You’re cruising along chatting on your cell phone when you get busted. You get a ticket for using that cell phone, and the cop says it’s going to cost $20 plus fees. Cool, only $20 plus fees. How much could fees be? A lot, it turns out.

Christine Gentry, court operations manager for the Sonoma County court system, gave this breakdown:

–$20 is the base fine for using that cell phone illegally.

Then there are the fees, all approved by the Legislature:

–A 20 percent surcharge: Add $4.

–State and county penalty assessments at $17 for every $10 of the base fine ($10 for the state, $7 for the county). Add $34.

–Court facilities construction fund at $3 for every $10 of the base fine. Add $6.

–State court construction penalty at $2 for every $10. Add $4.

–State DNA program assessment at $1 for every $10. Add $2.

–Additional DNA assessment at $1 for every $10. Add $2.

–Night court fee at $1 per ticket. Add $1.

–Emergency medical services assessment at $2 for every $10. Add $4.

–Courthouse security fee at $30 per ticket. Add $30.

–Criminal conviction assessment of $30 for a felony or misdemeanor and $35 for an infraction, which the cell phone violation is. Add $35.

Total cost of your ticket: $142

Now, if you get ticketed a second time for cell phone use, the base fine is $50 and the total cost, after all of the fees and assessments, is $256.

There’s legislation, SB1475, pending in the state Senate that would double the cell phone base fines to $50 for the first violation and $100 for subsequent violations. That $100 would cost you $446 after all of the fees and such are added.

So how much of the ticket cost goes to the Sonoma County city where you got the ticket? Gentry said 85 percent of the base fine goes to the city and 15 percent goes to the county. (If you get ticketed by the CHP, 100 percent of the base fine goes to the county. The CHP gets nothing.) So for that $20 base fine, a city would get $17 and the county $3.

The county court system website’s traffic division lists the fines and penalties (click here) if you want more details.

The good news is that the court system takes credit cards and e-checks and you can pay online.

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  1. James Campbell

    As far as I’m concerned they should raise the $20 fine to $250. God knows what that would calculate out to be , but it would probably stop most of the idiots from using their cell phone when their driving.

    May 24th, 2010 7:40 am

  2. Peter Peet

    Just another method Government uses to continue to ripping off it’s citizens.

    May 24th, 2010 7:51 am

  3. John Hudson

    A couple of years ago I got a ticket from the Cotati motorcycle ******* when they had just installed the stoplight at the foot of Commerce Blvd. There was an old lady ahead of me who just couldn’t deal with the changed traffic conditions and would not go through a green light. I honked at her. she still wouldn’t move. I then went around her. The cop, who was hiding, gave me a ticket for an unsafe lane change and illegal horn honking. He told me that you cannot honk your horn to get somebody to move. I looked up the law he cited me under. It only says that you MUST sound your horn when there is danger. He made up the part about not being allowed to honk your horn to get somebody to move. I paid that ticket and went to traffic school. That was a mistake. I should have fought that ticket. An infraction is a crime. They are using the criminal justice system as a fundraiser. We should all fight our tickets.

    May 24th, 2010 8:02 am

  4. Yvonne Thomas

    Sounds like RAPE to me. Services Cities and Counties provide to citizens is constantly decreasing while fines and bills are constantly increasing.

    May 24th, 2010 8:08 am

  5. Steele

    I agree with the $142 fine part of the story. I see tons of people still yammering away on the phone. I am aghast at HOW the total fine is arrived at. It seems every non related agency in the county has their hands in the mixing bowl. It is shameful.

    May 24th, 2010 8:12 am

  6. Ramon

    The great news is that it could cost someone $142 if they are caught using their phone while trying to drive! And even more the 2nd time they are caught.
    Support SB1475! We need to make the fines high enough to make people stop.

    May 24th, 2010 8:25 am

  7. Tan1662

    Notice the police are out in full REVENUE mode not just for safety! And the ticket by the CHP gets nothing is WRONG since all the money going to the State is the same as giving it to them. OUR state is now being finance by tickets/Fees and bonds on Top of all our regular taxes. It all adds up!
    So remember all of this when you Vote for more Bonds, it just increases your taxes and hurts everyone.

    May 24th, 2010 9:17 am

  8. Bennett

    It will also go up exponentially if you don’t take care of it. For instance, I had a friend move and neglect to take care of a fix-it ticket. That normally free ticket quickly became a $1000 fine with an added $150 fee to get his license out of suspension. Granted, he screwed up, but $1150 for a broken tail light? How is that not in any way reasonable? Come on now…

    Why stop with the absurdity there? Just make that $20 ticket a $20 ticket with $24980 in “court fees” and have it hand delivered to you by the officer with a cupcake and a pony.

    May 24th, 2010 10:12 am

  9. Shawna

    I agree with James 100%. By these drivers continuing to use their cell phones, they are saying that they can afford the cost of the ticket. That tells me that we need to raise the price until they decide that they can n o longer afford it. For some, that means a pretty big increase. Maybe the cost of tickets should be a % of you monthly take home salary…..added to all of the other fees that the court operations mananger cited. Maybe if you make the cost of the tickert a ridiculos amount, you’ll either 1.) make it to where they can’t pay the ticket & then they’ll get their license suspended or 2.) Make them pay out their a$$, because the still need their car for work or to transport their kids.

    May 24th, 2010 10:13 am

  10. Ted

    I agree with the ticket part of talking on the phone but all the fee’s and taxes added on come on be real. We are taxed to death already. What a rip off all the city’s and county need to get real and get there budgets under control.

    May 24th, 2010 11:06 am

  11. Kenneth Kimari

    Thank you for publishing the penalty assessments that go along with the fine. It explains a lot to people who have been ignorant over the purpose of traffic enforcement – that is it is all about safety and not generation of revenue. You can readily check city budgets and see for yourself that the revenue generated by traffic enforcement does not even begin to pay for the costs associated with enforcement to begin with. I note a few of these assessments were voter approved awhile back.

    May 24th, 2010 11:47 am

  12. Ricardo Sorentino

    For all that support these outrages ‘fees’ on just a $20 fine, I’ll assume that you never drive more than two miles per hour over the speed limit, never cut it too close on a red stop-light, always come to a complete stop and count to ‘three’ at all stop signs, u-turns where they are legal, etc, etc, etc. Otherwise, maybe they should make those $271 tickets somewhere around $2,500, just so you won’t do any of THAT a second time. There are far more tickets writtten for those infractions than cell phones used while driving, so let’s really make it hurt for those drivers.

    May 24th, 2010 12:15 pm

  13. vivianne

    It seems that people like to like only certain laws. How often do we remember that driving laws are for a reason? I for one do not want to suffrer damage, injury or death on the road. A fine helps make sure the act doesn’t happen again. It doesn’t always work that way but sometimes it does. Better, safer driving is the goal.
    I am all in favor of the cell phone fine and a bigger one at that. I am sorry that the CHP does not get a share of the fine.
    I am tired of almost getting hit several times a week because people think their conversation is more important than others’ safety.

    Focus folks- drive safely.

    May 24th, 2010 1:04 pm

  14. Chris

    I got one of those cell phone tickets, which I deserved, but it would be nice to know that it really is $142. Quite a shock when the notice arrived in the mail. It does seem like local government is taking full advantage of an opportunity to generate some income.

    May 24th, 2010 1:24 pm

  15. bookwerm

    Yes, I either accept that I must comply with the laws, or accept the financial responsibility. Only thing I do that is illegal is I will go with the flow of traffic, even though that may be over the speed limit, but not by more than 10MPH. I trade safety over risk in that instance. So yes, I do not run red lights, come to full and complete stops at every stop sign and red light. To turn right on red, I come to a complete stop, look both left AND right (most do not do the latter, putting at risk pedestrians in the cross walk a right turn would engage), then make the turn. And why not follow the law? The social contract in the US is to adhere to the laws.

    So fine, be a scofflaw, and assume everyone else rolls thru stop signs, cuts in and out of traffic to get one spot ahead, speeds in neighorhoods with little kids playing.. if that you feel better, like you have company in your disregard. And that would be true, many do as you do.

    And all of you are wrong and are a blotch on our society.

    May 24th, 2010 2:32 pm

  16. Figg

    Hey, wanna ignore the cell phone law, come up to Mendocino county, Willits especially. You’ll never ever get stopped for yakking on your cell while driving. The law is completly ignored here and never enforced.

    May 24th, 2010 4:46 pm

  17. Tom

    Tan1662, hate to break it to you. You are incorrect. The CHP gets it’s funding completely from a fee thats part of your vehicle registration.

    May 24th, 2010 6:50 pm

  18. Steve

    If the full penalty cost was about promoting deterrence against the hazard of talking on a cell phone while driving, then they would advertise the full cost.

    If folks are made to think it is merely a $20 fine, then it is an opaque way to generate much-needed revenue.

    The honest thing to do is fully advertise the actual total penalty cost, which will help promote deterrence and improve safety.

    May 24th, 2010 9:33 pm

  19. Grove

    I agree that the purpose of these laws are for safety, however for people of low income they are quite shocking, how about a 29 dollar fix it ticket that turns into $1000. Crazy, I was stupid, but how about a sliding scale ticket system? The rich guy can pay $500 or so, so he or she feels the ticket, and maybe they can reduce the the exponential growth of the ticket for the poor, hey when I finally pay the ticket, I can say to yself I could of had a new gamer computer or a 150cc scooter, anyways my stupidity, but I do think that it is definiently revenue enhancement.

    May 27th, 2010 7:31 pm

  20. mcdaniel

    hey mr cambell..1..they are talking about bicycleists not drivers…2…they’re not their…man you using a cellphone while you type? lol

    June 6th, 2010 2:47 pm

  21. Samuel

    100% for an increase in the fines, however there needs to be full disclosure on the aounts of the fines post obscure fee additions. It would become a greater deterrent to the citizens to know the true amount of a fine and would also prevent individuals from suspecting the counties and cities of doing this purely for fiscal means. Just my 2 cents.

    August 9th, 2010 2:30 pm

  22. L Lewis

    It’s called screwing the poor. How many poor souls go to jail for a parking fee?? It’s called the POOR HOUSE, the poor can’t pay, the rich can. Save the jails for the real criminals.The muggers, rapist and the thieves. The just way would be a sliding scale. Work in the community, pay it off, don’t put the poor in jail!!!There isn’t enough space for everyone!!!

    August 9th, 2010 3:22 pm

  23. mac

    What about all the idiots driving with dogs on their laps!! got cut off & almost sideswiped the other day because the lady was too busy “petting” her dog & not watching the road..driving with the dog on lap should be $1000.00 at least for the first offense, Impaired driving
    PS: i love dogs & mine is safely enjoying his large bone at home.

    August 9th, 2010 8:24 pm

  24. Kathleen L

    Holding the cell phone is not the distraction. Studies have found that it is the actual conversation on the cell phone which is the distraction. However, it is legal for someone to READ while they are driving and put on makeup.

    August 19th, 2010 4:44 pm

  25. Kayla

    Why is it that CHP and local police can talk on their cell phones? I thought that police calls came on their walkies!

    October 13th, 2010 10:15 am

  26. granny

    There’s also a “convenience fee” when paying by phone. Now that’s like adding crushed glass to the lube!

    October 27th, 2010 2:20 pm

  27. granny

    I’m noticing so many people who are just not getting the point. The clueless screaming “make it 250.00, make it hurt.” That’s fine, make it 250.00. But post it just like the car pool lanes post they’res. However what’s different, is that there isn’t 15 times the fine in fees added to the carpool lane infraction. I don’t see how this could be legal. Are there any lawyers out there to comment? How is it lawful to take one fine out of the whole bunch, and add 10-15 times the amount to the fine? And for those of you who think a ticket should be a sliding scale, consider this: The less money you have, the less you have to cover a serious accident that takes the lives of more than 1 person. You SHOULD be more motivated to follow the law because you don’t have the assets to pay for a lifetime care of a parapeligic. Some rich guy in a sport’s car may pay for tickets with the ease of putting nickels in a gumball machine, but he’ll lose his 3 houses when he’s sued for
    killing a bunch of people. The low income person will just pay the PLPD from their Insurance Company while the rest of us take care of the victim’s medical bills the rest of his life.
    Why are people more relieved when a BMW hits them, instead of a Saturn? No surprise why…
    While we’re at it: why don’t we make Walmart charge on a sliding scale? Then my dear friend we can have the socialist/communist Country you so desire.
    I own a Saturn, and no one tries to get me in an accident..I LOVE it!

    October 27th, 2010 2:48 pm

  28. Robert

    This is just another way of Taxing us Without calling it by name.The sixties brought a lot of blood sucking Commies to Sonoma County most running so they didn’t have to fight for their Country. We still have them here wanting us to make them safe. Well they did not pay the price for that right.

    January 10th, 2011 4:53 pm

  29. Theosebes Goodfellow

    And what exactly are you complaining about, Comrade? Isn’t this the socialist dream you wanted for California? If it wasn’t, then why do you keep electing Woolsey, Boxer, Feinstein and Brown? Is it any wonder that folks are moving OUT of state and illegals from Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas are moving here? The Legislature will not address govt. employee unions, illegal aliens or deficit spending. And you wonder why the state is imploding? How’s that “Hope and Change” working out for you now?

    May 13th, 2011 11:38 am

  30. huy tran

    I just wonder that I saw some police on the patrol car and using the phone while they are driving. Who gonna write them tickets? And why they are law enforcement but they are not obey the law.

    September 19th, 2011 12:05 pm

  31. nomlaki Nomad

    LEO sometimes use their cell phones as to not have nosey Noras with scanners listen to them. And I believe the LEO are exempt from cell phone laws in the performance of their duties. I agree that all the BS fees added to ticket are pure BS generated by over consumed greed. Should be no law against citizens dragging cell phone users while driving out of their cars to beat them about the head and shoulders
    most vigoriously before executing them on site.Even a fix it ticket costs $ and can lead to your death by cops when they come for you with a failure to appear warrant.

    March 29th, 2012 6:36 pm

  32. Dizzle

    If you get caught driving with a dog on your lap, the police officer should be required to strangle the dog in front of you and then write you a ticket.

    May 3rd, 2012 12:42 pm

  33. Sherry

    I understand the safety reasons as to why we shouldn’t use our cell phones. However, when you are at a stop light and you look at your cell phone for directions (navigation) how is that talking on your phone. Another thing I DO NOT agree with, is how can this law be followed or enforced when the ones giving out the tickets are on their cell phones as well. Some system!!! The next time I see a cop, sheriff, highway patrol on their cell phones I am going to take a picture and send it off… It just isnt fair. Now if someone is totally just jabbering away by all means give them a ticket but not when youre at a stop light and its RED!!!

    June 1st, 2012 9:38 am

  34. cookie

    Perhaps the problem is that
    the fines total a half weeks pay for some, and pocket change for others. Sliding scale?

    December 18th, 2012 9:01 am

  35. Jackie

    First off I read the very first comment above from James.
    It’s true about one thing that it is a law and EVERYONE should follow and that would include the policemen themselves. I have drove by handfull of police that are on their phones smiling and yapping away but obviously we can’t pull them over. As long as they’re on the phone they all of a sudden go blind to drivers that are on their phones while driving past and as soon as they get off the phone their vision returns and start handing out tickets. I do got to agree with Sherry because I do look down at my navagation and I do believe that is more dangerous than being on the phone while on the road. As far as paying over $100.00 on your first ticket I think is ridiculous there are people including officers violating worse laws. I do agree that if you didn’t learn your lesson the first time then the price should rise high for not learning your lesson. Also what we can do when we see policemen on their phones and if we take them a picture all they will do is pull you over and find a way to giv e you a ticket for haven taken their picture.

    February 2nd, 2013 12:23 pm

  36. Anytime Towing

    Bookwerm, a lil self righteous any?
    Truth be told ticketable offenses, including talking on the cell while driving, need to be enforced. There is a very real lack of appreciation for the physical forces involved when a vehicle collides with something or someone else, particularly young people. My company once towed a 16 year old’s BMW that was smashed to hell, insurance replaced it & sure enough three months later we towed the second beemer, smashed to hell. The culprit? Texting! There is no such thing as a perfect driver, the best we can hope for is that the majority of those out on the road are RESPONSIBLE drivers.
    All that having been said, justifying outrageous fines by saying that this helps keep drivers in line is a fallacious non sequitur argument. Its like saying its ok to add abusive fines to THEIR tickets. But what for the other tax payers who are having their pocketbooks raped by every other taxable angle? What have they done to deserve their local government asserting and abusing their authority to finance out of control spending.
    Its not a matter of punishing drivers who break the law, we already do that. Its a matter of drawing the line and asking when enough is enough in terms of hidden fees.

    April 7th, 2013 6:59 pm

  37. Tan162

    Tom, I hate to break this to you but the state is juggling money around to pay all it bills and The Fees are used to help pay them. You have to look at the big picture.

    May 2nd, 2013 7:29 am

  38. C.M.Davis

    Call them what you will, robbing people with words is still robbery.

    September 4th, 2013 3:39 pm

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