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.