I got my third traffic ticket. I'd like to take traffic school.
July 23, 2008 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I just got my third traffic ticket in less than 18 months. I live in Los Angeles. How can I still take traffic school?

Yes, yes, I know. Please, no need to berate me for getting into this situation in the first place. I know the general rule is that you can get 8 hour traffic school for a first offense, 12 hour for a second offense, and then you're done. but I've heard of people getting traffic school for their 8th offense. Is this all an urban legend? Or does this happen?

Do I plead not guilty so that I can talk to a judge, and just beg for permission to take traffic school? Have you done this? Does it work?
posted by kingjoeshmoe to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Did you do traffic school for both of your previous tickets? I live in San Diego, so it might be slightly different, but I know that you are automatically rewarded the right to the 8-hour (or online) traffic school for your first offense every six months. After that, it's up to the discretion of the judge and the officer who pulled you over. The second offense will allow you to do a 16-hour (two full days) traffic school, if the judge and officer are amenable. I've never heard of the 12-hour traffic school you mentioned. For the third, fourth, etc. offenses, it's also up to the discretion of the judge. You don't have to plead "not guilty". In fact, if you plead not guilty and go to trial, you're automatically waiving your right to traffic school. Your best bet is to go and plead guilty, then when the judge goes over your fine and penance, beg and plead for 16-hour traffic school and be very contrite.

It should be noted, the 16-hour traffic school removes the point from your license, but may or may not have any effect on your auto insurance. After my second ticket, I opted not to do this. Also, this is all (I suppose) anecdotal since I sat through a few hours in court watching many other people do this, and I'm too busy to look up the code. I'm sure someone else will though!
posted by booknerd at 11:43 AM on July 23, 2008

Request a trial by declaration, write your side of the story and include in your note that if found guilty you'd like to go to traffic school. You've got a decent chance that the cop won't file his side of the case in the first place, and if he does, you're still likely to end up with traffic school if the judge rules against you.
posted by foodgeek at 11:45 AM on July 23, 2008

I thought the State of California set the guidelines for traffic school intervals, rather than at the County/City level? By that, I mean my understand what such that you could attend once every 18 months maximum to have the violaton struck from your driving record and not reported to your auto insurance company.
posted by Asherah at 11:46 AM on July 23, 2008

From when I was in California and went to traffic school (warning: this was roughly 8 years ago), there was an official state-wide frequency with which one could attend traffic school. There was also (again, consider that this was ~8 years ago) poor communication between counties who administered this, so if your tickets were in different counties, you could generally go to traffic school without anyone being the wiser. This was, apparently, commonly known but generally ignored. I'm not sure that sort of salutory neglect happens anymore, but you might ask around.

Sometimes, the people who run the independent traffic schools (as an aside, "comedy traffic school" is taught by people who are decidedly NOT funny) will know the official and unofficial rules.
posted by JMOZ at 11:51 AM on July 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks guys. To clarify:

1. Yes, I took traffic school both times before. It sounds like it's different in San Diego, because here, first time is 8 hours, second time is 12. So, Asherah, that leads me to believe it's not a statewide rule.

2. Reason I wondered whether I need to plead not guilty is, last time, there would be two parts if you showed up in court: Day one, you just plead guilty or not-guilty. If guilty, the judge there just had the authority to give you the 8 hours or 12 hours noted above. Sounded like she couldn't deviate from that. If not-guilty, then you'd set a trial date with a real judge, who could actually hear your case. Good to know that might waive traffic school. That still leaves me not knowing what to do.

3. Foodgeek, there is no other side to the story. I didn't see a no right turn on red sign. It's there, but I didn't see it. I made a turn on a red. Done deal.

4. Sadly, all tickets received in Los Angeles county.

And Neuron, thanks for the snark. Real helpful.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 11:59 AM on July 23, 2008

Foodgeek, there is no other side to the story. I didn't see a no right turn on red sign. It's there, but I didn't see it. I made a turn on a red. Done deal.

So say that the sign is poorly placed and that you should get traffic school if the judge decides you're guilty anyway. The two reasons to always do trial by declaration are that half the time the police don't file the correct paperwork and the ticket is dismissed, and that judges tend to be more friendly when they aren't sitting in front of a courtroom full of people.
posted by foodgeek at 12:13 PM on July 23, 2008

Another tip: I've heard that if you postpone the court date to beyond 18 months from first offense date, you can say "yes I went to traffic school but the first time was for an offense that happened more than 18 months ago." sneaky!
posted by quinoa at 2:28 PM on July 23, 2008

I spoke with someone about this recently. They claimed they went to court and asked for Traffic School. If the judge orders it, you can do it. YMMV
posted by 6:1 at 4:20 PM on July 23, 2008

I'm not sure if it's changed, but I was able to take traffic school (online, no less) about 3 times during the course of 18 months or so in Los Angeles about 5 years ago. I believe you have to specifically request it, though. I can't remember exactly how you do that.

Also, assuming this is still true, the court will almost always grant you the traffic school option because they get paid a fee for those (something like $29.95, I think). The court does not get a similar fee when you get your insurance rates jacked up, so they will almost always allow another round of traffic school.

Not that you asked, but try to do it online if you can. It's sooooo much faster (takes about 3 hours) that way.
posted by dhammond at 7:35 PM on July 23, 2008

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