New Law Closes Traffic School Loopholes

The new policy is aimed at repeat traffic law violators

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    A new law will track drivers who go to traffic school to make sure they do not go more than once in 18 months.

    Beginning this Friday, if you plan to go to traffic school to expunge a traffic ticket in California, you may face some roadblocks.

    Under a new law that takes effect on July 1, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will be keeping track of repeat traffic offenders.

    Drivers with points on their licenses can go to traffic school, but the courts will no longer dismiss infractions against them.

    In the past, when courts dismissed an infraction, the driver had his or her record cleared and the DMV had no clear picture of the driver's actual history.

    So drivers who got repeat tickets were able to go to traffic school more than once in an 18-month period and thus avoid stiffer penalties.

    According to the DMV, the new law simply closes this loophole.

    Under it, a driver's attendance at traffic school will go on a record that the courts and the DMV can see, but it will be kept from insurance companies.

    Drivers will only be permitted to go to traffic school once in 18 months and because of the change in the law, the court will know whether or not a driver has attended traffic school in the recent past.

    If the driver has attended traffic school within 18 months, he or she will get points on their license and his or her insurance company will be notified.

    A driver will be permitted to attend traffic school if his or her previous attendance took place more than 18 months ago.

    Many people are not familiar with the DMV point system, used to track traffic violations.

    When a patrol officer issues a citation, that information is relayed to the DMV. Each offense carries a different addition of points that are added to the license of a driver convicted of a violation.

    Drivers who accumulate points within a one-year period can have their licenses suspended. Points can remain on a license for three year.  Any new violations increase the chance of suspension.

    Drivers with more severe traffic offenses may find the points remaining on their licenses for 10 years.

    Traffic Ticket Lawyers Call Change in Law Insane

    An attorney who bills himself as "Mr. Ticket," Amir Soleimanian, sees the new law as a boon for insurance companies and lawyers like himself.

    "Insurance companies will make more money and lawyers will make more money," Soleimanian told NBC LA.

    In the past, he said, offending drivers could first go to an eight-hour traffic school and then, on second offense within less than 18 months, do a 12-hour program.

    "On the third ticket, they would come to us and go to court to fight the ticket," he said.

    But now, they will seek an attorney on the second ticket and a lot of people won't like this, he said.

    Soleimanian noted that the fees for tickets keep going up so this makes it more likely that people will try to fight second or third tickets in court.

    "Mr. Ticket" employs a staff of attorneys who only work on traffic cases.

    Soleimanian claimed he had a 92 to 93 percent success rate, adding, "I use every angle of the law."

    He said California issues seven million citations a year and there are now at least 20 attorneys specializing in fighting tickets.

    One of those attorneys, Sherman M. Ellison, said many judicial officers whom he knows are "extremely unhappy with the law" that does away with the ability to send second offenders to 12-hour traffic school.

    "They envision a significant increase in traffic trials and staff time. This will be way more costly than a benefit," he said.

    Ellison believes the only benefit of the new law is to the insurance companies that will be able to charge higher premiums to repeat offenders.

    "This takes judicial discretion away from judges and this is insane," he said.

    Ellison, who said his law offices currently have 600 cases and get 150 to 200 new cases a month, questioned why the state changed the law at this time.

    "The only logic is an increase in insurance premiums," he said.

    He noted if one has a traffic violation before midnight on June 30, the currently law which allows for 12-hour traffic school still applies if the judge allows it.

    Traffic School Expert Says Change Puts "Teeth in Law"

    George Alexander, the owner of the Improv Traffic School, which offers both classroom and online classes, said it is not really a new law, "but one that puts teeth in an old law."

    He said in the past, the law had provisions that allowed judges more discretion on the frequency in which a driver could go to traffic school.

    "Not every court was connected. Courts did not communicate with each other," he said.

    So someone with a violation in Los Angeles County might not be stopped from going to traffic school for a violation in Orange County.

    Alexander said the new law was part of a larger package that also gave the DMV better control of traffic schools themselves.

    The DMV licenses traffic schools that provide brick-and-mortar classrooms, but schools offering online courses, he said, faced a hodgepodge of local regulations.

    The DMV is in the midst of a two-year transition that will enable it to license online traffic schools, but right now, some courts accept online traffic school and some do not.

    More Resources:

    Curious about what the DMV knows about you? To request a copy of your driver license record, you can...

    • visit any California DMV office and fill out a request. Make sure you bring a photo ID and $5 for the application fee, or
    • mail this form and $5 check or money order to:
      • Department of Motor Vehicles
        Office of Information Services
        Public Operations Unit G199
        P. O. Box 944247
        Sacramento, CA 94244-2470