Q I finally got myself a speeding ticket from the friendly CHP on Interstate 80 in Sacramento (first one in 30 years -- all my fault). I have been trying every couple of days on the DMV online site to find the amount of the fine, how to pay it and how to take the online course.
But no matter what requested data I enter, there is no record of my ticket. There is a Sacramento phone number, but nobody answers. Maybe the nice CHP officer decided I was so nice that he didn't turn it in. What do I do?
A Remain patient -- and vigilant. All traffic tickets are processed through the superior court in the county where they were issued. But information on fines, court dates or traffic school options would not be available until that ticket's information is manually entered into the database by the court. If you search for it before the ticket information is entered, there will be no record on file.
Steve-the-CHP-Man says: "The best advice I can give is to look at his copy of the ticket. At the bottom of the ticket are two important pieces of information. First the contact information for the specific court that is processing the ticket, and second the 'Promise to appear' date. If he is getting close to the appear date, contact the court immediately on how to proceed. There is no standard amount of time given until the appearance date, as it varies from court to court based upon their projected processing times. If there is still a significant time until that appear date, continue to check online and hopefully the information will show up online."
You may or may not receive a courtesy notice in the mail. However, regardless whether or not a courtesy notice is received, the person ticketed is held accountable to contact the court, as the next poor fellow discovered.
Q I had an interesting, if not infuriating, story and thought you might be able to weigh in.
About a year ago I was issued a moving violation in Mountain View. I'd stopped at a red light and touched my mobile device. Because it was not in a dashboard mount, that was illegal and the officer wrote me a citation. The officer told me to expect a follow-up letter in a few weeks, which would tell me the value of the fine, whether or not I should go to traffic school, etc.
I waited a few weeks but never heard anything until a month ago when I got a call from Alliance One, a debt collector saying I owed them $772 for a debt regarding that violation. I contacted the Santa Clara courthouse and found that they had been sending mail to the wrong address.
I had given the correct address and police had written the correct address, but mail was not getting to me due to a transcription error by the court. I was told quite sternly that it was my responsibility to follow up, since the fine print on back says I have to contact the court if I don't receive anything from them. I believe the operator's exact words were, "It's a courtesy letter. A courtesy." As in, I shouldn't have depended on the court to send anything at all.
This was my first citation in my life, so I had (wrongly, I suppose) assumed the court would be on top of mailing out their letters, and noticing when letters were being returned from nonexistent addresses. So now I'm footing a $772 bill because of someone else's typo!
A Let this $772 outrage serve as a warning to others: Check the fine print on the back of your ticket.
Contact Gary Richards at email@example.com or 408-920-5335.