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If you haven't already done so, please read the Editorial (about traffic school) on the Links page.

Traffic School Law

The Code and Rules of Court


For the official rules about traffic school, see:

California Rules of Court, Rule 4.104alternate link to rules )

California Vehicle Code Section 41501 (the law that ended the availabililty of 2TS),
CVC 42005 (which, effective Jan. 1, 2013, made traffic school available to drivers having commercial licenses if they were driving a non-commercial vehicle),
CVC 12810 (says which CVC sections carry a point), and
CVC 1803 (says which CVC Sections are not required to be reported to the DMV).

Alternate site for Vehicle Code lookup.


Other Resources on This Site

See the discussion of traffic school in the Handling Your Ticket section of the Your Ticket page, and in my detailed discussion of the book Fight Your Ticket.

If you got a court notice saying "traffic school is not an option after trial," were told "no school after trial" by one of the phone attendants at the court, or if the bailiff or the judge announced it everyone in the courtroom,  see Challenges and the Long Beach section on the Camera Towns page.


Case Law (with Some Commentary)


Notes added by highwayrobbery.net are in double square brackets [[  ]] .  Some emphasis (bolding and/or underlining) has been added.


[[There is a question as to whether the Wozniak and Enochs decisions are "precedent" in all of California, or just in Los Angeles County.  The abbreviation "Supp." in the case cites indicates that the decisions came from a lower-level appeals court, whose decisions may or may not be accepted by courts in other counties.]]


People v. Wozniak (1987) 197 Cal.App.3d Supp. 43 , 243 Cal.Rptr. 686

[Crim. A. No. 25132. Appellate Department, Superior Court, Los Angeles. December 15, 1987.]

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. ERIC N. WOZNIAK, Defendant and Appellant

(Opinion by Soven, J., with Cooperman, P. J., and Newman, J., concurring.)

COUNSEL

Eric N. Wozniak, in pro. per., for Defendant and Appellant.

Ira Reiner, District Attorney, Arnold T. Guminski and Martha E. Bellinger, Deputy District Attorneys, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

SOVEN, J.

Defendant was convicted of speeding in violation of Vehicle Code section 22350. The officer testified that defendant was driving 52 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone. After the officer and defendant testified, defendant asked to attend traffic school.

The statement on appeal states: "The Court then informed the defendant that it was not possible to attend traffic school after receiving a trial. The Judges had adapted [sic] the policy that traffic school is available before trial as an alternative to trial."

Vehicle Code section 42005, subdivision (b), provides that "[i]n lieu of adjudicating a traffic offense, and with the consent of the defendant, or after conviction of a traffic offense, the court may order any person issued a notice to appear for a traffic violation to attend a traffic violator school ...." (Italics added.)

Section 42005, by its terms, envisions the possibility of traffic school either before or after conviction. fn. 1. Moreover, independent of the particular language of section 42005, this court held in People v. Enochs [[see copy below]] (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d Supp. 42, 43-44 [133 Cal.Rptr. 363], that a court's discretion to grant or deny a request for traffic violator school did not encompass a blanket refusal to permit traffic school to all defendants who requested traffic school after trial: "To grant or refuse a request for traffic school on such an arbitrary basis is a clear abuse of discretion by the trial court. Such discretion must be 'governed by legal rules to do justice according to law.' [Citations.] A decision based on the order in which a defendant made his requests is not one grounded in 'legal rules to do justice according to law.'

"The trial judge has the power to order defendant to attend traffic school. If the trial judge believes that a defendant's circumstances indicate that a defendant would benefit from attending school, such attendance should be authorized. The question of such imposition should not be affected by the order in which plea, explanation and request (for school) are presented. To decide on defendant's entitlement to traffic school on the basis of the order of presentation rather than the facts of the case is capricious and arbitrary."

In summary, both the present language of Vehicle Code section 42005 and People v. Enochs [[copy below]], supra, 62 Cal.App.3d Supp. 42, decided more than 11 years ago, require trial courts to consider the merits of a defendant's request for traffic violator school whether that request is made before or after conviction. The trial court in this case abused its discretion in relying on a court policy to deny any defendant permission to attend traffic violator school after conviction.

The judgment of conviction is affirmed. The case is remanded to the trial court with directions to set the matter for a hearing to consider and decide defendant's request for traffic violator school consistent with the views expressed in Enochs and in this opinion.

Cooperman, P. J., and Newman, J., concurred.

FN 1. Section 42005, as enacted in 1968, provided that the "court may order any person convicted of a traffic violation to attend a school for traffic violators ...." (Stats. 1968, ch. 1192, 21, p. 2265.) This portion of section 42005 remained in effect until 1984. (See Stats. 1975, ch. 844, 3, p. 1910.) In 1984, subdivision (a) of section 42005 was amended to provide for traffic violator school "[i]n lieu of adjudicating a traffic offense, and with the consent of the defendant ...." (Stats. 1984, ch. 1037, 5, pp. 3596-3597.) The provision for traffic school after conviction was added in 1985. (Stats. 1985, ch. 396, 23.)


People v. Enochs (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d Supp. 42

[[People. v. Enochs is cited in P. v. Wozniak, above.]]

[Crim. A. No. 14350. Appellate Department, Superior Court, Los Angeles. September 15, 1976.]

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. JACK EDWARD ENOCHS, Defendant and Appellant

(Opinion by Marshall, P. J., with Cole and Alarcon, JJ., concurring.)

COUNSEL

Jack Edward Enochs, in pro. per., for Defendant and Appellant.

Burt Pines, City Attorney, and Ward G. McConnell, Deputy City Attorney, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

OPINION

MARSHALL, P. J.

Defendant was charged with violation of section 22348, subdivision (a) of the Vehicle Code; he pleaded nolo contendere and then made an explanation, following which he asked that he be permitted to attend traffic school. Defendant contends that the court would not permit him to attend because he gave his explanation before asking for traffic school.

The trial court declared in its certified statement that the "custom" in arraignment court is to inform defendants that if they wish to attend traffic school, they must state such desire before they give any explanation of their conduct. fn. 1. According to the settled statement, if an explanation is given before defendant requests traffic school, he will be denied the right to attend the school. [1] To grant or refuse a request for traffic school on such an arbitrary basis is a clear abuse of discretion by the trial court. Such discretion must be "governed by legal rules to do justice according to law." (See Ex Parte Hoge (1874) 48 Cal. 3, 5 quoted with approval in In re Podesto (1976), 933 [127 Cal.Rptr. 97, 544 P.2d 1297].) A decision based on the order in which a defendant made his requests is not one grounded in "legal rules to do justice according to law."

The trial judge has the power to order defendant to attend traffic school. If the trial judge believes that a defendant's circumstances indicate that a defendant would benefit from attending school, such attendance should be authorized. The question of such imposition should not be affected by the order in which plea, explanation and request (for school) are presented. To decide on defendant's entitlement to traffic school on the basis of the order of presentation rather than the facts of the case is capricious and arbitrary.

The judgment is reversed.

Cole, J., and Alarcon, J., concurred.

FN 1. Incidentally, we note that the general statement of rights dated May 8, 1975, read to the defendant according to the docket, mentioned that the request for traffic school must precede the defendant's explanation. This does not constitute notice to defendant that if he does not make his request, as indicated, he will be fined and not sent to traffic school. In any case, whether the defendant has such notice or not, the custom is arbitrary.


What to Do When the Court Uses Traffic School to Twist Your Arm

If the phone attendants at the courthouse or the central phone bank are telling callers that there is no traffic school after trial, call back, ask for the Senior Court Manager, and complain.

If at the beginning of the trial session the bailiffs in the courtroom are telling defendants that there is no traffic school after trial, or discussing traffic school in any other way that you feel is arm-twisting or coercive, complain at the bailiff's office in the courthouse.  Bailiffs should not be doing the judge's dirty work!

If at the beginning of the trial session your judge announces that there is no traffic school after trial, or indicates that while there is a chance of getting it, the chance is very, very small, do a  Challenge.  See the
Editorial on the Links page, for details.



The Judge Doesn't Have to Tell You Why He Denied School


After the Superior court appellate decision in the Wozniak case
(which has almost no binding or precidential value authority regarding other courts beneath it, except in LA County), the Court of Appeal for the 2nd District of California (which does have binding precidential authority on all lower courts within its appellate jurisdiction) came down with a new decision in a case called People v. Schindler. The case held (citing Wozniak and another case) that while the lower courts could not have a policy of automatically denying traffic school to defendants who have gone to trial and lost, the lower courts are not required to justify, on the record, their decisions denying that privilege.

(Thanks to Attorney David Olenczuk for the Schindler case, and exposition.)



People v. Schindler (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 431 , 26 Cal.Rptr.2d 255

[No. B077198. Second Dist., Div. Four. Nov 23, 1993.]

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. CARYN SCHINDLER, Defendant and Appellant.

(Municipal Court for the Los Angeles Judicial District of Los Angeles County, No. UP35908, Leo Grizzaffi, Temporary Judge. fn. *

(Opinion by Vogel (C. S.), Acting P. J., with Hastings, J., and Conway, J., fn. concurring.)

COUNSEL

Caryn Schindler, in pro. per., for Defendant and Appellant.

James K. Hahn, City Attorney, Debbie Lew and Edith Kornfeld Light, Deputy City Attorneys, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

VOGEL (C. S.), Acting P. J.

Pursuant to rule 62, California Rules of Court, we transferred this matter from the appellate department of the superior court in order to settle an important question of law. [1] Contrary to the appellate department, we conclude that after convicting a defendant of a traffic infraction the trial court is not required to state its reasons for denying the defendant's request for traffic school. (Veh. Code, 42005.) fn. 1 We affirm the judgment of the municipal court.

Facts

Defendant and appellant Caryn Schindler was cited for speeding at 76 miles per hour on the freeway, in violation of section 22349 which sets the maximum speed at 55 miles per hour.

At the arraignment the trial court advised that if prior to trial, a defendant pleaded guilty subject to being granted traffic school, the court would grant traffic school.

The court further advised that if a defendant was convicted after trial, the granting of traffic school was an alternative sentence within the discretion of the court, that the court might or might not grant traffic school and need not give a reason for granting or not granting traffic school. The court stated that a request for traffic school would be judged in light of all the facts presented to the court. The court gave an example that if a defendant was found guilty of driving 30 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone the court might grant traffic school, but if a defendant was found guilty of driving 80 miles per hour in a school yard the court might not.

Appellant offered to plead guilty to violating section 22349 at a lesser speed. The court advised that it would not accept a plea at a lesser speed, treated appellant's offer as a plea of not guilty, and tried the case. Upon the citing officer's testimony, the court found appellant guilty as charged.

After conviction, appellant requested traffic school. The court denied this request. Appellant requested the court to give its reasons for not granting traffic school. The court declined to give an explanation.

Discussion

Under section 42005, the court may order traffic school. Although the court may not arbitrarily refuse to entertain a request for traffic school merely because a defendant elects to plead not guilty (People v. Wozniak (1987) 197 Cal.App.3d Supp. 43 [243 Cal.Rptr. 686]; People v. Enochs (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d Supp. 42 [133 Cal.Rptr. 363]), the court otherwise has discretion to grant or not grant traffic school for a traffic violation. (People v. Levinson (1984) 155 Cal.App.3d Supp. 13, 21 [203 Cal.Rptr. 426].) fn. 2

Nothing in section 42005 requires the court to state its reasons for granting or rejecting traffic school. This contrasts with statutes which expressly require the court to state reasons. (E.g., Pen. Code, 1170, subd. (c) [felony sentence choices]; Code Civ. Proc., 128.5, subd. (c) [sanctions for frivolous or bad faith tactics].) Regardless of whether a statement of reasons would be useful to a reviewing court (People v. Gray (1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 213, 222 [231 Cal.Rptr. 658]), the Legislature, knowing full well how to mandate the giving of a statement of reasons, has not done so in this statute. (People v. Fugate (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 1408, 1412-1413 [269 Cal.Rptr. 37] [court need not state reasons for misdemeanor sentence choice]; People v. Romero (1985) 167 Cal.App.3d 1148, 1152-1157 [213 Cal.Rptr. 774] [court need not state reasons for imposing particular restitution fine].)

We are especially loathe to impose by judicial decision a requirement of a statement of reasons in the context of this case, involving the disposition of a mere infraction. ( 40000.1, 42001, subd. (a), 42005; Pen. Code, 19.6.) fn. 3

In In re Kathy P. (1979) 25 Cal.3d 91, 96-101 [157 Cal.Rptr. 874, 599 P.2d 65], the Supreme Court held that traffic infractions by juveniles could constitutionally be tried in juvenile court by nonattorney subordinate judicial officers. The court commented, "Given their nature, the high volume of infraction cases ... clearly necessitates simplified procedures for their fair and efficient disposition. In other contexts this court often has recognized the permissibly summary handling of infraction cases by excepting them from rules required in misdemeanor cases ..., by permitting minor traffic charges to be tried without a prosecuting attorney ..., and by holding conviction of a traffic infraction not a bar to prosecution for a more serious related offense .... Advantages of expediting infraction cases through flexible, innovative procedures are that 'defendants gain a swift and inexpensive disposition of their cases without risk of major penalties; and the prosecution, the court system, and ultimately the public benefit because judicial and law enforcement resources are freed to concentrate on serious criminal behavior.' " (Id. at pp. 98-99, citations and fn. omitted; see also People v. Lucas (1978) 82 Cal.App.3d 47, 48-56 [147 Cal.Rptr. 235].) The Legislature has also recognized the public interest in efficient summary processing of traffic infractions by authorizing trials on written declarations and summary trials. ( 40901, 40902.)

To require the busy municipal court to state reasons on the record for denying traffic school in individual cases would impose a time-consuming burden which interferes with the public interest in the efficient processing of thousands of infraction cases. The burden on the system and the public would be far out of proportion to the benefit to be gained by the occasional defendant who hopes to persuade a reviewing court that discretion was abused based on the particular circumstances of his or her case. Given the discretionary nature of the decision and the minor nature of the offense, the trial court should not be saddled with the additional burden of stating its reasons on the record, where the statute does not require it. fn. 4

Here, the trial court was not required to give an explanation, and nothing in the record establishes an abuse of the trial court's discretion.

Disposition

The judgment is affirmed.

Hastings, J., and Conway, J., fn. * concurred.

FN *. Pursuant to California Constitution, article VI, section 21.

FN . Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court sitting under assignment by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council.

FN 1. All statutory references are to the Vehicle Code unless otherwise indicated.

Section 42005, subdivision (b) provides: "In lieu of adjudicating a traffic offense, and with the consent of the defendant, or after conviction of a traffic offense, the court may order any person issued a notice to appear for a traffic violation to attend a traffic violator school ...."

FN 2. The practical significance for most drivers is that attendance at traffic school may lead to dismissal of the charge, clearing the driver's record. ( 1803.5, 42007, subd. (e); Amerian, How to Defend a Traffic Ticket (Feb. 1977) 52 L.A.Bar J. 398, 402.)

FN 3. Under sections 42001, subdivision (a), and 42005, subdivisions (a) and (b), appellant's infraction is not punishable by imprisonment but only by fine and/or attendance at traffic school.

Penal Code section 19.6 provides: "An infraction is not punishable by imprisonment. A person charged with an infraction shall not be entitled to a trial by jury. A person charged with an infraction shall not be entitled to have the public defender or other counsel appointed at public expense to represent him or her unless he or she is arrested and not released on his or her written promise to appear, his or her own recognizance, or a deposit of bail."

See also People v. Levinson, supra, 155 Cal.App.3d at page Supp. 16, footnote 2 (hearing-impaired traffic violator not entitled to court-appointed interpreter for traffic school).

FN 4. Inconsistencies between one court and another, or one defendant and another, can be addressed in other ways than requiring statements of reasons in individual cases. We note that the Legislature has required the Judicial Council to study and report on the advisability of establishing uniform statewide eligibility criteria governing drivers seeking to attend traffic violator's school. ( 42007, subd. (c); Gov. Code, 7550.5, subd. (a).)

FN *. Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court sitting under assignment by the Chairperson of the Judicial Council.





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