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February 10, 2014 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to get an earlier court date for a traffic issue by showing up on a given day and hoping someone cancels? Calling? Other recourse? In particular, Los Angeles Metropolitan Court?

Sometime around the beginning of November 2013, my boyfriend and I were in the car (he was driving) and got pulled over. We were issued a fix-it ticket for lacking a front license plate (a California regulation).

Due to the holidays, general laziness, and the surprisingly vexing process of finding a front license plate bracket for a car unequipped with one, we missed the deadline to resolve the ticket (I always thought a fix-it ticket was just given out and you only were in trouble if you got pulled over again and it wasn't fixed. Turns out, in CA at least, you have to take the car to the Sheriff's station where they inspect the issue, and stamp your citation).

We did eventually get it fixed and our citation has the stamp from the Sheriff's office. However, since we missed the initial deadline, my boyfriend has received notification that his license has a hold on it, and he must pay around $800 (citation amount + fine for not getting it taken care of, or something). I was advised to just get a court date so we could try to get off without paying an absurd amount of money, but the earliest date we could get is March 18th. Is there any way to get an earlier date? The DMV sent him a letter saying he needs to surrender his license by March 7th, so it would be great if we could get this resolved before then!

Any suggestions? Show up and wait? I tried calling but there are no human beings available.
posted by Aubergine to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Send a certified letter to the court administrator (this used to be my Mom, so I know.) Ask for a date prior to March 7.

LA County Court has a scheduler, so see if this is something you can set up for a date that works for you.

Trust me, my mom used to be a California Court Administrator, and they just want to help.

Call the main number of LA county and ask to be transferred to the office of the Court Administrator. A Clerk should be able to help you from there.

Give my best to Courgette
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:32 AM on February 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is it possible to get an earlier court date for a traffic issue by showing up on a given day and hoping someone cancels? Calling? Other recourse?

This is why people hire lawyers, you know. You're facing the possibility of an $800 fine. Many attorneys will handle a simple traffic court appearance for $250 or so. In addition to very likely being able to help you avoid some of that total fee, it might be possible to expedite your hearing. Only way to find out is to call an attorney and ask.

Which, of course, is the only responsible answer to this question. What you're asking for here is legal advice, and no one on AskMe is qualified to give it to you in this context. Even if a criminal defense attorney located in Los Angeles County were to show up, there's no way he could provide competent advice in this forum.

Call a local lawyer. It'll cost you a few hundred bucks, but you're already $800 in the hole, so you don't have much to lose here.
posted by valkyryn at 10:33 AM on February 10, 2014

i don't know if this will work, but i would try an ex parte application. it would consist of a draft order for the judge to sign, dismissing the citation, a sworn declaration from your bf setting up the factual basis of why he's a good guy and the citation should be dismissed, and also exhibiting a copy of the page with the sheriff's stamp, and a memorandum of points and authorities citing the legal basis for dismissing citations post-conviction. if the court has a place and time "signing window" i would submit it there, otherwise, i would take it to the courthouse, wait until the traffic judge was undistracted and just spring it on him/her. "good morning your honor, i have an ex parte application for dismissal of a fix-it citation, may i have a minute of your time?"
posted by bruce at 10:36 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sounds like an issue for a lawyer, but if you don't want to hire one, Ruthless Bunny's advice sounds best.


I'm a little confused. Did the Sheriff's Office stamp the ticket before or after the deadline to fix the issue? I would think that if the Sheriff's Office stamped the ticket, that means they are satisfied that the problem was resolved in accordance with the law, and should have recorded that on some computer system somewhere or at least in a notebook somewhere. To me, the only issue would then be a potential late fee, i.e. the problem WAS fixed, just after the deadline. $800 seems a bit ridiculous for a late fee on something like this. A suspended license is CERTAINLY a case of "the punishment does not fit the crime," particularly since your S.O. did indeed fix the problem.
posted by tckma at 11:58 AM on February 10, 2014

The Sheriff's office stamped the ticket AFTER the deadline- I'm not sure if they even looked at the deadline to be honest, he just sort of glanced at the car (which was outside in the parking lot) and stamped + signed it. However, when I took the stamped citation to the courthouse to have it processed, the clerk at the signing window told me we would have to get a court date or pay the $800.
posted by Aubergine at 12:01 PM on February 10, 2014

Again, IANAL and TINLA.

I would think that if you're unable to get your court date moved up, then the court would have the power to order the DMV not to suspend your S.O.'s license until the court date of March 18th.

If you're unable to have the court date moved up, perhaps you can look into having that order issued, and also call the DMV and notify them of his court date. (They may just postpone the suspension.)

Probably the best thing to do would be to find a lawyer who handles traffic citations. Yes, you'd be out the legal fee, but it might be a lot less than $800.
posted by tckma at 12:05 PM on February 10, 2014

Yep. Lawyer.
posted by valkyryn at 1:28 PM on February 10, 2014

No need for a lawyer. I've done this same thing (didn't handle things and got a "surrender your license" letter and a big fine) multiple times in Los Angeles County for various fix-it tickets. I've gone to court and drastically reduced my fine, or had it removed all together.

Here's what you need to do:

1) Go to the Traffic Court Clerk for whatever court is on the ticket.

2) Ask for the next available court date (probably two months from now), and make sure they give you some paperwork that says there is a "hold" on the license suspension. Since you are taking care of this before the actual suspension has happened, you might not get/need this.

3) You will go to court and tell the judge "I was not on top of things, but now I have corrected this issue and here is my proof." Make sure there are no new problems (like lapsed insurance).

4) You will probably get a talking to by the judge for causing a bunch of hassle for yourself instead of just taking care of the problem like an adult, but in the end you will likely get your fine drastically reduced.

5) You'll go back to the clerk and pay your new fine.

I've been through this 3 times. The 2 times the "Fix-it" box was check by the office I had had my $1k+ fines reduced back to the $20 fix-it fee. The one time the box was not checked, my $1300 fine was reduced to $220. And it wasn't just me, anyone who had minor traffic issues and acted like an adult in front of the judge got a reduction.

Obviously, maybe I had three judges having extraordinary good days. Perhaps if I went this week I'd have to pay the whole thing. But, it seems to me that you'd have a good experience if you go to court.
posted by sideshow at 11:52 AM on February 14, 2014

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