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Traffic tickets in California could be decriminalized

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Traffic ticket attorneys are closely monitoring proposed legislation being drafted by the California legislature that would make traffic violations civil offenses. Under the new legislation, drivers would be protected from arrests and fines for not showing up on the court appearance date when they are issued a ticket. Tickets that are currently considered criminal offenses would be considered infractions under the new law.

More than 4 million tickets are issued in California each year

If it passes, this change could produce some seismic changes in the California court system because more than 70% of the state’s criminal cases currently involve traffic citations.

The new law would apply only to tickets that are considered infractions. These are traffic violations that are considered minor in nature, such as making an unsafe lane change, running a stop sign or speeding up to 15 miles per hour over the posted limit.

Tickets that are considered misdemeanors would still be handled as criminal offenses. This would include violations such as driving under the influence, among others.

Good news and bad news if you get a traffic ticket

While the change will be seen as resoundingly good news by California drivers because penalties, consequences and emotions will not be as high, there is an offset to this proposed change. Currently, when a person appears in court to fight a ticket, rules dictate that evidence must be produced to show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the new system, the burden of proof would be reduced so that evidence only needs to show that the person “more likely than not” committed the traffic violation.

If a driver does not appear on their scheduled court date, the judge can decide the matter without them by issuing a default judgment. However, instead of appearing in front of a judge, a driver could contest a ticket in writing. If they lose the judgment, they would still have the right to appeal as is the case in civil matters.

The Law Office of David Leicht serves the California communities of Barstow, Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Adelanto, Baker, Needles, Lucerne Valley, Big Bear, San Bernardino, Mojave, Phelan, and Wrightwood. For a free consultation, call (760) 256-3104.