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Frequently Asked Questions
- 1. How do I pay my ticket and close my case?
You have three options:
1. (Recommended) Pay Online: Paying a citation online is quick, easy, and you avoid traveling and waiting in line. Please note that there is a convenience fee assessed for all online payments. Use the following link to make an online payment: https://portal.santacruzcourt.org/portal
2. Pay by mail: send payment to Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060; make check or money order payable to Santa Cruz Superior Court; please include the case or ticket number on the check or money order. Do not mail cash to the Court.
3. Pay in person: at either Santa Cruz or Watsonville clerk’s office or by placing payment in the drop box at either location. Please do not place cash in the drop box. The Court cannot accept credit cards at the public windows at this time. The Court also does not accept credit cards by phone. If you need to pay your fine with a credit card, please use the online option (Option #1).
Some violations require mandatory court appearance and cannot be paid without a court appearance. Please refer to your Courtesy Notice to determine if your violation requires a mandatory court appearance.
1. If you choose to pay the bail on your ticket without going to trial, it is called bail forfeiture. Choosing bail forfeiture means that the ticket will be deemed paid and the resulting conviction reported on your driving record if it is a DMV reportable violation.
2. For moving violations, you may attend Traffic Violator School if you meet certain requirements.
3. If your ticket includes any “correctable violations,” for example, mechanical issues like missing a headlight or insurance/registration violations, “proof of correction” is required in order for you to pay the correctable (reduced) fine amount. Also See FAQ #8 for more information about correctable violations.
4. Making installment payments to pay a fine may be available if you are finaincially unable to pay the entire fine amout at one time. There is a one-time administrative fee of $30 for vehicle code and $35 for non-vehicle code violations to establish a payment plan. Please contact the court at 831-420-2200 to discuss this option.
- 2. How to contest my ticket?
There are a couple of ways to contest a ticket: (1) contact the court clerk's office and declare yourself "not guilty," pay the full bail amount, and schedule a date to appear in court to have your case heard, or (2) contact the court clerk's office and request an arraingment date to appear in court to enter a plea. At arrignment, you will be given a separate trial date in order to contest your ticket. The latter option does not require the payment of bail in order to schedule a trial court date. If you select option 1, you may elect to do so by mail if you send the court a copy of the citation and a copy of the courtesy noitce along with your payment in the form of a check or money order made out to the Superior Court of Santa Cruz County. Please do not pay bail through the court's Online payment system if you wish to contest your ticket.
- 3. I haven't received a Courtesy Notice in the mail, what should I do?
It is generally takes up to three weeks for the court to process and mail a courtesy notice. The Court must first receive the citation/ticket from the citing agency before a notice can be generated and issued. Please use one of the following options when attempting to follow up on a citation:
1. Call the Court at 831-420-2200 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be prepared to provide your ticket number. Please include the ticket number if you choose email.
2. Go to either the Santa Cruz or Watsonville Court Clerk’s Office and ask if your ticket has been entered. Please bring your ticket with you. Location information for each courthouse is listed on the Web.
The Court is not required to send out courtesy notices but does as a courtesy to court users. Courtesy notices are mailed to the address written on the traffic ticket. If you have moved, and your address is different from the one on your ticket, there is a good chance that you will not receive a courtesy notice. You should contact the court immediately if you need to provide a proper address. The fact that you have not received a courtesy notice does not relieve you of the responsibility to resolve your ticket.
- 4. What is a Courtesy Notice?
A courtesy notice contains general information about the violations for which you have been charged and options available to you for resolving these violation(s). It may take several weeks from the time of the violation before you receive a courtesy notice in the mail. The notice will be sent to the address listed on the citation once the court receives the citation from the issuing law enforcement agency. Make sure to carefully review both sides of the courtesy notice.
- 5. What is a civil assessment charge?
Failure to comply by the due date on the Courtesy Notice, or failure to pay your fines as directed may result in the Court referring the case to a collections agency and imposing a civil assessment of up to $300.00 pursuant to Penal Code section 1214.1 in addition to the outstanding fines.
- 6. Is the date at the bottom of my ticket a court date?
No, the date at the bottom, if one is indicated, is not a court date.
Some Photo “Red Light” tickets contain a date at the bottom of the ticket but that date is not a court date. That is the date by which you shall contact the Court if you have not received a Courtesy Notice.
Other tickets may state that you shall contact the Court within 30 days if you have not received a Courtesy Notice.
See FAQ # 3 for information about contacting the Court if you have not received a courtesy notice.
- 7. How do I sign up for Traffic School?
In order to attend Traffic School, you must pay the Court the entire bail amount listed on the Courtesy Notice, and a non-refundable $52.00 Traffic School fee. The Traffic School Company will charge you an additional fee upon enrollment; this fee is separate from the fines due to the Court.
IMPORTANT: YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR A FINE REDUCTION OR COMMUNITY SERVICE HOURS IF YOU REQUEST TO ATTEND TRAFFIC SCHOOL. You must have all correctable violations corrected and dismissed by the Court clerk prior to requesting Traffic School.
There are three ways to pay for your Traffic School fees:
1. (Recommended) Pay online at https://portal.santacruzcourt.org/portal. Please note that there is a convenience fee added to online payments.
2. Pay by mail: Send payment to Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Please make your check or money order payable to ‘Santa Cruz Superior Court’ and include your case number. The Court will not accept a cash payment by mail.
3. Pay In person: At either Santa Cruz or Watsonville Clerk’s Office or by placing payment in the drop box at either location. The Court will not accept a cash payment through the drop box.
For Traffic School Programs, please vist the DMV's system using the following link:
Eligibility requirements to attend Traffic School are as follows:
- You must currently possess a valid driver’s license;
- You must not have attended Traffic School within the last 18 months, calculated from violation date to violation date;
- Your ticket must not have defaulted to a failure to appear;
- The violation(s) on your ticket must be Traffic School eligible; and
- The violation must have occurred in a non-commercial vehicle.
You will be given 90 days to complete the Traffic School course. Please be advised that there is no extension or grace period provided with regard to your Traffic School completion date. Additionally, there are no refunds of any type for any reasons of fees paid by a defendant in order to register with the court for Traffic School. If you have a valid non-California driver's license, the court has no control over whether states other than California will observe completion of a traffic school program. Anyone who is cited with a non-California driver's license should contact the issuing state's motor vehicle department to determine whether completing a traffic school program is appropriate and/or advantageous.
Failure to complete the Traffic School in a timely manner will result in a conviction against your driving record and the non-refundable Traffic School fee will be forfeited as payment in full.
If you are eligible and decide not to attend Traffic School, your automobile insurance may be adversely affected.
If you have obtained insurance after the date of violation, you may either:
1. Submit proof that insurance was purchased after the violation date with a plea of guilty or plea of no contest and request a reduction in the fine on the Court Plea Form; or
2. Pay the full bail amount for this violation.
- 8. How do I obtain proof of correction?
Correction for most mechanical violations can be inspected and signed off by law enforcement officers or certain employees of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The inspecting officer will sign the back of the citation or the Courtesy Notice. Send the signed off citation or courtesy notice to the court along with a $25.00 transaction fee, per Vehicle Code Section 40611(a), for each correctable violation. Do not pay your fine on line if you wish to provide proof of correction for a reduced fine. You can mail in your proof of correction or come to either the Santa Cruz or Watsonville Courthouse.
If you have lost your ticket or courtesy notice, the court can provide you with a replacement proof of correction form. You may call the court or go to the clerk’s office to request this form.
Insurance Violations may not be signed off or corrected by law enforcement or DMV personnel.
If you were insured at the time the ticket was issued, but were unable to provide proof of financial responsibility (insurance) to the officer who cited you, you may submit a copy of your insurance card or policy along with the $25.00 transaction fee to the court.
Acceptable proof of financial responsibility must be issued by the insurer and MUST include the following information:
- Name of insurance carrier
- VIN number (vehicle identification number)
- Policy number
- Effective dates of coverage must cover the date the ticket was issued for dismissal of the charge
- Name of person who received the ticket AND the vehicle listed on the ticket
If you did not have proof of financial responsibility (insurance) at the time the ticket was issued you may either:
- Submit proof of insurance purchased after the violation date with a plea of guilty or no contest and request a reduction in the fine. (Place plea form here.) or,
- Pay the full bail amount for this violation
Registration Violations: The Court will accept a copy of your current valid registration as proof of correction for most registration violations. If the officer cited the violation as “non-correctable” then you may submit proof of current valid registration with a plea of guilty or no contest and request a reduction in the fine amount.
If you cannot provide valid registration but you have paid all DMV fees, or if you have sold or junked the vehicle, you may provide proof to the Court with a plea of guilty or no contest for a reduction or dismissal of the fine. (Plea Form)
- 9. If I am unable to pay due to financial hardship, may I request one of the following: a payment plan, community service, bicycle safety school, or a fine reduction?
Yes. You may ask the court to consider your ability to pay due to financial hardship and explore alternative payment options. Complete the Plea Form and FAX, mail, email, or hand-deliver it to the Court on or before the due date listed on your courtesy notice. The Court will consider your request and you will be notified of the Judicial Officer’s decision by mail. An administrative fee will be added to the total bail if you elect to pay your fine in installement payments. The administrative fee is $30 for vehicle code and $35 for non-vehicle code violations. The fee is mandatory and will not be waived once imposed.
Scan and email to: email@example.com Mail to: 701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 Deliver in person to: Santa Cruz or Watsonville Courthouses Fax to: 831-420-2263
NOTE: If a fine reduction is requested, or if community service hours are requested, you are forfeiting your opportunity to attend Traffic School for eligible violations. (See FAQ #7.)
- 10. If I use a payment plan, can I still set a court date and request my fine be reduced?
No. By signing a payment plan you are admitting guilt to the charges and promising to pay the fine amount plus the administrative fee ($30 for vehicle code and $35 for non-vehicle code violations.
- 11. How do I request a modification of my existing court order, request an extension of time to appear or request a court appearance?
Fill out the Modification Request Form and include your name, address, and case number. Please send the competed form to one of the following:
Scan and email to: firstname.lastname@example.org Mail to: Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 Deliver in person to: Santa Cruz or Watsonville Clerks office Fax to: 831-420-2265
- 12. What is an arraignment?
It is the first hearing after you receive your ticket. At arraignment, the Commissioner or Judge will explain the following information: (1) the charge, the maximum fine amount, your constitutional rights, as well as alternatives to payment in full on the date of judgment.
An arraignment hearing is not mandatory in most cases; however, if your Courtesy Notice states “Mandatory Court,” you will need to schedule an arraignment hearing. It is not necessary to post bail if you schedule an arraignment date separate from a trial date.
You may schedule an arraignment by:
1. Calling the Court at 831-420-2200; or
2. Visiting either the Santa Cruz or Watsonville Clerk’s Office.
- 13. How request a Trial by Written Declaration?
- If you request a Trial by Written Declaration ("TBD"), you waive your right to appear, to testify in person, and to subpoena witnesses. In order to be eligible for this option, you must complete TBD forms prior to the due date on your Courtesy Notice. Forms can be downloaded from the TBD Information section of this Webpage (click here) (Please Note: Only infraction cases resulting from a moving violation (including skateboards and bikes) are eligible for TBD.) A copy of the TBD forms can be accessed here. You will be required to send your full bail amount payable to the Superior Court of Santa Cruz County when you return your TBD forms to the Court.
- Questions about Court Trials
What happens when I go to court?
The court will listen to the statements of the sworn witnesses against you and may question each witness. You may then present your case to the Court and question any witnesses. After both sides have presented their case, the Court will rule on the matter or take the matter under submission. If the Court takes the matter under submission, you will be notified by mail of the court's decision and if found guilty a sentence will be imposed.
How long will the trial take?
Court trials are regularly scheduled in the mornings and afternoons. If your trial is scheduled in the morning, plan to be in court until 12:00 p.m. If your trial is scheduled in the afternoon, plan to be in court until 4:30 p.m.
Should I bring my evidence?
If you have photos, diagrams, reports, or any other exhibits, which you plan to present at the time of the trial, bring them with you on your trial date
Should my witnesses appear?
If you have witnesses that are necessary to your defense, you should have them subpoenaed to appear in court. Do this well in advance of your trial date using the Court's Order to Attend Court Form. You can also obtain a subpoena form from the Clerk’s Office or the Law Library. Please complete the subpoena form, have the subpoena served, and file the subpoena, including proof of service, with the Court on or before your trial date.
What if I am found not guilty?
The violation will not appear on your record and, if reportable, will not be reported to the DMV. If you paid your bail, your payment will be returned by mail within sixty days. Make sure your current address is on file with the Court.
What if I am late?
If your case is called before you arrive for court, you will be considered absent for your trial.
What if I do not appear at the time of trial?
Your trial can be heard in your absence. You may be found guilty and, if you paid your fine, your fine payment will be applied to your bail; and, if applicable, your driving record will show a conviction. If you did not pay bail, and you fail to pay as ordered, you may be subject to an additional civil assessment of up to $300 and the matter maybe reported to DMV if your conviction was for a vehicle code violation. The DMV may place a hold on your driver's license for a failure to appear in court.
Will the officer who issued the citation be in court?
The officer will be subpoenaed to appear in court.
What if the officer does not show up?
The officer will be notified to attend court and your case will be heard regardless of whether or not the officer attends the hearing.
strong>How do I request a Postponement of a Traffic Court Trial?
You must perform the following steps when requesting to postpone a traffic court trial:
- Request a postponement at least 15 days prior to the hearing date;
- Make the request in writing and state the reason(s) you need a postponement;
- Your request must also state “TIME IS WAIVED”, if you are submitting it 45 days beyond your arraignment date;
- The original request must be filed with the Court; and
- Mail or deliver a copy of your request to the citing agency. Your original request will not be processed unless it indicates that you have mailed or hand delivered a copy to the citing agency (i.e., Santa Cruz Police Department, CHP, etc.)
How is a Trial by Declaration different than a Court trial?
A Trial by Written Declaration (TBD) is a written trial where you and the citing officer send in testimony through the mail. Only infraction cases resulting from a moving violation (including skateboards and bikes) are eligible for TBD. If you request a TBD, you are required to waive your rights to appear as well as your right to testify in person and to subpoena witnesses. A request for TBD must be received prior to the due date on your Courtesy Notice.
If your fine is delinquent and has been assigned to Alliance One (the court's collection agency) all questions must be directed to Alliance One at 1-877-541-8420. You may also visit a collections representative in person at 701 Ocean Street, Room A1, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, inside the main courthouse building. Their office is open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays excluding holidays. They are closed for the one-hour period from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. each day for lunch.
TRAFFIC AMNESTY PROGRAM
Beginning October 1, 2015, the State of California will begin an 18-month traffic violator amnesty program allowing individuals with past-due court-ordered debt related to traffic infractions to pay a reduced amount. Debt must be owed prior to January 1, 2013, to have outstanding delinquent debt reduced by either 50 or 80 percent depending on whether eligibility criteria are met. The program also allows individuals whose driver's license was suspended as a result of a failure to pay or to appear to reinstate their license. Participants must agree to pay off the reduced amount or set up a payment plan. Participants failing to fulfill their payment plan would face wage garnishment to fulfill the terms of the agreement.
Amnesty Participation Form (double click link)
AMNESTY PROGRAM RESOURCES
TRIAL BY WRITTEN DECLARATION
Vehicle Code Section 40902 allows defendants to contest citations in writing, without having to make personal court appearances. This procedure is called a "trial by written declaration." Trials by written declaration are available in cases involving infraction violations of the vehicle code or local ordinances adopted under the vehicle code. You must complete the following forms and submit them to the court by the due date on your courtesy notice in order to receive a trial by written declaration. Please read and follow all of the instructions in TR 200. You may contact the court at 831-420-2200 if you have questions about this process.
Superior Court of California,
County of Santa Cruz
701 Ocean Street, Room 120
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Superior Court of California,
County of Santa Cruz
701 Ocean Street, Room 120
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday - Friday in Santa Cruz and Watsonville. A mail slot is provided for filings after 3:00 PM.
Come in the morning and avoid the lines.
Items must be received by 5:00 PM.
Phones are answered from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM Monday - Friday.