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Traffic Fines, License Suspensions, and Traffic School in California

by Jerry Munroe

Navigating the busy streets of the Golden State can be an exhilarating experience. Still, it comes with its fair share of challenges. From the lure of the open freeways to the maze of the metropolitan streets, even the most cautious drivers must tread carefully.

This article will dive into the various traffic violations and their corresponding fines. We’ll also look at different ways your license can be suspended and how to reinstate it. Lastly, we’ll explore the realm of traffic schools and the eligibility for attending one. Let's get into it!

What are the Traffic Fines in California?

To understand traffic fines, you must first know the violations that lead to them. Traffic violations in California can be categorized into three types:

  • Infractions,
  • Misdemeanors,
  • Parking citations.

Traffic courts solely handle infractions, whereas Criminal courts handle misdemeanors. However, some infractions may be treated as misdemeanors depending on the severity of the situation. That said, you might end up in a Criminal court instead of a traffic court, so always be careful while cruising through the freeways!

On the other hand, you have parking citations; which are generally processed by the city or law enforcement agency that issues them. In most cases, you will not go through the court system. All you need to do is follow the instructions on your citation, and you'll be good to go.

Traffic violations are further categorized into those requiring a mandatory appearance in court and those that can be sorted out electronically or by mail. For those requiring mandatory appearance, you may need to do the following before the appearance date:

  • Attend traffic school if you're eligible. (we'll get into the details shortly)
  • Pay the traffic ticket before the required appearance date.


An Infraction is a breach of certain provisions or failure to comply with the said provisions of the Vehicle Code. Most infractions are considered minor traffic offenses.

They’re typically punishable by fines. The average penalty for an infraction is around $200. Mandatory community service, such as trash pickup, may also be required in some cases.

Examples of infractions include...

  • Speeding,
  • Running a red light or stop sign,
  • Texting while driving,
  • Mechanical violations.


Going past the posted speed limit is considered an infraction and may even be considered a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances; which can significantly affect the fines. So, how much does a speeding ticket cost?

It’s sometimes difficult to estimate the cost of a speeding ticket because of added state or county-imposed fines. But generally speaking the overall cost can be around $490 or more. Below is a summary of the base, and estimated fines you can expect:

The speed limit (mph) Base fine Estimated total fee
1 - 15 $35 Up to $238
16 - 25 $70 Up to $367
26 - 99 $100 Up to $490
100 and above $200 $500 and above

Running a red light or stop sign

Based on the nature of your violation, the red light fine will probably vary, but you can expect to pay between $35 to $100, or even more. You may also receive demerit points on your driving record; which can lead to your license being suspended.

Costs Summary:

Violation Base Fine Estimated total fine
Running a stop sign $100 $100-$250
Running a flashing or solid red light $100 $200-$500
Rolling Legal Turn and rolling stops $35 $200-$250

Many locations throughout California have red light cameras installed to capture violators; which automatically mail out a ticket. Hence, responding promptly when you receive one of these tickets is critical.

Texting while driving

There are multiple laws that ban hand-held cell phones and wireless devices while behind the wheel. The first prohibits all drivers from using hand-held cell phones, while the second prohibits all those under 18 years old from using cell phones. The third law speficifally bans texting.

Below is a summary of the estimated fines you can expect:

Violation Base fine Estimated total fine
1st-time offense $20 At least $160
2nd-time offense $50 At least $250

You might be wondering if other penalties, like points on your license, will accompany these fines. Luckily, a cell phone ticket alone does not lead to a point.

However, if you receive a cell phone ticket within 36 months of a previous one or any other distracted driving violation, you will receive one point. This point will remain on your record for the next 36 months.

Mechanical violations

If you're caught driving a vehicle with missing or broken equipment needing repair, you’ve committed a mechanical violation. Some examples include a cracked windshield, burned-out headlights, brake lights, turn signals, etc.

Traffic tickets for mechanical violations are often known as fix-it tickets or correctable violations. When you receive a fix-it ticket, you’re expected to correct the specific mechanical issue before the date you appear in court.

Once you’ve done the repairs, you’ll need to show proof of the correction to an authorized personnel, such as a local law enforcement officer, who’ll then complete the Certificate of Correction. Your violation will be dismissed once you submit this certificate, plus a $25 fee, to the court.

However, you shouldn’t allow these tickets to pile up, as you risk having your license suspended.

Other correctable violations include:

  • Getting a fix-it ticket for not having your valid driver's license with you.
  • Getting a fix-it ticket for operating a vehicle without a current registration tag.


Misdemeanors are more serious violations, so criminal courts in charge of handling them rather than a regular traffic court.

Here’s a list of California's most common misdemeanor offenses:

  • Reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)
  • Hit and run

Reckless driving

Offenses like reckless driving might lead to fines of up to $1000, license suspension for up to 6 months, mandatory traffic school, and even imprisonment for up to 90 days.

Driving under the influence (DUI)

DUI offenses may get you up to five years of summary probation and fines of up to $2,000, depending on whether it’s your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd offense. For first-time offenders, mandatory completion of a 30-hour alcohol program will also be required.

Here’s a summary of DUI fines and their respective license suspension duration:

Violation Estimated fines License suspension
1st-time offense $390 and $1,000 Up to 6 months
2nd-time offense $390 to $2,000 Up to 24 months
3rd-time offense $390 and $2,000 Up to 36 months
DUI causing injury $390-$5,000 in fines Up to 36 months


If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run, the penalties include up to 6 months in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and two points on your California drivers license. Furthermore, you might be placed on probation for three years and required to complete community service if you have a criminal history.

What can trigger a license suspension?

License suspensions can occur due to excessive points on your driving record. They may also arise from receiving multiple traffic violations, committing serious offenses such as a DUI, or failing to appear in court.

How do you get your license reinstated?

You must complete the required suspension period to reinstate your license, pay any outstanding fines or fees, and potentially attend mandatory traffic school or counseling program.

To ensure a smooth transition back to driving legally. Following the specific instructions the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides is imperative.

Traffic School

After receiving a ticket, you’ll probably want to attend traffic school for most violations. This is because completing an approved course will allow you to dismiss specific traffic citations, prevent points from being added to your driving record, and avoid a surge in your auto insurance premium.

Please note that certain violations such as DUI offenses don’t usually qualify for traffic school, as they carry more severe consequences.

As an added benefit, traffic school allows you to refresh your knowledge of laws, defensive driving techniques, and safe practices on the road, thus promoting safer driving.

How do you know if you’re eligible for traffic school?

Not everyone can attend traffic school, as the court will look at the following:

  • If you've got a valid driver's license,
  • If the ticket is related to a noncommercial vehicle,
  • If you haven't attended traffic school in the past 18 months, and lastly,
  • If your ticket is not from a "Serious" infraction.

If you’re eligible, you’ll be required to pay the court the full file, plus a traffic school fee, followed by signing up and attending the school.

Key Takeaways

In this article, we’ve provided an in-depth exploration of various traffic violations and their corresponding penalties, from infractions such as speeding that carry fines of around $490, to misdemeanors such as a DUI that can lead to higher penalties, consisting of a fine up to $5000, license suspension, mandatory traffic school, and even imprisonment.

We’ve also discussed what causes license suspensions, how to get them reinstated, and the importance of traffic school. No one likes getting a traffic ticket, but failing to address it can cause long-term problems for your license, your insurance rate, and potentially your freedom.
If you ever find yourself in a bind and are in the process of getting your license suspended, call our traffic ticket attorneys at Auto Allies and let us help you. We can dismiss your alleged traffic violations and keep the points off your record.