If you recently got a traffic ticket in Los Angeles County, you may be wondering what to do with it. Should you pay it, or should you fight it?
In my experience as a Los Angeles traffic ticket attorney, most of my clients have exacerbated traffic tickets. By this, I mean my clients usually receive tickets that:
- are causing a driving with a suspended license charge;
- are causing a driver’s license suspension;
- are “traffic tickets” with a misdemeanor FTA charge handled as misdemeanors with potential jail time;
- are traffic tickets that are moving violations which would result in a DMV point on their records, or in the case of commercial drivers a loss of their jobs in some instances.
Sometimes you can just pay a ticket and be done with it – but make sure you request traffic school if the ticket is a moving violation, in order to keep the point off of your DMV record.
Other times, it makes more sense to hire a traffic ticket attorney for assistance, particularly when you have a failure to appear.
Fight Your Ticket when in FTA Status
If your ticket is in failure to appear (“FTA”) status in Los Angeles County, this means you missed your court date and didn’t appear in front of the judge. In this case, you should think twice before paying it, for the reasons discussed below.
In Los Angeles County, when your traffic ticket is a failure to appear, your ticket will be referred to a collections agency called GC Services.
You have to watch out for GC Services. There are at least 3 reasons you don’t want to pay GC Services:
- to prevent the payment of unnecessary fines;
- to avoid a misdemeanor failure to appear charge from going on your criminal record; and
- to get your license back without the negative consequences associated with paying GC Services.
GC Services is often deceptive or will outright lie to you to get you to pay them. You can still fight your ticket in court rather than pay GC Services if:
- you are in collections due to a failure to appear, rather than a failure to pay (“FTP) – an FTP means you’ve already seen the judge on your ticket and have been ordered to pay fines to the Court and you are not entitled to another court date if you have an FTP, but you are if you have an FTA;
- you have not made a payment to GC Services under the amnesty program (the amnesty program is no longer available, but if you made even one payment in the past to GC Services under the amnesty program you won’t be entitled to another court date);
- your ticket is in Los Angeles County (GC Services collects for other counties as well, but rules vary from county to county and you aren’t always entitled to another court date, depending on the county’s contract with GC Services).
Assuming you have met all of the above requirements, you can (and should!) fight your ticket in court.
Fight Your Ticket, or End Up Paying More than Necessary
When your fail to appear in court, your fines go up because you are charged with a failure to appear under Vehicle Code 40508.
This also includes a $300 “civil assessment” for failing to appear, as well as a base fine plus “penalty assessments” for your failure to appear.
All in all, your failure to appear can cost you $300-$500, depending on the circumstances.
You’ll notice that the amount GC Services wants you to pay is drastically higher than the original ticket. Sometimes your ticket amount will skyrocket to between $800-$2,000 for a single traffic ticket!
This is because of the failure to appear fines discussed above.
Additionally, GC Services adds a collections fee to your balance.
Finally, you’ll be assessed a fee for the underlying traffic ticket itself, whatever it was (speeding, crossing over a double yellow line, etc.).
When you fight your ticket in court instead, we have the opportunity to present evidence to the judge to get your ticket entirely dismissed, or significantly reduced.
For example, driving with expired tags in California can easily be dismissed for a $25 dismissal fee upon showing proof of correction to the court.
Once you we put your ticket back in front of the judge, the GC Services amount goes away entirely and your case is settled with the Court where it belongs, so that your fines are drastically reduced (if not dismissed altogether).
Fight Your Ticket to Avoid a Misdemeanor Appearing on Your Criminal Record
I’ve received several calls from people who have paid GC Services on their traffic ticket, only for it to come back and haunt them later.
Sometimes the VC 40508 (FTA charge) will appear on your criminal background as a misdemeanor failure to appear in court. This is because VC 40508 is a “wobbler” offense that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or an infraction.
It doesn’t look good to have a failure to appear in court show up on your criminal background, especially when an employe is requesting a copy of your criminal background in order to assess what kind of employee you will be.
If you fail to appear for a court hearing, that bears on how responsible you look to an employer and this could adversely affect your employment situation.
However, when you fight your ticket in court, the failure to appear charge is always reduced to an infraction. An infraction by definition is an offense that is punishable by fines only.
Traffic courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and cannot adjudicate misdemeanor or felony matters – rather, they can only rule on infractions. Thus, this means your VC 40508 failure to appear charge will only be an infraction at its worst (if not dismissed completely), which means it will NOT appear on your criminal background.
Fight Your Ticket to Get Your License Back
GC Services will contact you via threatening letters or phone calls and tell you to pay them, or else your license will be suspended. They cleverly omit the fact that there is another option available to you – to fight your ticket in court to clear the hold from your license.
It is true that GC Services should clear the hold from your license if you pay them, but why would you do that if you don’t have to? Particularly when there are many negative consequences that occur when you pay collections (discussed above).
Also, sometimes GC Services doesn’t actually clear the hold from your license like they said you would, even though you paid them the money they wanted!
If you meet the three requirements discussed above, you can still get another court date, and you should take advantage of that opportunity so you can protect your criminal record, DMV record, and keep your fines low (or get your fines dismissed altogether).
Use a Los Angeles Traffic Ticket Attorney to Help Fight Your Ticket
There are a host of benefits to hiring a traffic ticket attorney to help you get better results on your case. If you’d like help from experienced traffic ticket attorneys advocating on your behalf, you can call me (Attorney Paul Denni) for a free phone consultation at 888-250-8450.
If you’d like me to contact you, please use the contact form below.