Question: Can you go to traffic school for a ticket for talking on a cell phone in California?
Answer: The California Department of Motor Vehicles notes that fine for violating the new cell phone laws will be $20 for a first offense and $50 for a second or subsequent conviction. There is also a penalty assessment which basically comes out to be three times the amount of the fine plus a state surcharge and administrative fees that can be tacked on. So we have heard from drivers that end up pay around $90 for a first offense ticket. A CA cell phone violation will result in a conviction on your driving record, but it does not count as a violation point.
So while the base fine of talking on your cell phone while driving in California may be $20 but as with most all tickets in CA there are additional costs added to the base fine amount. There are state and county fees typically as well as court costs to process the ticket and thus a ticket can easily be double or in as in this case 4 times the base fine amount.
It really depends upon the county in which you are issued the ticket as to how much the total amount will be. For example driving without seat belt also comes with a $20 fine but can end up costing anywhere from $75 to $95 usually once all fees and additional costs are added in. The court listed on the ticket should be able to give you a breakdown of the fees and costs over the base fine of $20 for a cell phone violation.
To the best of our knowledge you can request traffic school for a cell phone ticket however since it does not come with a point being added to your driving record and you are only allowed to take this driver improvement course once every 18 months you may want to pay the ticket and save the option of traffic school in case you get another type of traffic ticket where you want to keep the point from being added to your California driving record.
According to one CA county traffic court to be eligible for the Traffic School Dismissal Program, you must meet certain requirements (California Rules of Court 4.104). You may qualify if:
- You currently possess a valid driver license;
- The violation(s) on your citation are eligible. Any violation that carries a negligent operator point count of more than one point or one and one-half points or more is not eligible;
- You have not attended traffic school in the last 18 months from your first violation date to the most recent violation.
- Your citation is not for a violation of Vehicle Code section 22406.5 (tank vehicles);
- Your citation is not related to alcohol use or possession or drug use or possession.
- You have not failed to appear under Vehicle Code section 40508(a) unless the failure-to-appear charge has been adjudicated and any fine imposed has been paid;
- You have not failed to appear under Penal Code section 1214.1 unless the civil monetary assessment has been paid;
- Your citation is for speeding in which the speed alleged is less than 25 miles over the speed limit;
- Your violation did not occur in a commercial vehicle;
- You do not hold a class A, B or C commercial driver license.
It is a new law that went into effect in 2008 that you cannot attend traffic school for violations with a point total of more than one. Most people attend traffic school for a 1 point violation such as speeding, running a red light or stop sign, or unsafe lane change. Occasionally, courts had allowed drivers with more serious 2 point violations to attend traffic school. This effectively and unfairly allowed drivers to maintain their good driver discount according to lawmakers.
The new California law prohibits a court from allowing a driver who commits a two point violation to attend traffic school to clear their ticket. Two point violations include DUI, speed contest, reckless driving, hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter to name a few.
The best way to see if you are eligible for traffic school if you received a cell phone ticket in California is to check with the court listed on your citation. The clerk of the court should be able to advise you if this is an option for you and if so how to request traffic school so the ticket does not go on your driving record. As we mentioned earlier this option is only allowed once every 18 months so before choosing to take it you may want to see if having a cell phone ticket listed on your motor vehicle record (MVR) would affect you in any way.
You can contact your agent to see if a cell phone ticket would raise your rates or take away a good driver discount. If your employer checks your driving record than you could also see if a cell phone ticket would affect you at work. Once you have this information you can decide whether you want to take traffic school or pay the ticket and have it placed on your MVR.