Capitol Alert

Californians can now contest traffic tickets without paying

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye answers questions from The Bee's Editorial Board last January.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye answers questions from The Bee's Editorial Board last January. rbenton@sacbee.com

California courts are no longer allowed to require motorists contesting traffic tickets to pay their fines beforehand.

The Judicial Council on Monday unanimously approved the urgent rule change at the request of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who cited recent reports documenting the increasing barriers for those challenging traffic citations.

The directive, which took effect immediately, provides for certain exceptions but requires courts statewide to give traffic defendants notice of their options.

Though many of California’s largest counties for the most part do not require payment up front, Cantil-Sakauye said she wanted to demonstrate the courts’ willingness to confront “what some have coined the ‘pay-to-play’ system.’”

“This is an important first step to address an urgent access-to-justice issue,” she told colleagues at the meeting Monday. “More work lies ahead.”

Cantil-Sakauye said the council may consider new rules that eliminate up-front payment for all infractions, and in particular cases where a person has failed to pay or appear at their initial court hearing.

Christopher Cadelago: (916) 326-5538, @ccadelago

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