What do you consider an unfair ticket? I am an honest decent person and I got a speeding ticket. I don't consider the ticket fair or reasonable, but I did violate the traffic law I was cited under. Would you, from a moral, not legal, point of view recommend that I still contest this?
Patrick, how did you come to learn
all this stuff about traffic law?
TBD: I keep seeing the letters "TBD"
on your site. What does it stand for?
Can't afford bail: I can't afford bail. I have
no money to include with my declaration. Should I send it anyway?
Blog: Does this site have a bulletin board or blog where
others can share experiences, tips, recommend precautions, defenses
and to network?
Bail / Expensive Ticket (Speeding plus No Proof of Insurance):
I just got the courtesy notice in the mail and they've set bail
vs. Traffic School: Is doing traffic school a better option
Cashed Bail Check: I went through my checking account tonight
and found that a month ago the court cashed my bail check. Does
that means I lost my case?
Format: My passenger is writing a witness statement in
support of my defense. Must I include the witness' address or is
it not mandatory?
Promise to Appear vs. TBD: When issued the ticket,
I signed a box stating
"Without admitting guilt, I promise to appear at the time and
place indicated below." Can I still request a trail by written
must be received by Due Date: When I contest, does my Trial by Declaration have to be postmarked
by the due date or received by the due date?
Late courtesy notice: I was recently cited but did not receive a courtesy
notice until over 4 weeks later. Is there a required time
limit between the two events that was exceeded here?
Will Cop Read My Statement? Does the citing officer get to see or
read my Trial by Written Declaration statement? I am wondering in
case I lose and have to see him in court later. It would probably
add to my anxiety.
Piss off the judge: What
are the chances that the Judge will just be pissed off that I am fighting
this instead of paying?
Afraid to annoy
the Judge with Aggressive Defense: I’m considering
using your defense example... However, it seems that a judge would
not look favorably upon a lawbreaker challenging an officer and
implying his testimony is "hearsay.
Distance limit on TBW: After I
sent my TBD to the local court, they wrote back saying that since
I didn't live 100 miles outside of the court, I was not eligible
for a TBD. Can they do this?
Contest after paying bail---Can
I Contest After Paying Bail?
Cases---I got a ticket a few months ago that I went to
traffic school for. Is there anything I can do to contest it after
the fact? Could I contest other tickets in the past as well?
Question: What do you consider an unfair ticket? I am an honest decent person and I got a speeding ticket. I don't consider the ticket fair or reasonable, but I did violate the traffic law I was cited under. Would you, from a moral, not legal, point of view recommend that I still contest this?
Answer: Yes, I would. It is not immoral to contest an infraction charge. In fact, it is a legal RIGHT to do so. Even if it is illegal to go 70mph in a 65mph zone, I don't believe it is immoral to do so, as long as the road conditions were favorable and your speed did not, in itself, endanger life or property.
I always contest every charge, whether I'm technically "guilty" or not. You have to remember that guilt or innocence is a result of the process of law as interpreted subjectively by people, including the cop who stopped you and the judge deciding the case. In traffic infraction cases, you are denied a trial by jury. As such, the biases of the cop and the judge and their potential for error and unfairness become magnified. They are not perfect and the process is not perfect. You run a greater risk that they might find you guilty, even if you are not. This is why I contest every case.
I know that I may lose cases, despite my innocence, due to cop and judge errors, including lies and incompetence. I also know that I may win cases where I obviously broke the law, due to cop and judge errors. In the end, I believe these errors balance out, leaving me with some rough approximation of justice. This approximate justice only happens if I mechanically and habitually exercise my legal right to contest every case. There is no other way to overcome the built in prosecutorial bias of traffic enforcers and traffic courts in California.
Let's say that half of the citations you're issued are totally fair and legitimate and the other half are bogus and based on overzealous policing. Let's also approximate that you have a 50/50 chance of beating any particular ticket you contest. If you pay the tickets that you feel were deserved without a fight while only contesting the tickets that you thought were unfair you would be convicted in 100% of the cases where you surrendered and 50% of the ones you contested. By not contesting every case, you become a victim of the court's prosecutorial bias. However, if you contested every case, you'd beat 2 out of 4 tickets total. It should not matter if you beat two tickets when you were guilty, especially if you are found guilty on two tickets that were unfair. This is what I mean by the term "rough justice" or "approximate justice." This is why I recommend every citation be contested. You might need to beat a fair ticket now to balance the unfair ticket a cop may issue on a whim in the future.
Question: Patrick, out of curiosity, how did you come
to learn all this stuff about traffic law? Are you a law
enforcement official or legal associate of some sort, or
just some militant citizen ANGEL?
Answer: No cop. No lawyer. No angel. Citizen, yes. Militant, perhaps.
I’m an Irish rebel and Buddhist anarchist, born too late for the
I taught traffic school for six years and owned a DMV licensed school for
5 years. I started my own traffic school after my two idiot traffic school
bosses pissed me off. I don’t know if “revenge” is a good
reason to start a small business, but I am Irish.
Some 11,000 students with 11,000 questions later, I had had enough but
did not want the information I'd learned to be lost forever. This led to
Ticketassassin.com, a monument to 5 wasted years that, in reflection, were
not wasted at all. I decided to combine my ticket knowledge, English degree
and writing skills to create a website for California drivers with ticket
I teamed up with my friend, diabolical web designer Tim Wayne, to create
a space where “sticking it to the man” would be our daily business
and pleasure. The site was my revenge against the DMV and courts for playing
God with my modest traffic school with their red tape and threats for 5
years. Neither liked that I would inform my students about their rights
under the law. The bureaucrats at the courts and DMV wanted none of it and
threatened to shut me down repeatedly.
Also, since any yahoo could start a traffic school, there were too many
schools and not enough students to fill the classes. My advice:
never get into a government regulated business unless you can make a pile
of money—like car dealerships, bars and methadone clinics.
So after five years of tilting at windmills inside the "system",
I now use the vector of the Internet with a virus called "the truth" to
make the court and DMV wish they had let me be. I hope to encourage so many
people to contest that the traffic court system is eventually destroyed
by the weight of too many written declarations. This is my second revenge-based
For more info, read about this site.
seeing the letters "TBD" on your site. What does it stand
Answer: TBD stands for Trial by Written Declaration.
Writing a successful TBD is what this site is all about.
Question:I can't afford
bail. I have no money to include with my declaration. Should I send
There is no way I can include 361 clams with my Written Not
Guilty Plea form. I'm a single gal, living paycheck to paycheck
(but employed full time, thank goodness). There is nowhere for me
to pull the money out of. It just isn't
available (no credit cards or savings). My plan is to just include
a note with my CVC 40519b form. I hoping that will work out ok.
Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: First, never mail in a written plea without
the full bail; it won't be accepted. Instead, deliver the Written
Not Guilty Plea in person to court to see if they will accept a
lower bail amount. If not, get an extension of your appearance date
with the longest possible date. Typically, two extensions are allowed
before you must appear or plea. You can probably extend this out
3-4 months with two extensions. Extensions are free.
When you are broke, some courts will entice you to go straight
to an in person trial instead of doing a Trial by Declaration (TBD)
since these trials don't require an up front bail posting. Don't
do it! By giving up your right to a TBD, you surrender your best
chance of winning and your right to a new trial if you lose.
Question: Does this site
have a bulletin board or blog where others can share experiences,
tips, recommend precautions, defenses and to network? Is there a
news group on this?
Answer: No. Since verdicts are based on the unique
details of each case, there is not much sharing of experience going
on. Also, most people are cited infrequently and just want to beat
their ticket, not gab about the process. It's been my role to collect
the details of thousands of different cases while helping people
prepare their defenses. Strategies for contesting the most common
offenses are in my member SHAREWARE. The newest strategies and declaration
examples are sent to paid members when they join. There are unique
defenses for less common citations in my private files that I share
with these members as needed. I also apply my 10 years of experience
in fighting tickets to help my supporting members create the best
defense based on the details of their case.
Bail: Expensive Ticket (Speeding plus No Proof of Insurance) I just
got the courtesy notice in the mail and they've set bail at $774.00!
This was for 80 mph on the freeway plus no proof of insurance. I
do have insurance, but couldn't find the proof in time for the cop.
Anyway, I see on the courtesy notice that the traffic school fee
is only $153, so it seems this bail is set high just to discourage
folks from fighting their tickets.
Answer: No. You are misreading the often confusing
"courtesy notice." The bulk of this fine is for the insurance
violation (Over $600). If you show proof of insurance, that fine
is dismissed regardless of the outcome of your speeding case. You
will then not have to post the portion of bail assigned to the insurance
violation. Any "fix-it" violation (insurance, registration,
license, mechanical) should be cleared up prior to contesting to
drastically lower your bail amount.
vs. Traffic School Is doing traffic school a better option than
Answer: Trial by Declaration is the best option
unless money is no concern for you. Considering the time it takes
the average person to earn $150-200 dollars after taxes, many do
not consider traffic school a better or easier option. Even the
cheaper fines are over $100 plus a $39 traffic school referral fee
plus the $30 cost of traffic school. The best-case scenario for
a less expensive citation approaches $200. The average ticket handled
through traffic school will cost the driver around $250—the
traffic school referral fee plus traffic school will push this up
to around $330.
For a redlight ticket, you'd be looking at a fine of $341 plus
$39 for traffic school referral plus $30 for traffic school: over
$400 total, over a week's take-home pay for some people. Unless
you have an unlimited supply of cash, it's hard to imagine how paying
up is better than writing a declaration letter that may result in
paying nothing. Add to this the cost a day of your life wasted in
a boring 8-hour DMV traffic school. Your instructor might be the
cop who cited you or some painfully unfunny "comedian."
Even the courts that allow online classes now require you to take
a proctored exam at an approved site. If you fail, you have to wait
a week to retake the test.
went through my checking account tonight and found that a month
ago the court cashed my bail check. Does that means I lost my case?
I never received the court's decision on my trial by declaration.
Answer: Don’t assume you lost. The court
cashes every bail check it gets. You get a refund check if you win.
Until you get a decision in the mail, you can assume there is no
passenger is writing a witness statement in support of my defense.
Must I include the witness' address or is it not mandatory?
Answer: There is no mandatory format for a witness
statement in a TBD case. Don't include anything you don't want or
need too. However, the statement has more credibility if the witness
includes a full address and phone number. The only “mandatory”
element is that the statement be sworn and signed under penalty
of perjury. Witness statements lend support to your defense and
can result in dismissal. I have formatted examples of witness statements
for various violations on file and provide them to supporting members.
Question: When issued
the ticket, I signed a box stating "Without admitting guilt,
I promise to appear at the time and place indicated below."
Can I still request a trail by written declaration?
Answer: Yes. Your Written Not Guilty Plea will
count as your appearance under California Vehicle Code 40519b. Appearing
by letter is a legal right in infraction cases.
Question: TBD Statement must be Received by Due Date
When I contest, does my Trial by Declaration have to be postmarked
by the due date or received by the due date?
Answer: RECEIVED. Be sure never to be late on a court TBD deadline. At
minimum, you will be found guilty of the original charge. Also, the
court might add a $250 fine for a Failure to Appear (FTA).
However, most courts will just find you guilty and keep your
bail as the fine.
Question: I was recently cited but did not receive a courtesy notice until
over 4 weeks later. Is there a required time limit between
the two events that was exceeded here?
Answer: No. In fact, the court is under no obligation to send the "courtesy
notice." It is merely a "courtesy" that helps the court
process loads of tickets faster. Many drivers are not aware
of this, and will do nothing until their courtesy notice
arrives. This can lead to trouble when they miss their appearance
date while waiting for a courtesy notice.
If the court totally blows you off and does not sent a notice, you are
still obligated to appear on the date noted at the bottom of your ticket.
By signing the citation, you "promised to appear" on this date,
for which you were released without posting bail. If you miss this date,
they typically find you guilty of the original charge while adding on a
Failure to Appear (FTA) charge and an additional $250 fine. Some courts
will even suspend your license for a Failure to Appear and issue a warrant
for your arrest. If you then get stopped by a cop, they'll charge you with "driving
on a suspended license" while enforcing the FTA charge.
Question: Does the
citing officer get to see or read my Trial by Written Declaration
statement? I am wondering in case I lose and have to see him in
court later. It would probably add to my anxiety.
Answer:The officer should not be permitted to
read your statement during the Trial by Declaration. If you lose
the TBD and go to a Trial de Novo, the officer may request to see
your original statement, but few bother to do so.
Question: What are the
chances that the Judge will just be pissed off that I am fighting this
instead of paying?
Answer: Never worry about "pissing off" the
judge merely by exercising your right to contest. If nobody contested, he'd
be back chasing ambulances or robbing widows.
Question: I’m considering
using your defense example that demand’s proof of the officer's
completion of the 24 hour radar course. However, it seems that a
judge would not look favorably upon a lawbreaker challenging an
implying his testimony is "hearsay.”
Answer: Why would you call yourself a lawbreaker?
You are a "defendant" presumed innocent until otherwise
proven by the state. That's what the judge is supposed to assume.
If he assumes otherwise, he is violating judicial ethics and his
oath. The process of contesting is confrontational by definition.
The argument you refer to challenges the officer's evidence, not
his integrity. Don't fear that you will annoy the court by mounting
an aggressive defense.
Question: I got my ticket in a rural county about 80 miles from my home. I
requested a Trial by Declaration from the local court. They wrote back
saying that since I didn't live more than 100 miles from the court, I was
not entitled to a TBD. Does the law allow them to do this?
Answer: No. The Ticket Assassin has seen this sort of court scam before.
Typically, such distance rules are never adopted by the court formally but
are invented to deter contesting by out-of-town drivers like you. The
California State Vehicle Code (section CVC40902) allows a Trial by
Declaration "upon demand" without any distance criteria. Cite this vehicle
code section to the clerk and insist upon your right to a Trial by
Question: Can I Contest
After Paying Bail? I just learned about your site. I did not ask
to contest and already mailed in my bail. Can I still contest this
violation after sending in the bail payment?
Answer: MAYBE. You'd should go to court immediately
and request a Trial by Declaration. If you just sent in payment,
they will probably let you contest. If the court already reported
a conviction to the DMV (that is, if you sent in payment many weeks
or months ago) it is less likely that they will allow you to contest.
Still, it's certainly worth a shot. Go to court ASAP and request
a Trial by Declaration. Insist on asking a judge if the clerk blows
Question: I got a
ticket a few months ago that I went to traffic school for. Is there
anything I can do to contest it after the fact? Could I contest
other tickets in the past as well?
Answer: No. Generally speaking, once a case is
closed via traffic school dismissal it cannot be contested. Also,
once you plead guilty (if you had not gone to traffic school) the
court collects your fine, reports a conviction to the DMV and closes
the case. The court has no reason to reopen a closed case. If a
case is closed prematurely due to a court error, a judge may reopen
the case upon request.
I've seen redlight camera cases reopened when the defendant declared
that he had never received the citation notice in the mail. Since
no "Promise to Appear" is signed in these automated cases,
defendants often miss appearance deadlines when courtesy notices
are misplaced. Missing an appearance deadline will cause the court
to add a $250 Failure to Appear fine to the original $341 redlight
Some defendants are not aware of their citation until a $600 collection
notice arrives in the mail. Quite often the judge will dismiss the
$250 FTA assessment and reopen the case when the defendant appears
and disputes that the original citation was never received. Since
there is no signed "Promise to Appear" at the original
appearance date in these cases, there is much more leeway from the
court (since they can’t prove you intentionally missed your
Expect no leeway if you miss an appearance date after signing
a "Promise to Appear." Emergency hospitalization
or military deployment are about the only excuses the court accepts
if you fail to appear on a signed promise.