Have you ever paid for a traffic ticket you thought you didn’t deserve? When it comes to tickets for traffic violations, often times the easiest and quickest solution is to bite your tongue and pay, no matter how fair the ticket actually is. Some Californians say they even plan for traffic tickets throughout the year and budget for them.  In the past, contesting a traffic violation might have first required that the tickets fines be paid before being heard. A recent emergency action passed by California court leaders aims to change that. This June, for the first time, many Californians will be able to dispute their traffic violations in court without being required to pay the fines beforehand.

Imagine being told that you had to serve time in prison before your case was ever heard in court. On a much smaller scale, that is essentially what was being told to millions of Californians looking to dispute their traffic violations in court. They would not be heard unless they paid first, thus denying their right to being “innocent until proven guilty.” Since 2006, almost 5 million Californians have had their licenses suspended due to unpaid violations. Ticket costs have risen dramatically in California over the past few years, adding to the problem. A ticket for running a red light can run upwards of $500. Not stopping at a stop sign can be $300 or more.  

Requiring that fines be paid before being able to dispute left many drivers – especially those in poverty – with their licenses suspended and no way to advocate for themselves. California lawmakers recognized the problem and recently passed an emergency action in an attempt to solve the issue. The California Judicial Council voted unanimously on the action, which now requires that California courts allow citizens to dispute their traffic violations before paying their fines. Courts must also make it apparent that payment is not required before disputing a violation. While the action took effect immediately, California Courts have until September 15th to ensure their printed materials and online pages reflect this change.

People have reported that some court clerks, unaware of this new action, have still required that fines be paid beforehand. If you are facing traffic violations and believe you are being treated unlawfully by court officials, seeking the help of an experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney may be necessary.  The qualified attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas Nicholas Cvietkovich are available to assist you.

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