Effects of Traffic School in California

by jeremy on April 5, 2012

If you are convicted of a traffic offense, usually you are given the opportunity to attend traffic school. If you cannot fight the ticket and get it dismissed entirely, it is often a good idea to choose the traffic school option, although it will add about $100-$150 more to the total cost you will pay, in the form of court fees and the actual cost of the school. Successfully completing the eight hour traffic school will completely mask the ticket from your record. This means you do not receive a “point” from the DMV and your insurance company will never know you received a moving violation, meaning there will be no effect on your insurance.

Points are added to your record by the DMV to determine negligent drivers. One point is generally accumulated for most moving violations, such as speeding or running a stop light, or for at-fault accidents. Two points are assigned for more serious violations, such as DUI or hit and run. A driver may have his or her license suspended if they receive four points in one year, six points in two years, or eight points in three years.

You may only attend the eight hour traffic school once every 18 months. If you receive a second traffic ticket in that 18 month period, some courts may allow you to take the second offender traffic school, commonly referred to as the 12 hour class. The effects of taking this class are different from the initial traffic school class. Instead of completely masking your public record, the 12 hour class merely changes your record to reflect that the ticket was dismissed via traffic school. This will keep the point off your record for DMV purposes, but will still be visible to your insurance company. Legally, your current insurance company may not raise your rates because of that ticket. However, in actual practice, it is not difficult for a company to do just that by justifying a raise in any number of other ways. Further, any future policy you purchase with that same company or any other insurance company may justifiably have a higher premium due to the conviction.

While it is not uncommon for judges to offer the 12 hour class, it is completely within their discretion. Some judges regularly offer the option while others do not. Some will offer the option only if you do not request a trial. Traffic court is very informal and varies a great deal from one court to the next. Whether to request traffic school, or even whether to plead guilty, will vary greatly depending on each individual’s situation, including his or her previous record, the nature of the offense, and the tendencies of the presiding judge.

If you have been cited for a traffic ticket, it is often a good idea to contact an attorney to discuss your options. Contact us today for a free and confidential evaluation of your case.

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