December 1, 2008
Written By: Michael Harris

Did you just find out that your license has been suspended? Maybe you’ve gotten so many tickets in the past few years that you aren’t sure whether you paid them all. You think you did, but maybe there was that one you missed. Perhaps there was one from a red light camera that you accidently tossed with the junk mail. But now your license has been suspended. Where to start? Who do you call? Where do you look?

If your license has be suspended because you miss one court dates—what the legal world calls a failure to appear—you will need to find all sort through all pending court cases involving holds on driver’s license and find yours. Don’t bother calling the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV merely processes tickets. The court deals with everything after that.

But if you’ve gotten tickets in multiple counties or have very old tickets, this can be a daunting and arduous task. Calling the courthouse can be extremely time consuming—you’ll likely be put on hold multiple times, which will quickly eat up your cell phone minutes. And it is not easy for every-day citizens to know which courthouse their case was assigned to. So calling every courthouse in the state is a not a good solution.

So what do can you do? The best way to find information on your old traffic tickets is to call or personally visit the courthouse in the area where the traffic incident took place. In California, the correct courthouse for traffic violations is usually the traffic division of the Superior Court for the county where the incident happened. Start there.

But you may not even have to go in to the courthouse. Fortunately, some courts maintain excellent on-line databases of traffic citation information that citizens are able to access. But unfortunately, some courts have no easily accessible on-line databases at all. So before you call or go down to the courthouse, first check to see if the court your ticket is in has a database by visiting the court’s website.

But there is an even quicker solution. You can call the Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Safety Office. The Driver Safety Office is a department of the DMV that is responsible for the suspension of driver’s license. And they often have real live people there to answer your questions. They will be able to access a database of all the holds on a particular license.

You can find the phone number for the Driver Safety Office located closest to you by checking the DMV ‘s website.

Make sure to get the name and address of the courthouse where each case is located. Do not let them simply give you the “court code” for an old ticket. This will be useless information to you.
If they give you a case number or docket number, ask them if it is the real number from the court, or a number they made up because the real court case number was to complicated. Yes, this happens all the time.

If the DMV Driver Safety Office does not help you, your next option is to get copy of your driver history report. To get this you’ll want to go into the DMV so that you can ask them to look up the court codes and tell you what courthouse you’ll need to go to. Once again, the court codes will be useless to you.

Once you have this information, you may want to consider getting an attorney to help you. An attorney can go to court for you, get the license holds released, limit the number of “negligent driver points” you will suffer, and avoid misdemeanor convictions for failure to appear when possible. In many cases, fines can be lowered, dismissed, or paid over months or a year.