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Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

5. Traffic Tickets and Unpaid Fines

Current Traffic Tickets. Traffic tickets may often be handled in a number of different ways. Read the back of your citation to obtain information about how to handle current tickets. Click here to see a sample of a Calistoga Police Department Citation & Promise to Appear and scroll down to the back side to read about options or click on the traffic court link below.

Contesting a Trial. Most people would benefit by fighting a ticket if there are any viable defenses or one has the time to see if the arresting officer shows up at a trial in traffic court. Click here for Napa County's Traffic Trial Information. Usually a traffic defendant may contest citations in writing without having to appear in court. Click here for Trial by Declaration instructions, and here for an approved Request Form fillable online.

Traffic School. If there are no defenses to a traffic ticket, or you do not wish to fight it, you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Napa County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Napa County Traffic Court. Click here for a list of Napa County's Approved Classroom Traffic Schools, and here for a list of Approved Homestudy (Internet) Traffic Schools, successful completion of which would result in no further points if so ordered by the court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits. Discuss your specific situation with a local Napa DUI attorney.

Suspended Driver License. You may receive a Collection Notice with respect to unpaid fines. If your driving privileges are suspended due to unpaid traffic tickets (failure to appear--FTA--or failure to pay--FTP), then if you pay off the tickets, the Napa County court in Napa will release its hold on your license and you will be able to reacquire your driving privileges.

The county where you got the ticket while driving is the county which must lift its hold, not the DMV or your county of residence if you live outside Napa County. Each county which has a hold on your license for a nonappearance (FTA) or nonpayment (FTP) must be addressed separately. One of the most efficient methods for ensuring you fix every problem causing a suspension is to go to the Napa DMV field office and ask for a long form H-6 driver license printout. Ask the counter clerk to circle each and every item causing a suspension, and the county where each item must be cleared.

Next, in Napa County it is usually best to visit the courthouse, or you may call the Napa County Court at (707) 299-1100, to determine the current status of your matters. Reference each citation number if you have documentation, but be sure to ask for a grand total of all matters including late charges, etc. You may also research your matters online at: Napa’s Online Court Case Lookup.

DUI Attorney Amnesty InfoAmnesty Program: Unpaid Traffic Tickets

The best Napa County DUI lawyers know that on June 24, 2015, Governor Brown signed into law an 18-month amnesty program, which allows individuals with past-due court-ordered debt (but not DUIs) to receive a reduction in the amount owed and reinstate their driver licenses.

The amnesty program, for unpaid infraction tickets or failures to appear with fine due dates or court dates prior to January 1, 2013, is part of an effort to allow individuals who cannot afford to pay accumulated fines on old traffic and non-traffic tickets to start making payments in order to lift license holds and begin driving legally again. Napa DUI attorneys will tell you that, in addition, the state will start to recoup some of the billions of dollars outstanding for old fines and fees, win-win situation.

Who can participate. Any persons eligible to have a driver's license, including undocumented individuals who are eligible for a driver's license under AB 60, are entitled to participate in the traffic amnesty program if they meet the eligibility requirements. There are two groups of people who can participate in the amnesty program: (1) Persons with unpaid tickets whose fines were originally due to be paid or had a court date on or before January 1, 2013, are eligible to have their debt reduced by 50 or 80 percent depending on income, and have their driver's licenses reinstated. (2) Persons who are currently making payments for unpaid tickets both before and after January 1, 2013, are eligible to have their driver's license reinstated but are not eligible for a reduction in the amount they owe on their payment plan(s).

People ineligible due to timing may still have their driver’s license returned, but will not have their fines reduced. Otherwise eligible persons may be excluded from the amnesty program if they owe victim restitution on any case within the county or have certain outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants.

What kinds of tickets are eligible. Any infractions will qualify for amnesty. Unpaid tickets and related failure to appear violations with an initial payment due date or court date on or before January 1, 2013, are eligible. Individual superior courts and counties may extend this program to include some misdemeanors. This amnesty program does not apply to parking tickets, reckless driving, and DUI offenses.

How new payment amounts are determined. Under the amnesty program, eligible participants will not have to pay any civil assessments or penalties which accumulated for late payment or nonpayment of past tickets. Once the civil assessments are deducted, the remaining balance owed will be reduced by 50 to 80 percent depending on income level. The discount will be 80 percent for those who can certify that they make less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level — $14,712 for an individual, or $30,312 for a family of four — or who receive public assistance. The discount will be 50 percent for all other eligible participants.

Procedure to participate. Beginning on October 1, 2015, contact the superior court in the jurisdiction(s) where you received the traffic ticket(s) to determine your eligibility to participate in the traffic amnesty program. People who are eligible for amnesty will not have to see a judge. Courts or counties are permitted to collect an amnesty program fee of $50 payable to the superior court or county. The Department of Motor Vehicles will also charge a $55 driver's license reinstatement fee as it does for any license reinstatement. Payment plan options will be available through the superior court or the county and the payments under the plan will be based on the ability to pay.

Although Napa DUI lawyers may complain that there's no legitimate reason to disallow DUI fines and fees in this program, nevertheless, the best Napa County DUI lawyers applaud any program which helps millions of Californians to re-obtain legal driving privileges so they can better support their families and accomplish daily necessities. Click here for Current Napa County Amnesty Policy, and check the Napa County Traffic Court site for updates. You may also find helpful information on the nonprofit website: Back on the Road CA. For a complete text of the larger bill establishing the amnesty program, see, Text of SB85.

Collection Problems and Unaffordable Late Fees (Outside or After the Amnesty Program)

Pending Court Matters. If you have a current criminal court case of any kind in Napa County (a serious case or another traffic ticket, or even just on probation for a past case), then the court has jurisdiction to hear you on these old matters, so you or your DUI attorney can try asking the Napa judge in the current Napa County case to examine your old tickets and dismiss some of them, and/or remove the late penalty fees assessed pursuant to Penal Code Section 1214.1, and set up a payment plan for the remainder of the fees so that you can afford to pay and successfully cause the removal of the Napa County hold on your license.

You or your Napa DUI lawyer can point out to the court that if you can drive legally, then you may not have as many legal problems in the future and you may be able to start getting your life back in order by addressing substantial personal challenges such as employment, child care, etc. If you are or were incarcerated, then you can ask the court for credit for time served to simply dismiss all of the tickets and release the hold on your license.

Failure To Appear. If you do not have a current court case but you receive a DMV Notice Of Suspension for failure to appear (rather than failure to pay after appearing) then usually you can arrange with the court collections department to pay one-half of the amount owed and obtain a payment plan for the remainder in exchange for the court lifting its license hold.

Failure to Pay. If you receive a DMV notice of suspension for failure to pay a ticket after appearing in court and promising to pay a fine, but you have a recognized reason for nonpayment within the allowed time, such as military service, incarceration, hospitalization, or death of a family member, then the collections department may lift its license hold if you can pay a satisfactory amount and arrange payments for the remaining owed. If you have a compelling reason not listed above, for example homelessness or drug addiction, then you may wish to consider writing a letter to the judge as described below, to ask for the same arrangements. You should consult with a local Napa County DUI attorney about your specific situations.

If you are suspended for failure to pay after appearing in court, and you are able to afford the original bail amount of the tickets, then you may wish to consider paying that amount at the Napa courthouse and petitioning the Napa County Traffic Court to waive the late penalty fees on any remaining totals. This approach typically works best when you have a recognized valid reason for nonpayment within the allowed time, such as military service, incarceration, hospitalization, or death of a family member. Any compelling hardship reasons should be included in such a petition to the Napa court, including economic and family hardship.

Click here to see an example of such a court request with the Sonoma County Petition, the Napa County Petition, the Solano County Petition, and the Mendocino County Petition to dismiss accumulated late fees and penalties.

Letter to the Judge. You may wish to write a letter to the Napa County traffic court judge to ask for leniency due to extraordinary circumstances which prevented you from appearing or paying in a timely fashion. A succinct, well-written letter which acknowledges responsibility and presents compelling reasons for nonpayment and offers an affordable payment plan may accomplish the reduction of a substantial amount of your accumulated total or even dismissal of tickets and release of your license.

You may obtain contact information on this site for the Napa County courts and the traffic, fines and collection departments in Napa by clicking here on Napa County Traffic Court.

Failure to Pay Judgement in Traffic or Accident-Related Lawsuit

A related "failure to pay" suspension involves a driver license suspension for someone who failed to pay a judgement awarded by a court in an action described in Vehicle Code Sections 16370-16381. Typically, a judgement creditor (presumably the person or entity whom you owe money) submits a Form DL30 to DMV swearing to certain facts about the judgement debt. Click here to see an example of an "Order of Suspension" describing the DMV action, the judgement and certain options. You can explore obtaining payments on a judgement as described in Section 16379 to get rid of the suspension, or explore obtaining a restricted license as described in Section 16072 to alleviate the hardship of a suspension. This section is included here because Napa County DUI lawyers confront all kinds of license suspensions.

Failure to Pay Child Support

Napa DUI attorneys will tell you that under California law, parents required to pay court ordered child support must pay on time and in full. If the payment is late or is not paid in full, the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) can suspend or withhold a California driver (or other) license, pursuant to Family Code Section 17520. When the parent required to pay child support is 30 days or more delinquent, their name is submitted by DCSS to the DMV for suspension of their license. DMV sends a letter giving the parent 150 days to work with DCSS to pay their past due support. If payment isn't made, the driver license suspension is imposed on the parent.

Further, if a notice of intent to suspend has been sent to the same parent in the past, the parent's license will automatically be suspended when a child support payment is late again or not paid in full. If your driver license has been suspended due to non-payment of child support, you may call your local child support agency to discuss a possible license release by re-establishing payment arrangements. You can find the location of your local child support agency by clicking on Local Child Support Agencies, or by calling: (866) 901-3212. A Napa DUI attorney can help direct parents with these issues to the appropriate agency to help get their license back.

Failure to Pay Taxes

Starting in January, 2012, the California State Board of Equalization and the Franchise Tax Board publish lists of the the 500 largest tax delinquencies. Persons and entities appearing on these lists are subject to driver (and other) license suspensions pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 494.5. Successfully negotiating and resolving issues with the applicable tax authority results in lifting of any suspension imposed.

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Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, Wine Country resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of North Bay DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.

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