So you got a traffic ticket and you’re going to Traffic Court. You won’t be alone.

“Business is booming in Traffic Court,” said Sonoma County Superior Court Commissioner Carla Bonilla, who’s been handling it for about five years.

Bonilla said she used to handle up to 50 cases a day but now it’s common to have 70 or more a day. To give people a better chance of having their cases heard, she said the court added a Friday morning session.

Even so, she said, “we have had to turn people away.”

Bonilla blames the poor economy for most of the jump in cases.

“So many people are out of work or their pay has been cut that they figure, ‘I’ll just go to court and see (what happens); it’s better than just paying the ticket,’ ” she said.

Depending upon the traffic violation and the person’s case, Bonilla said she may reduce the fine or expand the time to pay it. But one fine she said she rarely lower is for not wearing a seat belt, noting that it’s a matter of safety.

To make life easier if you appear in Traffic Court, Bonilla suggests the following:

Traffic Court Don’ts

1. Don’t wear shorts, tank tops, etc., or chew gum in court.

2. Don’t talk over or keep interrupting the judicial officer hearing your case.

3. Don’t sit in the audience talking while other cases are being heard.

4. Don’t “take it out on traffic staff” because you’re upset about your ticket.

5. Turn off your cell phones in court.

Traffic Court Do’s

1. Be courteous and respectful in court. This is your judicial system.

2. Actually read the code section you are being charged with before setting a trial. (The Vehicle Code is available at the law library or online.)

3. Pay attention to other peoples’ cases being heard. You’ll generally learn something helpful for your case.

4. If you have an issue with the officer’s behavior at the stop, do not make this the only focus of your trial. (Generally, this is an issue to be taken up with the policy agency.)

5. Be prepared to spend pretty much the whole morning in court.

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  1. Doony

    Is this not basic knowledge? If you do not know these things then I’m sorry to inform you that you are an imbecile. Basic courtesy is half of these suggestions.

    June 2nd, 2010 9:21 am

  2. Yeah Right

    Here’s why you see more people in Traffic Court….they are writing more tickets to make up for the short-fall in tax revenue. It’s just another form of taxation….try driving the 101 during rush hours and count all of the CHP & Sheriff’s cars? They should have their own lane.

    June 2nd, 2010 12:41 pm

  3. David

    They’re writing more tickets…isn’t it obvious? Can’t drive the 101 in SoCo without seeing 2-3 people pulled over, especially in the north county (windsor-cloverdale).

    They got me. Young dude (rookie) said, after spending almost 10 minutes trying to find an infraction on his computer (my records’ clean) “Well, I wasn’t going to write you up, but I just saw your cracked windshield”. Thanks buddy…for telling me you WERE going to let me go, but you changed your mind.

    Now I’m going to court for a fix it.

    June 2nd, 2010 3:48 pm

  4. Thuan Pham

    I don’t listen to any of this recommendations. People are not the slave of the system. Once you live your life by what they tell you to, democracy is dead. Trust your instinct.

    One report that I read on Yahoo’s front page a few months ago, statistically show that lawyers are judges the most dangerous drivers in the U.S. Now you should know that they don’t give x about you, so should you be a good pet when they tell you to.

    June 2nd, 2010 7:03 pm

  5. Wendy

    I have had the unfortunate situation of attending traffic court recently. My advice… Show up early, at least by 7, you’ll have a better chance of getting in. Bring a book or newspaper, it takes awhile but is well worth it. Carla Bonilla is such a nice lady and I think she is Very fair! Over and over she gave people a break on their tickets and gave very good advice, she also is quite humurous. Go with a positive attitude, everyone else there is in the same boat! I’m sure you will find like I did that it was well worth the wait! Take care and happy driving!

    June 2nd, 2010 11:25 pm


    It used to be, if the cop didn’t show up, it was automatically thrown out by the judge. At least in Marin.

    June 3rd, 2010 4:00 am

  7. muzzleless

    Thuan, Are you 12? To which of the suggestions do you object? Being polite? Being smart enough to understand the charge? Dressing appropriately so the judge doesn’t think, “What an idiot?” However, as an observer, violators of all these common sense suggestions often generate amusement when the judge, or even bailiff, gets a shot at them. So, you want to make people laugh at you — and still get slapped with a fine — go for it.

    July 19th, 2010 10:39 am

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