A California driver can fight a traffic citation in court and still attend traffic school if found guilty. This may come as news to some, because of the way California judges tend to present the options to defendants.

Traditionally, at the outset of a court hearing, judges tell cited drivers they can go to traffic school for an infraction they committed. Then they list the pros and cons. Traffic school erases the violation “points” from the violator’s record, so it will not affect his or her insurance or driving record. Traffic school also requires an admission of guilt to the offense, a payment for the schooling, and time donated to completing the course. The erasure of the ticket from the record generally makes traffic school an attractive offer, and judges are aware of that.

However, there is a statute in the California Vehicle Code, section 42005, which says the court may permit a driver “who pleads guilty or no contest or is convicted of a traffic offense, to complete a course of instruction at a licensed traffic violator school.”So, when judges speak to a defendant, they typically offer the defendant traffic school in exchange for an admission, and tell him or her that he must take or leave that option. The judge then usually further advises the defendant that if he or she chooses to take the ticket to trial, the opportunity to attend traffic school if found guilty will no longer exist. This puts drivers in the position of weighing whether or not to test their luck at trial and risk the traffic school option.

Unbeknownst to most, a driver can lose at trial and still request traffic school from a judge. A judge is not allowed to deny traffic school on the sole basis that the defendant took the case to trial, but rather must have a meritorious reason. If a judge offers traffic violator school before trial, he cannot revoke that offer after trial due to the inconvenience of simply having had a trial. The only caveat is that the defendant must request traffic school post-conviction.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, or their professional license is at risk, contact Attorney Miranda McCroskey for an immediate consultation at (833) 865-6253 or email her at info@unlocklegal.com.

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