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On September 9th I received a traffic ticket in Berkeley. There
was no amount on the ticket & the officer said to wait a month
before calling to get the amount because it could take that long
for it to be entered into the computer. So I called after a
month & it wasn't recorded. I called a week later & again a
week after that, still not in the computer. I started to get
worried because there is a 11/2 deadline on the ticket, after
which some dire things happen if I haven't paid. Finally I
reached a human being in the Berkeley Traffic Division who told
me it could take a year (yes, a year!) for the citation to be
entered. She recommended that I call once a month to check on
it and she said not to worry about the 11/2 deadline. Can this
really be the way it works? It seems outrageous to me. And I
can't help worrying about the deadline. What if I call on 11/15
and am not in the computer, but it goes in on 11/16 & since I'm
only calling once a month I don't find out until 12/15. Am I
delinquent? Or do they have to give me a certain amount of time
after it goes into the computer to pay? I'm willing to pay the
stupid ticket, not happy but willing, so it seems absurd for it
to be so difficult. Any suggestions?
Frustrated (but basically law-abiding) driver.
I went through the same thing last year. And yes, the written instructions on
the ticket do not make sense and are in contrast to what the people on the
phone say. But what the traffic staff say on the phone is correct--the officer
has up to a year to file the paperwork and until then, you don't have to do
anything because you are not in the system. But not to fear--the officer WILL
eventually file that paperwork. Call once a month and you'll be okay. Mine took
about 2.5 months to get filed. And my ticket was a horrifying $370!
Driving cautiously in Berkeley now
You are right on track for months of angst and confusion! My
ticket (for an illegal left turn 2 minutes within the prohibited
time -- wealthy neighborhoods in Berkeley do not like those
pesky 'car' thingies) was ''processed'' 6 months after the event.
In the meantime I missed numerous work meetings to line up for
1.5 hours, on 3 occassions, to get pieces of paper stamped
that ''I was indeed in line for many hours trying to pay this
ticket''. By the end of it you want to start a class action suit
Avoid Driving in Berkeley
Yeah, it really is this bad. It took my husband close to 6
months to get one resolved recently, and there have been a
series of articles in the East Bay Express during the last year
about how crappy the Berkeley ticketing process is.
Needless to say, I have become absolutely religious about coming
to a complete stop at every stopsign on Cedar (sigh).
This is not the way that traffic tickets work. I ended up in the
same situation once. Despite repeated calls, they didn't have my
docket number on file. I didn't have the amount to pay. So I
didn't pay it. 6 months later, I was nailed a $200 civil
assessment fee for failure to appear in court (this is what
automatically happens when you don't pay) so I had to take unpaid
time out of my day to go to court (Traffic Court refused to let
me just get an amount so I had no choice but to go to court). I
used as my defense 1) 6 months later I still didn't know what the
amount was to pay and even by the time I got to court I still
didn't know and 2) If they look up my history of parking and
street cleaning tickets (I used to live in SF), they'd find that
I paid every single one on time and so this one would have been
no different. I ended up having the civil assessment fee waived
and *finally* getting the amount to pay for the traffic ticket.
Definitely follow up to save yourself this grief. I can't believe
that Berkeley would take this long. If you don't know, I would
probably pay some approximate amount by the 11/2 deadline and
make them figure out how to handle that and keep a copy of your
check and tell them to pay you the difference once they enter it
into their system. Or call them on 11/2 and ask who you talked to
and record their name in case if you need to go to court. And on
that traffic ticket is a date you have to appear if you dont' get
the amount of the traffic ticket; I think it's unreasonable to
expect people to go to court if they don't get the amount b/c it
can take hours of waiting just to get into Traffic Court - that's
hours of frustrating unpaid time.
This is an entirely common situation with both traffic and parking tickets.
There has still been no decision on a parking ticket I received in
JANUARY of this year in Oakland, and protested due to a broken meter.
My husband got a traffic ticket in another state, had the same sort of
situation, was supposed to call about once a week, and after several
weeks just forgot about it. A month or so ago he recieved a letter stating
that there was a warrant out for his arrest, and in order to clear it he had
to pay a large sum of money. Although we tried to negotiate (due to the
long wait), there apparently was no option to the greatly increased fine.
So it's probably a good idea to just keep calling. Extremely annoying.
i had a similar problem with a ticket in SF 2 years ago. i
kept calling and not getting any record. i just kept a log of
my calls ''in case.'' finally, i talked to a person who told me
the same thing-- ''we're really backed up,'' and ''don't worry.''
it finally did get recorded about 2 months later. i almost
went to complain about the process, but decided it wasn't worth
Here's what I learned after having a frustrating run in with
the DMV: create a paper trail. Write them a letter describing
the situation, your willingness to settle the matter as soon as
possible, and asking what steps to take. Be very specific with
your questions. Make yourself a photocopy of the letter. Mail
it out with a return reciept (so you have proof that they
received it). Continue to do this with every correspondance
and keep it in a file. If you keep a copy of the letters and
proof that they received them, that puts you in a pretty good
I got a ticket in September in El CErrito. The date for court
appearance was Oct. 18th. I called the court to find out how
much I owed to pay the ticket and got a recording saying that
they were really backed up and if I didn't receive a notice in
the mail within 6 weeeks AFTER my court date then I should call
back. There was no info about who else to call or what else to
do. It's frustrating cause we want to pay the darn ticket and
get on with life and not have this thing hanging on that we have
to remember to take care of....but I guess this is not a unique
situation. Hang in there...
I'm in a similar situation with the City of Oakland on a parking
ticket. I have the amount but appealed it and have been told
to ''ignore the late notices'' while they review the appeal which
will take an unknown amount of time. It's very disconcerting,
but you may another option at this point.
My experience in Berkeley traffic court is that they generally
have their act together (though it doesn't always appear to be
so on the surface), so maybe there's something unusual going on
with their system. Did they get a new system? I'd go down to the
office on MLK and ask at the window what the problem is and see
if you can get something in writing.
I recently received a notice from the city of Berkeley claiming that I had a parking
ticket in June that I had never paid and that I owed $110 now. I never recalled
getting a ticket or receiving anything in the mail reminding me to pay a ticket, but
they claim that I got a ticket at an expired meter, and read me the address. I
realized that I did almost get a ticket back in June at that address, but made it to the
meter in time, and the meter maid drove off without handing me anything (the
policy in Berkeley is to tear up tickets under such circumstances, I thought). Now it
looks like that ticket somehow made it into the computer system, but I never
received it. I'm puzzled why I never received a postcard in the mail about it,
especially since they claim they mailed postcards to me. I know I would have paid it
right away if I had gotten a ticket--I'm really scrupulous about things like this.
Do I have any choice but to pay this $110? It seems incredibly unfair, but it seems
like a hopeless case if I try to contest this. Any words of advice would be very much
I think you should pay it. A few months ago I got a ticket in
Berkeley on Shattuck after putting a quarter in a broken meter.
I called and wrote a letter (I, too, am fastidious about these
things) and they still said I had to pay. The waiting period
was also stressful. My advice is to pay and get it over with.
Why don't you send that very letter to the City of Berkeley
Parking Citations department? I'm sure that you can find the
address on the City of Berkleley website. I once wrote them when
I got a ticket in error (non-functioning meter) and they wrote
back telling me that the ticket was dismissed. Good luck.
I'll tell you now, the same thing happened to my husband last
year---also Berkeley. No ticket, no postcards, and then all of
a sudden, you owe us $250 dollars. (They claimed he parked in a
bus zone). He fought it, but the long and the short of it was
that they insisted he still pay the original ticket amount, but
they waived some of the late fees. So, decide now how much time
and *frustration* you're willing to deal with---you'll probably
still pay the $30 or so that was the original ticket. Sorry.
Contest the ticket. I've successfully contested 3 out of my
last 4 tickets (all in Oakland). Basically you'll write a
letter telling your side. Someone from the city parking
division reads it and probably will deny your claim. Then you
request a hearing. In the hearing, tell them what you wrote in
your posting. You might not get off the hook for the full
$110, but it might get reduced to the original ticket amount.
So it can't hurt to contest the ticket.
Could someone please advise me if I could contest my parking
ticket. The situation is as follows:
I was parked on a 2-hr-time-limit spot during a business
conference. I had a short break in my schedule at the end of the
first 2 hrs, and I ran a short errand with my car. I came back
about 5 min later and the only parking spot available was the
one I recently freed. I did not think twice and parked there -
for another less than 2 hrs. When I came back, I had a parking
ticket for $40.
Could I contest this ticket or am I out of luck? I could refer
them to the security camera of the conference center showing me
coming out and back in. . .
When you left to run an errand, did you go anywhere that you got
a receipt? Or interact with someone who would remember you and
be willing to sign an affidavit that you were there?
Protest it! The law is on your side. The appeal-deciders tend to be fair and
reasonable people. You may well not need camera proof, just details of what you did
(and possibly a supporting letter from someone at your session). Nolo has quite a
good book on fighting tickets. Public library has it, and Nolo sells its own books
big discount at their company store on Parker in Berkeley.
--John, who got a $271 for stopping for 15 seconds near (not in) a
handicapped zone at a BART station to let an elderly person out. My written appeal
was rejected, but when I went to the in-person appeal in Martinez, the friendly
judge just laughed and said, ''They did *that* to you!'' and threw it out.
The police officer says I rolled a stop. I'm sure I didn't as a)
I had just pulled out from in front of my house and the brakes
had moisture on them still which makes them squeak until a full
stop is achieved. Mine weren't squeaking. b) I had just
witnessed three people roll the stop at my corner which always
raises my self-righteous ire and I become SUPER-STOPPER, SAVIOUR
OF THE 4-WAY INTERSECTION!
So, my questions is, is it ever worthwhile to contest a moving
violation? I've always been willing to take responsibility for
previous infractions because I have indeed been guilty. But
this time, I'm sure I'm not. Unfortunately, the only evidence I
have is my good word. I hate to go to all the trouble if I'm
just going to lose.
Also, if I contest the ticket and I lose, can I still go to
traffic school, or do I forfeit my right to do so by going to
This was in Berkeley, by the way.
Any info or past success/failure stories appreciated.
Guilty until proven innocent
Nolo Press has a good book, ''Fight Your Ticket in California,''
which I found useful when I was trying to decide whether to
contest my ticket. Gives summaries of process but also of what
makes for ''good'' cases, what doesn't work, etc. for the range of
possible violations. So you may want to look into it. I think
you always have to option of going to traffic school, even if you
lose in court.
You can go to traffic court in Berkeley and you will be given a
chance to explain your situation. Depending on the judge and
his/her mood you may be let off or given an option of paying or
going to traffic school. Contesing the ticket doesn't disqualify
you from traffic school. Sometimes you are given the option of
paying less for the ticket. I think if you pay at all the
ticket goes on your record but not if you go to traffic school.
I once was given the option of doing community service or paying
for a number of parking tickets....long time ago. Good luck.
From what I have heard, officers don't always show up for the
hearing. If he/she does not show up, the case should be
dismissed. Also, you might feel better trying to fight it, even
if you are not successful in the end. If you don't fight it,
you will never know.
Would love to hear the outcome!
I tried going to the traffic court in Berkeley and pleading ''no
contest'' to a ticket which I felt sure was issued unfairly, and
explaining my position to the judge, who then has the option to
waive the fine. The judge was extremely condescending, and
hardly looked like he listened to what I said before he told me
to pay the ticket. I later heard from a friend that the only
time she had heard of someone having a fine overturned this way
was in a case of identity theft (i.e., someone showed a stolen
driver's license after being pulled over, and the license owner
was sent a ticket). I regretted having wasted the time standing
in line early in the morning and sitting for hours in the
Someone once gave me a tip, which proved very beneficial in a
very similar situation. I decided to go to court so made an
appointment, as late as they would possible allow it. A couple
days before the appointment, I called and cancelled. They will
let you reschedule once. Again, I took the latest possible
appointment. By the time I finally appeared in court, it was a
couple of months after the fact and the officer did not show up,
in which case the case was dismissed. The person who gave me the
tip said (and I do not know if this is true) that officers do
not get paid for appearing in these kinds op cases but they have
to. When the case is a couple of months old, they often decide
not to show up. In my case it worked.
My husband and I were once stopped for a moving violation
(using the carpool lane on the Bay Bridge outside commute
hours), which we felt was an innocent mistake because (at that
time) the signage was so poor that it was nearly impossible to
tell that you were not allowed to use the carpool lanes off
commute hours. There were four of us in the car, on the way to
our wedding shower, of all things. The ticket was huge, so we
decided to go to traffic court (Oakland) to contest it. After
quite a bit of hassle (you have to get there before the court
opens to sign up for a court appearance b/c people line up
outside in order to make it on that day's docket), and sitting
around for four hours listening to a large number of very poor
people explaining, not very well, to the magistrate why they
had caused a ruckus on BART, spit on the sidewalk, etcetera
(things it seems only poor folk are ever given citations for),
we noticed that except in the most ludicrous instances or for
the most combattive individuals, there seemed to be a reduction
of the fine just for going to the trouble of showing up. You
probably can't prove that you really stopped: it's your word
against that of the officer who stopped you. But if Berkeley's
traffic court is anything like Oakland's, then you may end up
paying a much smaller fine. Ours was reduced from over $200 to
just under $100. Good luck!
Contest the ticket! I have contested many citations, one with
many of the same circumstances you describe. You will be judged
on your delivery of the facts biased on what the Judge believes,
and mostly the manner in which the Judge is able to sum up your
character in the short time you present your case. I was
truthful and willing to accept the decision of the Judge, which
I made clear prior to stating the facts. If you pled ''No
Contest'', my experience has been that attending traffic is an
option. In addition, if the officer issuing the citation is not
present, the ticket/citation was dismissed. I am a beliver of
exercising one's rights and as such I have contested many
tickets/citations. Results varied. Some citations were
dismissed, others were not. (I am not necessarily proud to
state that I have earned a Ph.D. from traffic school)! The
experiences renewed my faith in a system which I viewed as
bureaucratic, unresponsive and for the most part, against ME.
One who believes in the system
I don't know directly about traffic violations, but I can tell
you that once I got a parking ticket that wasn't justified, and
all I had to do was go to City Hall or someplace of that sort,
and swear to my story on tape. Since I had nothing else on my
record, the person in charge dismissed the ticket. This was in
Berkeley several years ago.
No, you cannot go to traffic school if you go to court.
You ''waive your right'' for traffic school, which is then up to
the court's ''discretion.'' I found out the hard way that the
court rarely grants traffic school -- and it took three court
appearances (i.e., three days of missed work) to find this out.
So I now have a point on my record when I could have just gone
to traffic school. I think this is unjust but you can learn
from my bad experience. Don't fight the ticket if you can go to
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