We have all heard of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When receiving a traffic ticket, it is common for drivers to go through these five stages of grief.

First, you may deny the officer’s accusation. Then, sometimes almost immediately, the anger stage begins. You might bargain with the officer about the ticket he or she is writing you. After you receive the ticket, you feel depressed thinking about the money and time you will spend paying or fighting the ticket.
Many times, drivers initially plan on fighting the charges. As time passes, however, acceptance sets in. You decide it is easiest to just plead guilty to the ticket and send in a check.

In some cases, this may be a fine way for you to handle your ticket. For example, this decision makes sense if it is a 0-point violation and will not cause your insurance rates to increase. In most cases, however, paying the ticket may be an expensive mistake!

Some Traffic Tickets are Actually misdemeanors

Not all traffic tickets are equal. Some can actually be misdemeanors! You may notice that there is an “M” and an “I” to the right of the Vehicle Code violation on your ticket. Often times, an officer will circle the “M” and cite you for a misdemeanor violation. The traffic court, however, may reduce the charge to an infraction.

sample criminal ticket from san diego

Getting a charge reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction is usually a great result! However, in traffic court, this can actually result in you paying more money and have more charges on your driving record.

The reason for this is simple: in San Diego, if you face misdemeanor charges, a prosecutor reviews the case. In traffic court, there are no prosecutors. Only the judge and the police officer are present. This means you cannot negotiate your case or your charges.

Negotiation can lead to great results! You can have some of your charges dismissed or reduced. Often times, you may have a very good explanation for the violation but it does not qualify as an actual defense. A judge can either find you guilty or not guilty. A prosecutor, on the other hand, can listen to your attorney and consider your explanation.

The following are some examples of common “wobblettes“- violations that may be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction:

California Vehicle Code section 12500 (driving without a valid license)
California Vehicle Code section 40508 (failure to appear)
California Vehicle Code section 14601.1 (driving on a suspended license) (2 points)
California Vehicle Code section 23109(c) (speed contest) (2 points)

Not every driver should elect to have an eligible violation proceed as a misdemeanor rather than an infraction. In some cases, the court’s reduction to the infraction may actually be a gift! This strategic decision must be made on a case-by-case basis because there are many factors to take into consideration.

If you believe your San Diego County Traffic Ticket should be evaluated, call an experienced attorney today.