Driving without lighting equipment during darkness presents an immediate safety hazard and thus is the reason that you can be ticketed for not having your headlights on. Driving in the dark without your lights is a violation of California Vehicle Code (CVC) 24250.
This part of CA law states that during darkness, a vehicle shall be equipped with lighted lighting equipment as required for the vehicle by this chapter. The CA Department of Motor Vehicles notes that a motorist should turn their headlights on when darkness makes it harder to see (no later than one-half hour after sunset). It is illegal to use parking lights rather than headlights.
In fact you should turn on your headlights from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise or if snow, rain, fog, or other hazardous weather condition requires the continuous use of windshield wipers, or when visibility is not sufficient to clearly see a person or a vehicle for a distance of 1,000 feet.
If you were written under CVC 24250 than the CA points list does note that 1 point will be assigned to your California driving record for this offense. This of course means the violation will also go on your driving record if you are convicted of it. We have read that the fine is usually around $150 for failing to turn on your lights at night or during darkness.
So conviction of this will be a point on your MVR and may affect your insurance since your insurance carrier will see the offense when they next look at your motor vehicle record. However this is a minor offense so may not affect your rates if it is the only thing on your driving record. If you have other violations on your record than this one added to it may raise your rates since driving without your headlights on at night may confirm to the insurer you are not that safe of a driver and thus a higher risk to them.
It is likely that you could request traffic school and keep this offense off your record but you would need to check with the court listed on your citation to see if this option is available to you or not. Since you can take traffic school only once every 18 months you may decide that you do not want to take it for such a minor offense. You can then speak to your insurance agent to see how this violation would affect your rates. If a conviction of driving in the dark without headlights with your current insurance company you should click here to get discount auto insurance for CA.