New California Rule Means You Don't Have to Pay Your Traffic Ticket Before Fighting It

The California Judicial Council ended the "pay to play" practice employed by some counties.

Before June 8, 2015, some California counties required drivers to pay their traffic tickets before being able to contest them in court. But on that date, the California Judicial Council adopted a rule instructing courts to allow people to appear in court without requiring them to first pay for their alleged traffic infractions.

(For more on changes in challenging traffic tickets, see California Law on Challenging and Paying for Traffic Tickets Takes Effect.)

According to the rule, those contesting their tickets must be allowed to appear for arraignment and trial without having to deposit bail, with some exceptions. (State law will continue to allow counties to collect bail in advance in situations such as where the defendant elects trial by written declaration.)

The rule also requires that courts, in their instructions or other materials about bail, provide traffic defendants with notice of their option to appear in court without depositing bail. (Courts were given until September 15, 2015 to comply with the rule’s notice requirements.)

In keeping with a broader look at reform, the Council also requested “recommendations to promote access to justice when an individual has previously failed to appear or pay and in other types of infraction cases.” (See the Council’s news release, and a link to the actual rule with commentary, at www.courts.ca.gov/32426.htm.)