assumption (again, my fault) that this warning would no longer apply after I made my payment. I so I continued to the courts online payment where it accepted my minimum monthly payment. It was a late payment for April by about 20 some days. Then I was again late for May but I did not get any further warnings. I was about to make my payment tomorrow and then today, I get an automated PHONE CALL (wow, I wish they gave me an automated phone call BEFORE as a warning because I rarely check my mail on time as my mail goes to my parents house and I stay in a different county for work and school) saying I was now imposed a $300 civil assessment fee and I have to pay the full balance of $595 or my license will be suspended. I have contacted the court and they transferred me to their collections (seems like it hasnt’ reached outside collections yet) and the lady could not do anything. I am bound to see the judge next Friday at 8am. Are these judges forgiving? They have a history of me making my payments. I have to go home and try to find that ONE warning letter they send me so I can read the fine print and see exactly what they meant. It was my fault for assuming that making that online payment (their system accepted it perfectly fine) would stop all collection efforst and stop the civil assessment. However, once I received that dreaded automated phone call, I tried going online to see if I can make my late payment for MAY this month and NOW the online payment shows my new balance and I can no longer make an installment. Any luck on what kind of defense I can make? All I have is my honest truth that I fell behind on my bills last month and thought that as long as i paid it within the month or as long as the online payment system accepted my payment, then I was still in the clear. Shouldn’t they have sent me another WARNING letter for the month of MAY since the previous warning was for my missed payment in APRIL? this is so stressing. Thanks for any help you can offer.

    • DortLaw says:


      I am going to re-write your question in a way that makes more sense and in a way that allows it to answer itself.


      I pled guilty to a traffic infraction. I was sentenced by the judge to a fine, and ordered to make regular payments on it until it was paid in full. I did not pay as the court ordered. The court got pissed off and increased my sentence.

      Shouldn’t I have gotten another warning?

      ANSWER: No.

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      • MARVIN CARLOS says:

        I understand where you’re coming from. What confused me was “despite receiving the WARNING notice”. I did not understand why their payment system still allowed me to accept that month’s installment payment. I have only been a few days late once before and at that point, it did not even accept my payment. I had to call the court cashier to reinstate my payment plan. I did not even receive a failure to pay notice at that time as well. So their inconsistency in what is acceptable or not lead to my confusion. I was assuming that because their payment system still took my payment, that I was in the clear. I guess I will talk to the judge and explain this to him in the hopes of at least a reduction and reinstatement of my payment plan.

  35. Brian says:

    Mr. Dort esq.

    First of all let me thank you for creating this forum I really need the advice. I have spun a nightmarish web with my driving record but am trying to do the right thing now and get it all straightened out with the least amount of financial burden or other pain. I have been moving around a bit so I have lost most of the original information, what I have is what I could come across or gather by phone. 1.)I have a red light ticket (?) in riverside county 04/2009 in the amount of $310.00. 2.) I recived a speeding ticket in riverside county 11/2009 for $565.00 but also did not show up for court so with the c/a fee it is $865.20. 3.)I got another speeding ticket out in san diego county 10/2010 I believe the original fine was $316.00 but I did not show up for court so now it is $616.00 allianceone the collection agency is now handling the matter. 4.) I recieved another speeding ticket a year later 11/2010 for $526.00 but they once again I didnt show so a added $300 c/a penalty was applied it is now $826.00. 5.) I recived another speeding ticket a week later 11/2010 same thing $526.00 still did not go to court so it is also $826.00. 6.) and my final addittion to all this madness I was pulled over in san bernadino county going a 102 mph in a 70 (my girlfriend was having a severe anxiety attack and was trying to get her prescription filled, officer asked if we needed a ambulance but we declined because it was financially unbearable) so I have a mandatory appearance for the reckless driving/speeding I once agian did not show up for they are saying there is no bail amount but a collection agency (central collections) sent me a bill for $1265.00. then I have to pay the dmv thier $55 dollar reissuance fee for a total of $4763.20. I really want to do the right thing and get back on track…I have lost job opportunities due to the state of my license and am about to lose another one as I am writing this but I cannot afford all these fines especially the civil assessment fees… what can I do to strike a deal with the court? will they let me pay the original fines and reverse the assessment fee if I can pay in full? I have a family member willing to help me but only to a certain point… also if I pay the collection agency in san bernadino does that mean I still have to go to court all the way in Barstow since it says mandatory appearance? can a lawyeer help me get some of this dismissed even being so old with failure to appears? and is that going to save me money hiring a lawyer or am I better off facing the wolves on my own?

    sincerly thankful,

  36. MD says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for all of the great info. My organization provides free legal services for low-income people and we have recently been helping clients in San Francisco who are dealing with the civil assessment/suspended license issues. The San Francisco court promulgated a new local rule last year requiring individuals to post as bail the full amount owed (on the underlying citation and the civil assessment) before they are permitted to file a written request for relief. (As an aside, it has been longstanding practice of the court to refuse any request for a hearing). The bail requirement has basically barred our clients from an opportunity to access the court and request relief on either the civil assessment or the underlying citation. Any thoughts on challenging it?

    • MD,

      This is a great question. What you describe is a mild version of tricks (from a defense attorney’s point of view I have this am) I have seen some counties use to keep people from getting any kind of due process after the court thinks the person missed a deadline.

      The people who really get screwed are those who are the victims of identity theft, and have no way to tell the court that fact.

      Yes, I do have a new idea. (Attempt to) File a Demand for trial de novo, petition to vacate civil assessment, and motion to vacate default judgment, and anything else you can think of. File by mail, proof of delivery. With letter demanding filing, or identification of the legal justification for a refusal to file.

      At that point, almost always in my experience the court clerks take the papers. Then you have to appeal the denial. Or appeal the rejection.


      At the same time, file a Petition for Writ of Mandate in the federal court to get the court clerk and superior court to satisfy their duties under penal coder section 1214.1d and to provide due process as required by that section. Follow this line up the federal chain as far as you can.

      At the same time, if you have the time (but for a lot of clients it would be worth it – do it once, create a template) – start a federal court write of habeous on the grounds of an illegal government taking without due process and follow that line as far as you can.

      Get some summer law clerk from Hastings to do the work. They will be into it.

      Maybe also file a “notice of indigency” with a supporting declaration. Or “notice of handicap” if applicable also.

      If the court (in some places) forces you to use a local form for a petition to vacate civil assessment, and that form limits your available arguments by spacing, check box, or just plain refusal to consider identity theft a real problem, a defense attorney might think about challenging that forms as an illegal government taking in federal court as a separate issue itself.

      If you find that a collection agency is lying to a person about their rights in court, sue them for fraud, theft, misrepresentation, negligence (to trigger insurance coverage), BP 17200, Federal court 1385, and anything else you can think of.

      OK – that is (are?) all my ideas.

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    • Sarah Jacobs says:

      My name is Sarah and I am a paralegal here in San Francisco. I have come across a lot of indigent people plagued with the same problem. Is there anyway that I can refer them to your organization?

      • Sara,

        We cant actually help individual people for free. The best we can do is offer free self help info, and answer the good questions when we can.

        But I understand the problem. One big obstacle for poor people with failure to appear problems is that the problem just gets bigger and bigger, and it takes money to stop it.

        Cant pay registration. Get a ticket. Cant pay registration or fine, and cant drive the dang car to court, so miss court date. Cant pay FTA and civil assesment fees, drivers license gets suspended. Cant pay for anything, lose job, lose house, have more kids than economically possible, have relatives older than you who get sick, etc so drive anyway, and get pulled over, arrested, car impounded (without registration) and then it becomes a $10,000 problem one evening on your way to church.

        Rich people dont have this problem. They just drive up in the whip, stroll in, drop a wad of cash in the tray, get a receipt, and they speed out right through that red light camera flash. Problem solved.

        In nearly all cases of this sort – it takes money to get out. And from the law’s point of view, driving is a privilege for people with money – not a right for all to enjoy regardless of their wealth. The law says if you dont have money, you have to stop driving – even if it means you lose your job, or day care for your children, or access to medical treatment.

        Harsh, but true.

        How do we fix it? Fines based on income.

        But what about the people with no income?

        They dont have to pay fines.

        How do we punish them?


        But Jail costs more than just letting them go for free.

        Does it?

  37. Ty Wise says:

    My original traffic citation was dismissed today because the officer failed to show up. However, I was found guilty of the Failure To Appear and received a $300 civil assessment penalty. When I initially received the citation, I mailed a check for the bail amount and a letter stating I was not guilty. After a few weeks, the court mailed back the check and stated the ticket was not in their system.

    Do I have a good case for appeal? Also, is it too late to argue the civil assessment case? Also, my name is spelled incorrectly.

    • Ty,

      This is a good question. I guess if you have proof that you tried to appear (the letter from the court), you have an argument for appeal. I would think it should be evidence that you were not guilty of the FTA.

      I’d ask you if there were nay bad facts, but your story doesnt make any sense at all. So there is no need. If your ticket was not in their “system”, how did you know how much bail to send in? Answer: You didnt know.

      And if you did have that evidence (the letter from the court), why dont you tell us how the judge reacted to it? Didnt show it to the judge? Couldnt find it?

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  38. Jarrett says:

    Thanks for the docs Chris. Should I also create an actual ccp 473 motion to vacate default judgement as well in addition to this petition to vacate? also, should I remove the language that basically admits to failing to appear but for good cause and just stick to the grounds described in this post?

    And does it help to demur to the citation on the grounds that it doesnt conform to government code 100 or penal 950 under penal code 1004? doesn’t the court have to file an actual complaint when the defendant fails to appear?

    thanks, again

    p.s. thanks to your help my failure to appear package i am preparing is as follows:

    ccp170.6 motion (just in case)
    demurrer to all charges (ccp4181.;ccp430.1;cpc1004)
    1385 motion to dismiss
    petition to vacate
    trial de novo request (40903)
    motion to release DL hold
    motion to vacate default judgment? (ccp473)

  39. Saul Carpenter says:

    Can someone pl help me out . I was late for my 1st arraignment speech. 2nd date was given – I came just 55 mins late. 9:55 instead of 9 am. It was because my car has a breakdown. I believe I can get a receipt documenting this situation. This situation was beyond my control. There were 2 tickets to be heard the same day. The Judge talks ABSOLUTELY no different than an extortion agent.”Mr / Miss maam…blah blah..and your fine today is $___ how will you pay…full / installments ?”. I was stuck on the road – most miserably – it took about 40 mins before help came in. Then on another 30 mins to fix the problem. By the time I was up and about again it was 9:20 am.
    All I have is the mechanic’s receipt with this info. So I was faced with circumstances beyond my control that got me late to court.
    Is that valid reason to dispose the case against me .
    Please advise.
    OH – 1 imp thing…. I initially wanted to contend the case against me. But this is my last week here in CA. I have to fly to Boston next week & will be there for 3-4 months. So now I have to eat humble pie and just get the civil ass. of my back and accept the guilty verdict. Unless there is a way I can have trial after 4 months that possible ?

  40. Kailie says:

    So, I got my 2nd hands-free violation (not guilty on this one). I thought about appealing it in court but decided it wasn’t worth missing the work days. Well I am in Sacramento County and when I received the ticket, they told me they wouldn’t be sending me anything in the mail because of “budget cuts”. Well, because of no reminder I forgot (of course) and now I have received a notice that the 1214.1 pc was applied. Never receiving the 10 days warning notice. Now my $166 cell phone ticket is a $466 cell phone ticket. In my Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment should I mention that I never received a ticket in the mail? Or just argue that I didn’t get the 10 days notice? In your honest opinion, what are my chances of getting this fee waived? I am going to suck it up and pay the $166 just not the $300.

    • Kailie,

      Great question!

      I am going to refine your thinking about the problem so that you have a clear understanding of why the answer is the answer.

      RE: “because of no reminder I forget.” – Forget about that part of the story. You did not forget because you did not get a reminder. You forgot because you failed to read and take note of the deadline on the citation right next to your signature. You forgot because you were in denial. You forgot because you did not believe the court had the power to jack up your life.

      Should you mention that you never received a ticket in the mail??????? Do chickens swim? Of course not! Why? Because you DID receive a ticket! It was that thing TITLED “PROMISE TO APPEAR” that you did not read with your signature on it.

      OK – should you argue that you did not receive the 10 days warning notice required prior to the application of a Penal Code 1214.1a civil assessment by section 1214.1(b)?

      Yes. Because that is your only hope. The law requires a warning notice, so that you can appear in court and cure the problem. If they dont give you that chance, they are denying you the right to due process during a government taking of your property (money).


      Do not confuse the civil assessment problem with your right to a trial on the original charge listed in the “promise to Appear” (that thing with your signature). Your right to trial cannot just magically go away when you get a civil assessment. Did they have a trial without you in absentia? Did they provide you with notice of the decision on a trial in absentia and thereby give you the option of requesting a trial de novo?

      Where is your right to a trial? Where did it go? Did the court clerk take it away from you with smoke and mirrors?

      You should find out. If you are not guilty of the original charge, maybe you want a trial.

      But then again, maybe not because you might get convicted of a misdemeanor failure to appear instead. hum.

      • Kailie says:

        Thank you so much for your response! You are right- I was in denial! Didn’t want to pay that stupid thing because I don’t feel like I should. But I’m willing to suck it up and do it because I don’t want to risk having a misdemeanor for failing to appear.

        Other question: I have looked for a petition to vacate civil assessment form and have been unable to find one through the Sacramento Supreme court. So… it looks like i’ll need to draft my own. I read that you have a free sample on how to draft that with the proper wording? Could you point me in that direction? I was unable to find it.

        Thank you again! I appreciate your help!


  41. Maurice says:

    So there has not been an entry for a while I hope you get this.

    I live outside of CA and received a speeding ticket in Monterey County Dec 2011. I received a copy of the citation but it contained no bail amount and no court date. The CHP officer told me I would receive a notice via mail in 3-5 weeks. I waited…

    I never received anything from Monterey County until yesterday when I received a civil assessment notice.

    What is the likelihood that I would be able to fight this on the grounds i never received any form of communication from the Superior Court?

    Another note about this, the misspelled my name SIGNIFICANTLY on the notices and it is misspelled the same way on the Superior Courts website.

    Can I just ignore all of this as I don’t hold a CA drivers license? Not my first choice but if they are not going to give me the opportunity to fight this legally, whats the worst that they can do to me?

    • Maurice,

      I got some bad news for you. Your court date was listed on the bottom of the citation right next to your signature.

      But just in case I am wrong, and there really is no Notice of Date on your Notice to Appear (citation), you may have a defense.

      The court is not required to send you anything before the court date on your citation. If you dont receive anything in the mail, it is your responsibility to show on that date and time by your signature.

      The CA DMV has probably already suspended your driving privilege in CA even if you never had a CA license. The way they do that is they give you a fake drivers license #, called an “X” number, and they suspend that. Then, they notify your home state, which can honor the suspension. I am not sure if that is what is going to happen to you.

      As for the mistakes in your name – I dont know what to say about that. The official record is the citation – not what shows up on a collection notice or web site.

      My advice? If it is under $1000, I’d say just pay if you cannot go to court in person tomorrow at 8 am.

  42. Nick says:

    First off, thanks for this good write up on civil assessments; I wish I read it sooner. My wife received a traffic ticket for a hands free violation last year. Either the officer or the court failed to record our correct address, and all related mailing went to an invalid address. On the second civil assessment notice, the post office apparently realized the mistake and routed the letter to us (still had the wrong address, with the correct address written in pen on the letter). We paid the fine plus the assessment and filled out the Contra Costa County appeal form listing clerical error (I wish I had seen this site prior, and didn’t fill out the appeal). We provided evidence of the error including the court letter with the wrong address (fortunately we have copies of this).

    Today we received a denial for that appeal via letter. Is it too late to do anything, or can we still file a motion to dismiss?

  43. Kyle Rayner says:

    Hi Christopher,

    First of all, thanks for providing the free information – it’s much appreciated! My situation involves a Red Light violation in San Diego country. We just received a “Your Account is Delinquent” letter, which is first notification we received of ANY violation: we didn’t receive a citation notice, and certainly not a 1214.1 notice that a civil assessment was imminent. From the looks of it, one civil assessment has already been added to the ticket cost – after calling the collections agency the original ticket (from June 16 – nice to only hear about it now) was $495, but the amount past due is listed as $795, indicating that $300 has already been added. The notice now says that they’re going to add what looks like an additional $300, in addition to passing things along to the Franchise Tax Board. So obviously I’m concerned. I’ve looked into it and my registration has the correct address, so as to why the original citation and original 1214.1 never got here, I have no idea.

    So my question is two-fold:

    1) Do I have any recourse here other than to pay the total balance and then try to apply for a petition to vacate the assessment, hoping I get a refund? I don’t want this to get worse before it gets better.

    2) After I pay the balance, can I even apply for a petition to vacate, using the language you set forth above? Or once it’s paid, they won’t even blink an eye at you anymore?

    If the original ticket doesn’t have the incorrect address, there doesn’t seem to be any way to prove I DIDN’T get any notice, which puts me in limbo (unless I just bend over the barrel on this, which obviously I’d prefer not to).

    Thanks again!

    • Kyle Rayner says:

      An update to my original post – I actually went to the San Diego County Courthouse this morning, went to Alliance One (the collection agency), and they took down my information and processed it for the court. Within an hour (lucky!) I saw the judge, pleaded guilty to the original red light violation (since I know I was) and she dismissed the $300 civil assessment and reduced the original ticket to $450 (including traffic school so it doesn’t appear on my license/records), since it was my first and only infraction. Still a lot, but hey, it’s better than $800, credit threats, and all the rest. Just thought it might be helpful for others in this situation – as soon as you get something in the mail, get to the court house ASAP and hopefully things can be made better!

  44. Joseph C says:


    I desperately need advice. Sometime last year I was given a fix it ticket. The ticket I got in the mail was written wrong. The cop wrote for no windshield instead of no mud flaps. I was going to fight the fix it ticket but my father in law got sick and eventually died. my wife and I had to go to Florida quite a bit to take care of things. A few months ago I received something from the courts saying I now owed $850 including civil fees. I tried to go into court to see a judge but was denied. Now as of recent I went back in again to the clerks office and they said I could not see the judge and told me I would need to contact Alliance one for payment arrangements.

    Called them and they said that they can let me make payments but that my license was still going to be suspended. They were rude andand made some offensive statements. Now I dont know what to do. I dont have the money to pay as construction work is slow. Gotta feed my kids over fines but also need to drive to make money.

    All this is in Concord, CA traffic court. Any advice??? What happen to the old days of being able to see the judge and work out a payment plan.


  45. M. B says:

    What if the citation ticket says you need to appear in criminal court, you went but the district attorney said theres no case pending then you receive a notice of bail from a traffict court with another court date invitation for the same case?

    • M.B. Thank you for the real question.

      What probably happened here is that they amended the citation after giving it to you to reduce the violation to an infraction. They probably did it to save time and money.

      If I were the attorney handling this case, (assuming it were in a court I cover) – here is what I would do: 1) Calendar both dates and plan on going to both appearances (the one on the citation near your signature, and the one on the notice you received via mail); 2) then call the criminal division court clerk, and ask her or him to verify whether or not there is a scheduled appearance for the date and time on the citation. If so, go. Ask if they have any other cases listed for you; 3) Call the Traffic division court and verify the date and time on the notice that they sent you, and plan on going.

      You have to go. Double check both case #s. They can change the charges. There is nothing you can do about it.

      Unless they changed a misdemeanor 14601.1 to an infraction 14601.1. Then you should be pissed off – because the code says its a misdemeanor, and they are trying to take away your right to a jury trial and slap you with 2 negligent driver points by making up a violation that does not exist. There is no such thing as a VC14601.1 infraction if you look at the law, but they pretend it is an infraction in some cases to limit your recourse in some courts.

      And actually, there is way more to that problem than I can write here.

      • M.B says:

        Thank you for an honest reply…. I do know that Traffic Court division can only hear minor cases that punishment does not includes jail and or prison time. Misdemeanor / felony cases with jail time punishments are addressed in a Criminal Court Division.

        Driving on suspended license have jail-time punishments according to DMV = which obviously classified the offense as Criminal.

        I just recently received a judgment letter from the traffic court. – which is considered a “VOID JUDGMENT”

        I sent several certified mails challenging the courts subject-matter jurisdiction and gave them notice that I do not stipulate / give consent on their offer for a Traffic Commissioner to rule on my case – which they ignored and proceeded without subject-matter jurisdiction.

        I am aware that the commissioner lost immunity at the time he proceeded to rule on the case knowing he has no subject-matter jurisdiction, and the judgment is void for want of jurisdiction; I am also aware that other involved officers of the court (prosecutor, court clerk) committed misprison of felony and conspired with the commissioner in trespass violations, and violation of due process.

        Do you have any files for these? If you do, how much do you charge?


        • MB,

          This one is way too wackey for me. I have no idea what you are talking about in terms of “subject matter jurisdiction”. Makes zero sense to me – and I went to one of the best law schools in the country and passed the bar exam on my first try prior to my 14 years of courtroom experience in state and federal courts. So, based on that, I think you are on the wrong track. But thank you, and I wish you luck. PS – Just because I dont understand your defense does not mean it cannot be done. Check out or rent the movie Giddeon’s Trunpet. It will inspire you.

  46. Sam says:

    Also, the appeal fee is 180 dollars (for limited cases). Will they have to refund it if I win the appeal?

  47. Sam says:

    Chris I, called the Court today and they said that I can not appeal a denial of the Request to Vacate the Civil Assessment, that there is no further actions I can do.
    I should be able to file a Notice of Appeal using this form:



    • Sam, sam sam. Honestly, the odds of you winning an appeal are pretty much zero. You’ve already made 2 mistakes that an attorney would never make: 1) never ask the court if you can appeal! Screw them. You can appeal any order of a court, or any failure of a court to follow the law. You can appeal that denial in State and Federal Court if you know what you are doing and you have the time. They cannot stop you from appealing! File the notice of appeal within 20 days.

      And if they ignore that – file a writ of mandate directly in the Superior Court Appeal Division (skipping the entire traffic court) and at the same time file a “writ of Habeous” in Federal Court alleging an unconstitutional government taking in violation of the 5th and 14th amendments – that alone will at least get you into federal court if you want to fight there – if you were paying me by the hour – that is what I would do – they cannot stop you.

      The court clerks are not lawyers – they are not court clerks because they did well in law school. They do not understand the law, and they are actually prohibited by law from talking about the law because they are not qualified to talk about the law. DO NOT ASK PERMISSION TO APPEAL. You can sue the Superior Court Traffic Court Clerk in Federal Court if you want to if you have proof they broke the law. Get the notice filed. Get proof you served it on them.

      And your second mistake? This is not a limited jurisdiction civil case. Those are Civil Litigation cases among private parties involving $10,000 of less. That is a different world than traffic and criminal courts. There is no fee for filing a traffic court notice of appeal and appeal brief for California.

      So the problem is this – your problem is actually very small, and your chances of winning an appeal are pretty much zero. And you are going to spend and waste a lot of time trying to get nothing done. That’s why they get away with it – there is not enough money involved to cause a real challenge. And there is no way I am going to do it for free, because I have driven more than 100,000 miles with no tickets, and no accidents, and I have never had a civil assessment or suspended drivers license. So the best I can do is give you this info in case you want it, and my recommendation which is: you gave it a good fight. You may actually be guilty. (some people are actually guilty) End the case as fast as possible, get proof its over completely in person, go to DMV in person afterwards. Life is short.

  48. Sam says:

    Thanks, Chris.

    So are saying I can ask for an appeal by showing up at the Clerk’s window? And they have forms for that?


  49. Sam says:

    Hi Chris,

    I was wondering if I could get your advice for my situation. I was stopped in December 2010 for not having a registration sticker on my car and given a “fix-it” ticket. (Without getting into much detail, it was my fault for not following up with DMV – my car failed a smog check and I went to DMV and paid the registration fees, so I am not late with them, and then fixed the car and had the smog check submitted electronically, so all that was needed was completed by me, except that DMV didn’t (doesn’t) mail a sticker automatically, so I guess I was supposed to go and pick it up myself, which is always a hassle if you have a full time job, as it takes an hour and a half).

    In any case, they gave me a fix-it ticket and I went to the DMV the same day and had it corrected, they stamped my ticket and I mailed it to the address on the ticket with a $25 check on Jan. 11th. 2011. Then I got a Courtesy Notice from the Court explaining that in order to clear the citation I could either 1) pay $25 and provide proof of correction or 2) appear in Court. The notice also stated that there would be a $300 assessment if I didn’t clear the citation by 3/30/11.

    Since I already mailed the check and proof of correction, I thought that it was just a redundant/crossed in the mail letter, and that I already took care of this my mail.

    Then I received a “Verification” letter from the court where they marked that I have “appeared at the Court Clerk’s Office” on 1/12/2011, and the second check mark for “No complaint/citation has been filed at this time”. The letter also included my check, which was crossed out on the front, and the original ticket with the proof of correction stamp that I got at DMV. I have never received this kind of tickets, so I was under the impression that since they marked that I “have appeared at the Court Clerk’s Office”, the second way of clearing the citation was satisfied, which is why they returned my check (it was either to pay $25 or “to appear”), and thought the matter was taken care of.

    Next thing I know, they send me a that a my “due date has passed without payment or appearence”, so they imposed a $300 assessment, and that I would have to pay $600 or to appear. Of course, I went to Court the next day. I admitted to the original citation guilt, but the judge refused to hear anything about the assessment and the circumstances, and directed me to the Clerk. I paid the $25 of the original ticket, and $300 assessment, and mailed a Request and Declaration to Vacate Civil Assessment with attached letter explaining what happened in detail, and originals of the ticket with proof of correction and their letter verifying that “I have appeared” on 01/12/2011. I marked that it was a “clerical error”, because I did in fact mailed them proof of correction along with the payment, but as it turned out, after I spoke to them on the phone afterward, they didn’t have the citation in their computer yet, so they returned everything to me. To me that sounds like a clerical error, because, I included the original citation with a number, with proof of correction and payment and they didn’t process it correctly (enter it into the system and then cross reference it when the citation arrives from police, or just keep it until they receive the paperwork from the police and then enter it).

    Yesterday I got a letter saying that my request to Vacation the assessmetn was denied, without any explanation of the reasons.

    I think I did my part in correcting and mailing the payment and proof of correction, but they totally confused me with their verification letter stating that I have appeared in Court already, and then slapping an assessment for not appearing. The thing is that I have never had to deal with this kind of issue. I got a fix-it ticket once some 17-18 years ago, I just had to show up at any police station and they verified that replaced a tail light bulb, and just mail the card.

    I was wondering how I can appeal this denial decision, because I feel I am being screwed unjustly.

    Thanks a lot,
    Sam O.
    San Ramon, CA

    • Sam, your question is too long and complicated for me to review for free. Sorry. But I can say this: you need to go to court in person to work this out. And I always, always recommend to people that they pay their citations in person, at the court clerks office and that they get proof of payment or proof they were there. Trying to do court business by mail is a bad idea. Telephone does not work either. You have to go in person.

  50. Dave says:

    Good Morning Chris,

    I appreciate your desire to help!! here is a brief description of my issue:

    I was in a four car traffic accident on the freeway and had an expired registration at the time. When I was aked to present my insurance and registration, I did and pointed out to the officer that my registration was expired. The officer commentted “that’s ok, you may or may not get a citation in the mail”. he then asked if all the information on my drivers license was accurate and I told him the address had changed and gave him the correct address. No citation was issued at the scene. Three months later I get a “Failure to Appear and notice of civil assessment” in the mail for a registration violation with no prior communication at all….I received no prior citation, courtesy notice, or anything other than this form. It is hard to fail to appear for something that you didn;t even know you had to appear on.

    So, I went to court and showed my current registration and that was signed off, but they told me the judge could not rule on a civil assessment and gave me the request to vacate civil assessment form to send in. Of course, as you stated, they only give you a limited number of acceptable excuses to choose from, none of which was fitting. So, I checked the “Clerical Error” box and wrote a letter explaining what I believe happened, the citation, courtesy notice etc. was mailed to the incorrect address. I also included a copy of the police report that showed the address on my license and the current address that I gave him for mailing puposes, and it clearly showde that no citations were issued at the scene.

    This request to vacate was denied, probably because it didn’t fit into their little box of acceptable excuses, and now I am wondering what I can do from here? I do not have the money to pay $300 for something that I was unaware of, and I dont have the money to pay someone to help me appeal. So, what do I do from here? It really frustrates me that they are probably assuming that I am giving them some lame excuse and I am guilty, but that is not the case at all. I would have dealt with this right away had I been aware that I had a citation.

    Thanks for your help in this matter. I just received the Denial a couple days ago.


  51. pr says:

    A Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment Under Penal Code Sec 1214.1, does that form help to lift a failure to appear to get a suspend drivers lic back? Than to file a abstract with the DMV to get the licensce back.

  52. Jessie James says:

    Hello and thanks for offering your valuable helpful remarks. I recently got a phone citation and when I went to pay it, I was told that there was a civil assessment fee of $300 added to the original citation because I failed to appear in due time ( Tough I did not get the courtesy notice ). I paid the amount on the original Citation and elected to file the petition to vacate the S.A, and my petition was denied. At this point, I am so angry at the system that I just want to refuse payment of this C.A. fee because I really think of it as government ripping off helpless confused citizens and, I am just wondering what would be the consequences of ignoring/ refusing to pay the C.A all together? Thank you.

    • Jessie, great question.

      If you pay the original fine, but refuse to pay the civil assessment, they will suspend your drivers license.

      If you are pissed the correct path is this: 1) file the petition to vacate civil assessment; 2) if it is denied, within 20 days, file a NOTICE of APPEAL, stating you want to appeal the denial of the Petition. Then pay, and pursue the appeal. That way you can keep your drivers license and keep fighting.

      But an appeal does not automatically stop (or “stay”) the court’s prior order denying the Petition. You cannot just refuse to pay and expect a good result. But you probably already knew that.

  53. Alfred says:

    I have the government employees like the police that doing gang stalking this there any rukes or law that help me in traffic ticket that put on me to take a way my right by stalking police.

  54. CHristopher says:

    Hi Christopher Dort,

    I got a speeding ticket and went to court in Santa Clarita but i was late but the clerk told me that i had 5 business days to show up and that the case was on hold until then. I went on the last day and the saw the judge and i plead not guilty. I saw the clerk and they want me to pay bail of $70 plus penalty assessments totaling $346 bucks. I saw the judge again today about to ask for OR but she said i have to pay bail today and that because of my failure to appear i get no breaks. I mentioned that i was suposed to get a 10 day notice about civil assesments and quoted the penal code and she replyed that this is not under a penal code that it is traffic court.

    I saw the clerk she had no idea what a Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment was and that i have to pay bail within a week or i will receive a failure to appear…

    does Penal Code Sec 1214.1 not apply to penalty assessments and how do i get a petition to vacate form if they don’t even know what that is?

    thanks for helping

  55. ACR says:

    Fortunately, due to the Service Member Civil Relief Act, I was granted a dismissal of the civil assessment due to my orders requiring me to be at another place at the time of my court date. However I still need to pay the $25 proof of correction which I am gladly willing to pay. However the commissioner is saying that the 10 day notice is just a courtesy; which in Ca PC 1214.1(b) is incorrect. Geeze, how the hell do they get away with this?

    Again thank you for the info on your blog.

  56. A.C.Ramos says:

    I Have just received a letter from the Santa Clara Superior Court stating that my request to vacate my civil assessment was denied. What can I do now? My appearance date is tomorrow but will only cover my not having a license plate on my motorcycle. This is ridiculous, how can they get away with not following the laws and rules that they set forth for us to follow? Hopefully I can try to use the Service Member Civil Relief Act in my favor since I have orders that required me to be somewhere else on the date of my court appearance.

  57. bruce says:

    hehe. but why in the world would our bankrupt state government try to make things more efficient or easier for it’s citizens to contest their violations? lol. how convenient that the easiest way out is to plead guilty and just pay your fines!

    and it looks like i miscalculated my days. for some reason i assumed the 10 days to be 10 court days rather than calendar days, so it looks like i’ll be having my day in court. can i file this motion on a walkin? (assuming the clerk grants me one) or do i need to file it first with the court before the actual court date?

    i’m kind of nervous about doing all this myself…are the courts unforgiving when us non-law practicing civilians attempting to file motions do something incorrectly or not within the required guidelines of the court? i mean like formatting errors on the forms or any kind of trivial oversight out of ignorance of the proper procedures. i’ve read that judges can and have denied such motions simply for those reasons.

  58. bruce says:

    so if i am still within the 10 days since notice was posted to me, is the motion to vacate civil assessment not the appropriate motion for me to file? or can i just try to give a good reason for the failure to appear?

    • Bruce, great question. If you get into court within the 10 warning notice period, I would expect that they will not charge you with a Civil Assessment under Penal Code section 1214.1, because that sections requires the 10 day notice prior to the imposition of the 1214.1 penalty (Government Taking). But if they try to screw you, be prepared. You may be able to explain it away – tell the judge you took “corrective action” as soon as you got the notice from the court. Ask the judge for what you want – exactly. But a motion to Vacate Civil Assessment would look good if you brought it with you. When the judge calls your case, tell the judge you have a short written motion to Vacate Civil Assessment for Good Cause, and hand it to the court clerk. I’ll bet they do not give you any trouble. Make sure when you go that you get there early – like 8 am. Ask the court clerk if you can enter a plea right there at the clerks office to avoid an appearance (Not Guilty or Guilty Plea). Sometimes everything can be done at the clerks office – for example in the Pittsburg, CA Traffic Court, you can actually plead not guilty and get a trial date without posting bail and without actually talking to a judge by having the court clerk enter your plea.

      No Wasted Time, no long lines, not waste of the judge’s and your time. 30 seconds and you’re out if you ask the right questions. That is how it should be. Maybe one day the courts will accept PayPal and allow arraignments via Skype or YouTube? Maybe one day you’ll be able to email documents to to State Traffic Courts? Maybe one day your Drivers License will start buzzing maddly when you are supposed to go to traffic court to remind you to log on to your Skype Arraignment?

  59. ACRamos says:

    Thank you so much for the information on your blog . I’m going to be using your information and forms to try to vacate the civil assessment fee imposed by the Santa Clara Superior Court. Just wondering if there is any other words of wisdom you have?

  60. Ralph says:

    Hi Chris,
    Speeding ticket, CHP. $342. I was unable to make it to my court date due to work, I have a signed statement from our GM on our letterhead, and documentation of work schedules proving my inablility to be at court. Orig court date 9/13/10, missed it, notice of Failure To Appear is postmarked 9/13/10, received notice on 9/14 or 9/15 (I think… checked the mail 9/17) paid the $342 on 9/24, $300 civil assessment remains, submitting petition today 9/28 at 3pm.
    QUESTION IS… Should stick with the original route as explanation of failure to appear? Or go with ONE or ALL of the 3 options outlined above 1) The Court failed to mail a Penal Code sec 1214.1(b) Warning Notice to the correct address. 2) Defendant did not have actual knowledge of the Penal Code sec 1214.1(b) Warning. 3) Defendant demands a Due Process hearing to challenge legal application of the 1214.1(a) civil judgement as required by Penal Code section 1214.1(d). as my explanation. I have already paid the ticket, and gotten receipt for it.

    Ralph , CA

    • Ralph, if you came over to my house and said:

      “Your goat ate my fence, and you have to pay $10k to fix it!”, I would say:

      I dont have a goat.
      My goat has never been to your house.
      My goat did not get away from my yard.
      My goat does not eat wood.
      Maybe it was someone else’s goat.
      Your claim is too old and unjust.
      You dont have a fence.
      The fence was already destroyed.
      You should have fixed that rotting fence long ago.
      The fence is fine.
      Your estimate is too high.
      My goat is sick and/or dead because of your molding fence, and it was worth $500

      But aside from all that – a letter from your employer is not going to work as a defense to anything. The court expects to be the #1 priority in your life. It is the long are of the law, not an appointment at the Vet. They can take away your freedom, your right to drive, your property and your money in just a few short days if you let them. No judge I know is going to accept the “I had to work” excuse for a missed court date. It’s insulting to the judges. If you say that, they think: “I had to go to work too. And I have to sit here all freakin day listening to people tell me they chose work over court – of course they did – because they know I was going to punish them.”

      However, if you get back in there and get into court an apologize for wasting the court’s time, you might get a good result anyway.

      (PS – Penal code 1385 allows a judge to dismiss a goat “In the Interests of Justice”)

  61. Jon Dominguez says:

    I had my ticket dismissed but the judge said I would need to fight my FTA by requesting a jury trial in the misdeameanor office. When I went up there they sent me back down to traffic division and traffic gave me the request to vacate civil assesment form. I want to fight this at least to get in front of a judge as my previous two requests on these forms have been denied. Do I just re-file one of these with the info you gave arguing what you say above. I paid the $655 and got $285 refunded for the ticket but want the other $370 refunded or reduced and removed from my record. I explained to the manager that I thought it was odd I cant have a right to defend myself in court and she said it is not available. This is Fresno County.

    • Jon, this is a classic example of a person getting screwed by court employed idiots who do not understand what is going on.

      The judge told you that you have a misdemeanor Vehicle Code 40508a charge.

      With any misdemeanor, you have the right to a jury trial, and a public defender. There is no question about that. But then you went to the court clerk, and she (/he?) treated you like you are not being charged with a misdemeanor and that you do not have the right to a jury trial.

      But the law clearly states a VC40508a is a misdemeanor:

      40508. (a) A person willfully violating his or her written promise to appear or a lawfully granted continuance of his or her promise to appear in court or before a person authorized to receive a deposit of bail is guilty of a misdemeanor regardless of the disposition of the charge upon which he or she was originally arrested.

      You need to get this case back in front of the judge, and if you are charged with a misdemeanor you have the right to jury trial. They cannot convict you of a misdemeanor unless you have a jury trial, or waive your right to a trial in writing.

      What the Fresno County Superior Court traffic clerk was telling you was that if you just pay, they will not treat it as a misdemeanor. They dont understand the law. Almost none of them have a college degree, and none of them are smart enough to go to law school and get a law license.

      That’s just the way it is. You will be lucky if you find a traffic court clerk that speaks English in Fresno, much less one who understands what Due Process rights attach to a Vehicle Code section 40508a charge that on its face- in the statute – is a misdemeanor.

      Ugggh! It makes me so mad to hear these stories. (I have never actually had this problem before myself – but I feel for you!)

      They are not giving you the option to say “Im not guilty!”. They are forcing you to pay illegally by denying you a trial on the VC40508a charge. It’s a scam in my opinion.

      But the problem is small, and it’s not worth the money to fight it through an appeal That is how they get away with the “scam” in my opinion.

      The best way to solve this problem is hire an attorney to get you a misdemeanor arraignment. The second best option is to use my form for getting a trial on a VC 40508a case after a civil assessment. Then appeal if it is denied.

      Form for Requesting Court Date after civil assessment.

      Anyone else with complaints about how the Fresno County Superior Court denies people the right to a trial on a Vehicle Code section 40508(a) misdemeanor can write to me at and I will publishing them.

  62. Brian says:


    I live in Los Angeles, and on my last day to pay 8/31/10 at 5pm, i paid my fine in full ($145) for a hands free violation. I had the phone in my hand looking at directions at a stop light.

    I paid the fine online, where it says the services are available till 10:30 pm, but of course when i paid this, it says it won’t register till tomorrow which could theoretically make me one day late.

    I wonder if I will automatically be assessed the $300 fine. I made pdf copies with time stamps of making payments.

    Thank you!

    • Brian, Paying a court fine at the last second is always a bad, bad idea. And in my opinion, paying n line for a court fine is always a bad idea. In my experience, the only way to have a problem free payment of a LA Traffic Court Fine is to pay in person at the court clerks office and to get a real reciept from a real person.

      I recommend that you call the court now to make sure they have given you proper credit for payment of the fine. If they have not, take your proof of payment to the courthouse tomorrow morning at 8 am and ask for a walking court appearance. Once in court, show the judge your proof of payment and ask that the case be closed.

  63. Grace says:

    Did anyone ever win using the above request to vacate assessment bec. people you did not get a PC 1214.1(b) 10 day notice? I will need to get your prompt response asap. I only have a couple of days to file my petition.


  64. Grace says:

    I am also on the same boat. I am looking into paying my citation, but contesting the additional assessment.

    I will need to know if I can just send my payment for the citation via money order and the petition to vacate the assessment in the mail and get a proof of delivery?

    My next question, by requesting for the court vacate the civil assessment because I did not get a PC 1214.1(b) 10 day notice. Is this good enough reason for them to waive the fee? Did you get any feedback from others that they actually won/ or had their assessments dismissed?

    I appreciate your prompt advise. I will need to take action within the next couple of days.


  65. Christina C. says:

    I work in the workers comp industry, and my boss is a workers comp attorney, he told me civil assessments were actually illegal, and that counties were basically just scamming against the citizens of its county to make a grip of money. Not sure if that is true or not. i just got a ticket, i got to court next week i will let you know how i fair!

    • Christina, I assume this is CA.

      Civil Assessments are definitely not illegal – see Penal Code section 1214.1. But what is illegal in my opinion is they way they impose them and prevent people from challenging them as authorized by Penal Code section 1214.1(d). It’s really an issue of Denial of Due Process in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments and an issue of an illegal government taking.

      I would love to take these issues up in Federal Court on an appeal or Writ. That is the only way to challenge it on constitutional grounds. And I am ready and willing to do it. But unfortunately, I cannot afford to do it for free (because it would take a couple of years of work) and no one with this problem has the money to hire me to do it.

      Maybe some of you can get together and do a group appeal?

      • Shooter says:

        LOL.. I’d happily be a co-plaintiff and you can have my civil assessment/award if you beat these weasels..

        You want horror story?

        A year or two ago (SD County) I show up ONE DAY after my appear date.. showed up the next day!

        Get in to court with my “proof of insurance”.. The Judge COMPLETELY dismisses my infraction but says “there is nothing he can do about the civil-assessment..”


        Do not pass go, you owe me $300.. I swear they HOPE you don’t show up..

        Wish I’d looked into this back then..

  66. somedude says:

    Dont bother asking this guy anything, he wont respond. He says if you use this technique then you can contact him, but he doesnt reply. Basically good luck with that, i also sent in my check that was never cashed. It’s a mob job, they dont cash your check on purpose to charge you the civil assessment.

    • Somedude, you’re an idiot. But that’s OK. I deal with idiots all day long.

      I spend at least 5 hrs a week providing professional, licensed answers to people for free. If you really need immediate help on a real problem, maybe you need to hire help? Maybe you should pay for the service you need, rather than expecting something for free. You get what you pay for. But today is your lucky day!

      Here is the answer to your comment: As for sending in a check to pay a fine that was never cashed, that is a common problem. I always recommend that people pay their fines in person and get a receipt. If you sent in a check and never got a receipt, and then later the court says they did not receive your payment – It’s your own fault. Maybe your checked bounced? That is usually the problem in these cases. If you really need to mail in a fine payment because it is impossible for you to go in person and get a receipt, then the correct way to do it is to send immediately available funds (cashiers check or money order) from the post office with Proof of Delivery Requested.

      Just sending a personal check to pay a fine without a way to prove you paid is never a good idea.

  67. Coni R. says:

    Thank you so much for writing this blog. I had a ticket for $100 and I sent a check to the Alameda County Court. Today I was going through some old papers and saw the court paper with my info on it. I decided to check my bank acct. to see if the check was cashed and I could not find it anywhere on my statements. I decided to go to the court and ask if they ever received it. The teller told me they had not received my check and that they had added a late penalty AND a C.A. charge.

    I couldn’t believe that they could charge $300 for a $100 fine. It has been TWO months since my due date and I have never received any notice of anything from them. The teller also informed me that my license had been suspended. I never knew that either! I have been driving around for God knows how long with a suspended license and the court never thought of informing me of this little detail.

    I felt completely hopeless because I barely had enough money to pay the $100 let alone $300!

    I would like to know if all I have to do is Write “1) The Court failed to mail a Penal Code sec 1214.1(b) Warning Notice to the correct address.” on the application to vacate civil assessment.

    Thank you again for the information you have provided.

  68. Richard says:

    Hi Mr. Dort,

    I had a case in Sacramento. The original citation was eventually dismissed. However, the Court is now trying to collect on the civil assessment.

    I have requested a copy of all correspondence and filings related to my case, and have received a response from the clerk. There is no record that the Court sent the notice required by PC 1214.1(b). I have also filed (on May 28), a petition to vacate the civil assessment. The petition argued that no such notice was received, and that the Court has produced no evidence or statement that the notice had been sent. So far I have not heard a response.

    I want to continue pressing the issue, as I suspect that the Court will simply ignore my petition and continue to try to collect the assessment, possibly damaging my credit or suspending my driving privilege in the mean time.

    I have read 1214.1(d), and found the part of the CCP which relates to the collection of civil money judgments. However, I am unable to find the appropriate code relating to defense of the same. I note that CCP Title 13 gives me the right to appeal a judgment. Is this my only remedy? If so, in which court would I file an appeal? If I have additional remedy, can you provide additional reference that would help? Is there a section of the CCP that deals with defense of judgments, or that spells out the “Due Process hearing rights that attach to ‘civil judgments’ generally?”

    Thanks for the information you’ve posted on your blog. It’s been really helpful. Any additional pointers you can provide will be equally appreciated.


    • Richard,

      Whoo Hoo! Yea! Finally a well written question on the best way to fight an unfair Penal Code section 1214.1 civil assessment in a California Traffic Court. (Sorry, had to get all of the key words in there). Answer:

      If there is no Evidence of Notice as Required by Penal Code section 1214.1(b):
      You need to 1) request the court vacate the civil assessment because you did not get a PC 1214.1(b) 10 day notice. If the court denies this request, you can appeal this denial. To start the appeal, you must file the Notice of Appeal Form within 20 days. File it in person, get prof you filed it. For more info on how to file a Traffic Court Appeal, see my article on Appeals

      Right to Challenge a Civil Assessment (Penal Code section 1214.1(d):

      This is a tougher issue, and as far as I know no one has challenged it yet. Here is what is going on – due to attempts to refine the traffic court system, the courts are now treating fines as CIVIL PENALTIES, not criminal penalties. Because it is a civil penalty (meaning that no loss of freedom involved if you do not pay), the court only needs to provided limited “Due Process” rights to comply with the US Constitution, Amendment 5, and 14. But they still have to provide some Due Process, otherwise there would be an unlawful government taking in violation of the US and State Constitutions. If the government is taking your money, they have to provide some Due Process. The Constitution requires it.

      So, with a Civil Assessment, the Due Process that the law provides for is that of a “Civil Judgment Generally”, which should mean that you have the same options you would have if someone sued you for a car accident and you lost a trial and suffered a civil judgment. These options are (if I lost here is what I would try): Motion to Vacate Judgment, Motion to Reconsider Ruling, and anything else you can think of.

      As far as I know, no one has yet tried to challenge a Civil Assessment with a real Motion to Vacate Civil Judgment. Part of the reason is that the courts try to make you use their local “Petition Form”, but this is only 1 type of challenge you can make to a “Civil Judgment”.

      The reason I have not ever done a full blown challenge is that I have never has a civil assessment myself, and no one has yet been willing to pay me to do the work. It’s just a $300 problem, and no one wants to pay me $2000 to fight it to the supreme court. Maybe a group of you can get together and share the cost of a huge appeal?

      That is why the courts are getting away with it. It’s like if the DMV ends you a bill for $100 for nothing. How much of your life are you going to devote to those meatheads????

      The remedies for challenging a civil judgment are in the Code of Civil Procedure. If I were doing the work, I would start by looking at an Annotated Version of the CCP, check the index for “Judgments”, then sub category “Remedies”. Then, with an annotated code, you can look at summaries of the cases that have decided issues under those remedies – such as Motion to Vacate Judgment Due to Lack of Evidence”.

      You can also go to the local law library and ask for a Practice Guide on Civil Litigation. A goo one would be the Rutter Guide on Personal Injury. Then, in the index, look up Judgment Remedies.

      If you know that the court is going to deny your Motion to Vacate Judgment, and you are going to appeal, all you have to do is make the arguments (raise the issues) with the traffic court and get proof they denied your request.

      You can just file a simple paper that states: “I move to vacate this Penal Code section 1214.1 judgment under authority of Penal Code section 1214.1(d) and [insert Code of Civil Procedure section that allows Motion to Vacate Judgment] on the grounds that: 1) I have reviewed the court’s file and there is no evidence that the court complied with 1214.(b); and 2) this is an illegal government taking in violation of the 5th and 14th amendments.

      Then, you have to create a separate document titles a “Declaration” that states under penalty of perjury that you did not receive the notice, that there is no evidence of the notice in the court file, and that your case was dismissed.

      You can write this up yourself. Just get it filed, then plan on appeal.

      And if you can just get a Remedy request filed with the court (like a motion to vacate judgment) – the court has to act on it. Grant or Deny. Once they deny it, you can appeal that denial and have a panel of 3 judges look at the problem from a legal perspective.

      Which Court Do I File An Appeal for Traffic Court?

      File the Notice of Appeal with the Traffic Court Clerk in the Courthouse where the case is. The court will send that notice to the court of appeal division in the County Superior Court, and then the Appeal Division Clerk will send you a notice of deadline to file Appellant’s Opening Brief.

      The nice thing about an appeal is that you would have 5,100 words to challenge the legality of how the court(s) is (are) scamming people with a Civil Assessment fee.

      If you want to appeal the Penal Code section 1214.1 Civil Assessment, I’ll guide you through the work for free as much as I can.

      If there are others in Sacramento (or else where) who may want to hire me to do a group appeal, send an email to and we will start a list.

      Thank you for the comment.

  69. phillip says:

    Wanted to update. I went to court today [to challenge] the civil assessment [by arguing that the assessment violated PC 1214.1 (b) and 1214.1(d)]. The judge simply said “you did receive a notice” even though I did not and said if I wanted to fight it I would lose. He did however lower the civil assessment by $200.

    Not too shabby but it’s clear that they just want a stream-lined way of getting money as he rushed people out of there like all hell broke loose.

  70. Phillip says:

    I received a civil assessment on my unpaid ticket today. I have the funds for the original amount ticketed ($260) but am unable to pay the $560 asked (when including the C.A. charges). What are the chances of getting the civil assessment removed when filing the above vacate form with the information provided?

    There is a warning attached saying that additional fees may be tacked on if payment isn’t made within 10 days (after filing the vacate form is this rule still in effect?). How long will it take to find out if the civil assessment is removed or not?

    I go to school full time and work nearly full time and simply got the due dates mixed up for the ticket. I doubt the collection unit will give much thought to that though.

    Thanks for your help

    • Phillip,

      You need to go to court within that 10 day period to have a court date to avoid the civil assessment. If they will not let you have a walk in court appearance, fill out and file my for Demand for Trial Form. Dont be too concerned with the civil assessment. The real problem is the drivers license suspension that comes with it.

  71. Bill W. says:

    Mr. Dort your a genius. After reading penal code 1214.1 several times, I come to realize that I was never given a 10 day notice of the civil assessment. Just like Carol mentioned above, they only sent me the first and second notice. Never the “warning notice” which would of gave me the knowledge. I was close to making payments today on my ticket until I read your article. Now I’m thinking about going to the courthouse to set a pre-arranged court date. Will there be a court fee whether I loose or win? And when does the “warning notice” suppose to be mailed to you? Is it after having a non-payment or failure to appear by the due date?

    • Bill, the 10 day warning notice is supposed to be mailed at least 10 days before they impose a civil assessment (Penal Code section 1214.1(b). The court can send it out anytime after they believe a court date was missed. Usually going to court produces better results on a failure to appear case than just sending in money.

  72. Carol says:

    hello, Im new with this website but i find it very informative. I recieved a speeding ticket and now its about a month past my due date. I got a second notice last week in the mail stating that there was a civil assessment fee of $315 added to my ticket and now its over $550. I was only given less than 10 days to pay in full (but im sure the court can work a payment plan with me, right?) but i refuse to pay the civil assessment fee. Its so unfair! However in my first notice of my citation, it did say a civil assessment fee will be added if i didnt pay by its due date. But at the time i didnt knowledge what that was. Im just so stressed out about this. I live in San Joaquin county, California. My question is if the petition to vacate civil assessment form guaranteed to be available at any court house? I hate to go to my local court and ask for it and the court clerks wont know what forms im talking about. I want to take your advice on petitioning the civil assessment and I will definetly follow the 3 reasons you stated. Im not really familiar with the whole process but It does makes sense, i just hope it will work out for me. Thanks!

    • Carol, Every court makes up their own version of a “Petition to Vacate Civil Assessment Form”. There is no uniformity. They really do just make it up. You can write up your own petition making the same arguments. Make sure your case # and name are on it, and get the court clerk to file it and give you a file stamped copy

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