Fight Your Ticket & Win in California

Fight Your Ticket & Win in California

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Fight Your Ticket & Win in California

, 16th Edition

This is a must-have for all California drivers, including those who deserved their recent traffic tickets and those who didn't. Fight Your Ticket & Win in California shows you how to determine if your ticket is beatable and how to challenge it in court. It also helps you decide whether to get a lawyer involved. Further, you’ll what to do and say if you’re stopped for future violations like:

  • Speeding
  • Running a red light
  • Reckless driving

See below for a full product description.

Product Details

You can challenge a traffic ticket

So you just got a traffic ticket. Want to fight it? Want to figure out whether it’s worth fighting? Want to determine whether to hire a lawyer? Fight Your Ticket & Win in California will guide you through each step of the process, from reading the ticket to learning defenses to navigating court. This book covers all kinds of California driving violations, including:

  • speeding
  • running a red light
  • driving with a suspended license
  • reckless driving
  • drunk driving

Now in its 16th edition, Fight Your Ticket & Win in California is comprehensively updated to reflect the most recent changes in the law. And it has legal forms for fighting your ticket.

Check out Nolo's list of California products. Not a California resident? Check out Beat Your Ticket.


“A book every driver should own.”-The Electric Review

“A clear, thick and comprehensive manual to help the Californian beat what he or she perceives as a bum traffic rap."-Sacramento Bee

“A proverbial sling to help David fell Goliath.”-Monterey Herald

“A top-notch primer.”-Autoweek

Number of Pages
Included Forms

  • Informal Discovery Request
  • Proof of Service by Mail
  • Request for Trial by Written Declaration
  • Request for New Trial (Trial de Novo)
  • Demand for Court Reporter or Electronic Recording of Proceedings
  • Peremptory Challenge
  • Order to Attend Court or Provide Documents
  • Notice of Appeal and Record on Appeal (Infraction)
  • Proposed Statement on Appeal (Infraction)

About the Author

  • David Brown

    David Brown practices law in the Monterey, California area, where he has represented both landlords and tenants in hundreds of court cases -- most of which he felt could have been avoided if both sides were more fully informed about landlord/tenant law. Brown, a graduate of Stanford University (chemistry) and the University of Santa Clara Law School, also teaches law at the Monterey College of Law.  

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Your Legal Companion for Fighting Your Ticket

 1. First Things

  • A Typical Case
  • Should You Fight Your Ticket?
  • Overview Chart

 2. How to Read Your Ticket

  • What Are You Charged With?
  • Are You Really Guilty?
  • Other Information on Your Ticket
  • Types of Tickets

 3. What Are the Consequences? Fines, Jail, Your “Record”, and Insurance

  • Generally
  • Overview of Specific Violations
  • Out-of-State Tickets

 4. Speed Violations and Radar

  • The “Basic Speed Law” (VC¤¤22350, 22351)
  • ”Technical” Defenses to Basic Speed Law Charge
  • Substantive Defenses to Basic Speed Law Charge
  • Speeding on Bridges, Tunnels, and Overpasses (VC ¤22405)
  • Exceeding Maximum Speed Limits -55 to 70 mph (VC¤¤22349, 22356)
  • All About Radar
  • ”Laser” Detectors

5. Other Moving Violations

  • Not Stopping
  • Improper Turning (VC¤¤22100-22106)
  • Being Rude (Miscellaneous Violations)
  • Non-DUI Alcohol-Related Offenses
  • Illegal Drug Use/Possession
  • Motorcycle Helmet Laws (VC¤27803)
  • Violations Involving Accidents and Insurance

 6. Tickets That Don’t Appear on Your Record

  • Parking Tickets
  • Equipment, License, and Registration Violations
  • Other Nonmoving Violations
  • Federal Government Tickets

7. The Serious Offenses (Misdemeanors)

  • Generally
  • Common Vehicle Code Misdemeanors
  • Reduction of Misdemeanor Offense to Infraction

 8. Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

  • The Offenses
  • Penalties the Court Can Impose 
  • How Alcohol Interacts With Your Body
  • Blood or Breath Tests for Alcohol 
  • License Suspension Penalties and Procedures 
  • Dealing With a DUI Charge

9. Should You Fight Your Ticket / Should You Get a Lawyer?

  • Things to Consider
  • Do You Need a Lawyer?

10. Fighting an Infraction Citation

  • Preliminary Steps for Fighting an Infraction
  • Contacting the Court Clerk
  • Arraignment
  • Motions After Arraignment
  • After Your Motion Is Granted or Denied
  • Courts Refusing to Hear Motions Before Trial

11. Preparing for Trial

  • Overview of Formal Infraction Trial With Officer Present
  • Getting Your Materials Together
  • Motions You May Want to Make Before Trial
  • Preparing to Deal With the Officer’s Testimony
  • Testimony Presented on Your Behalf
  • Cross-Examination by the Prosecution
  • Final Argument

12. Trials Before a Judge (Without a Jury)

  • Introduction
  • Understanding the Courtroom
  • Trial Procedure

13. Handling a Misdemeanor Charge: Arraignment to Jury Trial

  • Introduction
  • Arraignment
  • Making Deals
  • Selecting the Jury
  • Trial Procedure
  • Jury Instructions
  • Closing Arguments
  • The Judge Instructs the Jury

14. Sentencing

  • Time for Sentencing
  • Possible Sentences
  • Motions to Vacate Sentence
  • If You Appeal

15. License Suspensions by the DMV

  • Too Many Violations or Accidents
  • Driving With a BAC of 0.08% or More
  • Refusal to Take a Blood, Breath, or Roadside “PAS” Test
  • Automatic Suspension or Revocation
  • Holding a License in Abeyance

16. Appealing a Conviction

  • Possible Grounds for Appeal
  • The Steps in an Appeal

17. Staying Out of Trouble

  • Avoiding the Traffic Officer
  • Being Pulled Over
  • Talking to the Officer
  • Arrests, Searches, and Seizures
  • Preparing for Your Trial - Notes and Pictures 
  • Accident Citations


A. Using the Interactive Forms

  • List of Forms

B. Forms

  • Informal Discovery Request
  • Proof of Service by Mail
  • Request for Trial by Written Declaration
  • Request for New Trial (Trial de Novo)
  • Demand for Court Reporter or Electronic Recording of Proceedings
  • Peremptory Challenge
  • Order to Attend Court or Provide Documents
  • Notice of Appeal and Record of Oral Proceedings (Infraction)
  • Proposed Statement on Appeal (Infraction)


Sample Chapter

Chapter 1
First Things


A Typical Case................................................................................................ 4

Should You Fight Your Ticket?....................................................................... 4

Overview Chart............................................................................................... 6


A Typical Case

You’re driving home from your friend’s place after a beautiful, romantic Friday evening. It’s 2:30 in the morning. As you’re reflecting on this, you suddenly realize you took a wrong turn someplace. You’re now in the middle of a quiet residential district and realize you should turn around. You look for traffic coming from either direction and all you see is a car parked about three blocks away with its headlights on, so you make a U-turn.

Suddenly, in your rear view mirror you see a flashing red and blue light that seemingly grows out of the parked car. You begin to pull over to the right to let it pass. Instead, the car follows you to the curb. You realize you’ve just been pulled over by the police. As soon as your car stops, the officer has his high-intensity spotlight pointed at you. Then, you hear his door slam, the sound of gravel under his boots, and finally, you see a big, grim face just behind the flashlight pointed into your eyes.

Before you get a chance to ask him what’s the problem, he says, “May I see your driver’s license, please?” You fumble through your wallet, slowly and carefully, since he has his hand uncomfortably close to the butt of what looks to be a very big gun. Finally, hands shaking slightly, you hand him your license. (Don’t you feel like a common criminal?)

The police officer returns to his car and uses the radio. A minute later he returns, hands you your license, and unemotionally says, “You made an unlawful U-turn in a residential district. Sign here, please.” He then thrusts a three-part form in your face. You meekly sign the ticket (which he tells you is not an admission of guilt, but merely a promise to appear), and he hands you a copy. You gaze at the ticket, wondering how this could be happening to you. The officer spins out, off to catch another “criminal.”

If you don’t fight the ticket, you may very well end up:

•  paying a fine you can barely afford

•  paying a higher insurance premium for the next three to five years, and

•  starting or adding to a bad driving record with the DMV.

Should You Fight Your Ticket?

Does it make sense for you to fight your ticket? The answer is that it depends. There are some people who almost always answer this question with a proud and forceful “Yes!” unless they have done something incredibly stupid or dangerous (such as driving through a busy school zone at 50 mph). But there are others who don’t believe in spending large amounts of time fighting cases where there is but a small chance of winning. It might be wise to try to separate the hopeless cases from those with a reasonable chance of success. (On the other hand, thousands of seemingly hopeless cases are won when police officers fail to show up in court to testify.) A determined person can achieve great success in traffic court if he or she knows what to do.

In deciding whether or not to fight, you should first consider the consequences of giving up and paying the ticket. Will your insurance rates increase? Will you increase your chances of losing your license? Can you attend traffic school to keep the violation off your driving record? Do you want to spend the time and effort it will take to fight your ticket effectively? This book will help you answer all these questions.

Once you understand the consequences of not fighting your ticket, you should try to determine your chances of winning, taking into account these tips:

•  The main way to beat traffic tickets is to request a trial with the officer present and then get the ticket dismissed when the officer doesn’t show up. There’s a chance this might happen to you. You may want to try your luck. You’ve got nothing to lose but your time.

•  Even if the officer does show up, “guilt” (and “innocence”) is often a matter of subjective interpretation. For example, under California law, it’s not illegal to drive 45 mph in a 35 mph zone if it is possible to show that your 45 mph speed was safe under the circumstances. (See Chapter 4 on speed violations.)

•  You might not be guilty of a particular violation, even if you think you are. When you read the Vehicle Code section, you will find that the offense you are accused of committing is more complex than you might have thought. It may be that you didn’t do all the things that the prosecution must prove in order to convict you. We tell you in the next chapter how to read a Vehicle Code section with this in mind.

There are indeed situations in which you were in fact scrupulously obeying the law and the police officer just plain got it wrong. The radar gun was used improperly, the police officer’s visual perspective resulted in a mistake, you were accused of rolling through a stop sign when in fact you did come to a complete stop. When you get a ticket under these circumstances, and realize that you will have to undergo what can be a considerable hassle to fight it, you will most likely be torn between giving it a good fight and cutting your losses by paying your fine and getting on with your life.

What about the times when you were doing something wrong, but not wrong enough, in your opinion, to warrant intervention by a police officer? While most people manage to obey every traffic rule when they take their driving test, there are few—if any—drivers who continue to be the model of good driving once they get their licenses. Rather, the average driver tends to find an individual compromise between fanatical adherence to the law and unsafe behavior. Most people will commonly technically violate one or more traffic rules virtually every time they get behind the wheel—but usually not, if ever, under circumstances that pose any danger to themselves or others. In fact, traveling a few miles over the speed limit on a clear and dry road will tend to put you among the snails rather than the greyhounds.

When people are behaving badly or stupidly in their cars, they are inclined to welcome a ticket (after some initial grumbling) as a warning to get their act in order. The problem is, many tickets are given not for bad or stupid behavior but rather for insignificant violations of obscure rules in a book—things that are, in the classic sense, “mere technicalities.” How many times have you seen cars run red lights with impunity, only to find the blue light flashing when you have rolled through a stop sign—however cautiously—at a deserted intersection? The problem is, when mere technical violations end up costing $250 to $450 in fines, adding points to your driving record and dollars to your insurance rates, they have a way of getting under your skin. You don’t think you deserved the ticket. Why do the police waste time on you, when they could be doing serious work?

In this situation too, you may wish to fight your ticket, either for economic reasons or because you’re just plain mad at being singled out for what most people do without getting caught. This book is for you, whether or not you’re an innocent victim. However, you should understand that:

•  Being singled out isn’t normally a defense unless you can establish that the discrimination was for vindictive purposes (almost impossible to do).

•  Being a little guilty still means you’re guilty, although the judge may cut your fine.

•  For the most part, the traffic court system is inefficient and corrupt, packed with police-oriented judges who care more about feathering their own nests than about justice.

In short, to win a traffic ticket fight, you must either obtain a dismissal or convince the judge you were innocent.

Parking tickets have their own logic. These tickets are given more to fill the city’s coffers than to regulate parking. The procedures for fighting parking tickets are quite different from the procedures for fighting traffic tickets.


This Book Comes With a Website

Nolo’s award-winning website has a page dedicated just to this book, where you can:

DOWNLOAD FORMS - All forms in this book are accessible online. After purchase, you can find a link to the URL in Appendix A.

KEEP UP TO DATE - When there are important changes to the information in this book, we will post updates

And that’s not all. contains thousands of articles on everyday legal and business issues, plus a plain-English law dictionary, all written by Nolo experts and available for free. You’ll also find more useful books, software, online services, and downloadable forms.

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