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California Auto Driving Laws

If you are stopped by a police officer and cited for a driving violation, you sign a promise to appear in traffic court.

When you go to court, you may plead guilty or not guilty of violating the California driving law, or you may forfeit (pay) bail. Paying bail is the same as a guilty plea.

If you ignore the traffic ticket and don't keep your promise to appear in court, the failure to appear (FTA) goes on your driver record. If you fail to pay a fine (FTP), the court will notify DMV and this will also show on your driver record. Even one FTA or FTP can cause the department to suspend your license. Ending the suspension will cost you a reissue fee of $55.

Each time you are convicted of a moving violation of California traffic laws, the court notifies the DMV. The conviction is placed on your driver license record. Convictions for violations of traffic laws reported by other states are also added to your driver record.

Points on the Driver Record

The department keeps a public record of all your California driving law convictions and traffic accidents. Each occurrence stays on your record for 36 months or longer, depending on the type of conviction. Under California traffic laws, you may be considered a negligent operator of a motor vehicle when your driving record shows any one of the following "point count" totals regardless of your license class:

  • 4 points in 12 months
  • 6 points in 24 months
  • 8 points in 36 months

Examples of one point violations:

  • A traffic conviction.
  • An at-fault accident.

Examples of two point violations:

  • Reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs
  • Hit-and-run driving
  • Evading a peace officer
  • Driving while suspended or revoked
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.

If you get too many "points", you will lose your driver license. A California driving law violation received in a commercial vehicle carries one and one-half times the point count normally assessed.

Suspension or Revocation by DMV

If you get too many negligent driver points, DMV will place you on probation for one year (which includes a six-month suspension) or revoke your driving privilege. In accordance with California traffic laws, you are entitled to a hearing if your request is postmarked or received within ten days of receiving the suspension or revocation order.

At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present evidence (documentation) and testify on your behalf to show why your license should not be suspended or revoked. Based on all the evidence, the hearing officer will determine if your license will be suspended, placed on probation, or revoked. At the end of the suspension or revocation period, you may apply for a new license and you must show proof of financial responsibility.

NOTE: In accordance with California driving law, DMV will revoke your license for a conviction of hit-and-run driving or reckless driving which results in injury.

Traffic Violator School Dismissals

Under California traffic laws, when a driver is cited for a California driving law violation, the judge may offer the driver the opportunity to attend a Traffic Violator School.

Drivers may participate once in any 18-month period to have a citation dismissed. Only one ticket can be removed from the driving record this way.

The course gives participants an understanding of traffic safety by emphasizing driver responsibility, proper driver attitude, and California driving laws.

Traffic Violator Schools are located throughout the state, however, not all counties participate in the program.

Suspension by Judge

In accordance with California driving law, a judge may suspend the license of anyone convicted:

  • Of breaking speed laws or reckless driving for up to:
    • 30 days on the first conviction,
    • 60 days on a second conviction, and
    • six months on a third or subsequent conviction.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Hit-and-run.
  • Engaging in lewd conduct and prostitution in a vehicle within 1000 feet of a residence.
  • Assaulting a driver, passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian when the offense occurs on a highway (road rage). The person may be required to complete a court-approved anger management course. Failure to stop as required at a railway grade crossing.
  • Felony or misdemeanor offense of recklessly fleeing a law enforcement officer.

Regardless of point count, many serious California driving law offenses in which a vehicle is used are punishable by heavy penalties such as fines and/or imprisonment.

For More Information

California Department of Transportation


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