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When You're In Court

Entering a Plea

There are three choices for pleading your ticket: (1) Not guilty (2) Guilty or (3) No contest. A plea of either guilty or no contest means that you admit you committed the violation, and you want to pay the ticket. A plea of not guilty means you want to fight the ticket, and you will be assigned a trial date.

Traffic School

In most circumstances, you may choose to attend traffic school if you have received a ticket for a moving violation. You may attend traffic school once every 18 months. You will need to pay the ticket and a $52 administrative fee. You also will need to pay the traffic school whatever fee it charges. The point for the moving violation will not appear on your driving record when you have successfully finished your class and paid all the charges described above. Internet traffic school also is available. If you have questions, contact the Court to confirm your eligibility.

Hearing Continuances or Extensions

If you know that you will not be able to come to your first appearance arraignment, you must go to Room 145 at the Hall of Justice to request an extension. Make your request as soon as you know you won't be able to appear for your court date, at least five court days before your hearing. Up to a 1-month extension will be granted from the original first appearance arraignment date. No further extensions will be allowed by the clerks in Room 145.

If you know that you will not be able to come to your trial date, you must go to Room 145 at the Hall of Justice to request a continuance. Your request must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the trial date. Your request to continue a trial is not automatically granted. Unless a Judge has granted your request to continue the trial date, you are required to appear or the trial will proceed in your absence.

The clerk does not provide extensions or continuances to complete traffic school or community service.


Be on time for your trial. If you are not present when your name is called, the Court will hear the case in your absence. At trial, the police officer testifies first, and then you will have the chance to ask the officer questions about the ticket. You may then testify, and present any evidence you might have brought with you, including any witnesses. The Judge will then inform you if you have been found guilty or not guilty. You have the right to appeal if you disagree with the Judge's decision.

Options For Paying the Fine

If you plead guilty, or are found guilty by the Judge, you will be given a fine. You may pay the amount of the fine that same day or ask for time to pay. You must pay by the date the Judge gives you; no further continuances will be granted.

If you are unable to pay the fine because you are unemployed only work part-time, or receive GA, SSI or SSA, you may choose to take care of it by doing community service through Project 20. With this option, you work your fine off at the rate of $31 per hour. You may not do community service if you wish to attend traffic school and you may not do community service if you are employed full-time. If you have a financial hardship, you may file a Petition for Ability to Pay Determination in Room 145, Window 5 at 850 Bryant St., San Francisco, CA 94103. More information about your options.

Effective August 22, 2005, a civil assessment of $100 may be added to any traffic fine if you fail to post bail on time or to appear for your scheduled court date. All delinquent citations will be referred to Alliance One for collection.

California law permits the Court to impose a civil assessment of up to $100 against any individual who fails, after notice and without good cause, to appear in Court for any proceeding, or who fails to pay all or any portion of a fine ordered by the Court. The civil assessment is imposed in addition to, and separate from, any fine connected with an infraction citation.

How To Get Ready For Your Trial or Hearing

Know what you are cited for - check your ticket, or get a copy in Room 145 before you go to the courtroom.

If you are charged with expired registration, bring your current registration to the Court. The same applies with insurance, change of address, or driver's license. If you have a "fix-it" ticket, and you have fixed the problem - headlight out, taillight out, for example - have it signed off by any police officer and bring it to the Court. If you've sold the vehicle, donated it, or had it towed, bring the sales, donation or tow documents.

Photographs and/or diagrams of the area where your ticket was issued are often helpful in showing the Judge the points you want to make.

Presenting Your Case In Court


  • Tell the Judge what street or highway you were on, what intersection, if any, was involved, and the direction you were traveling.

  • Describe what happened in the order it happened. Present your best reasons first for why you think your ticket should be dismissed.

  • Present simple and concise to-the-point responses.  If the Judge asks you any questions, try to answer them directly.

  • Dress as if you are attending a business appointment.


  • Interrupt or argue with the Judge or the police officer.

  • Repeat yourself unnecessarily.

  • Come into Court unprepared, without the documents you need for your case.

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