Is your license suspended from a 40509.5 hold? Want to get it back? When you miss a court date on a California Traffic Ticket, the court has several options which include issuing a warrant, adding a new misdemeanor charge pursuant to VC 40508(a), suspending your license with a 40509.5 hold, imposing additional fines and fees such a civil assessment under PC 1214.1, and referring your case to a collection agency. Most courts in Southern California refer tickets with a failure to appear to a collection agency named GC Services. This is where things get messy and people really start to get frustrated. The collection agency will always attempt to use the 40509.5 hold as leverage to get you to waive all your rights, plead guilty to everything on the ticket including the failure to appear, and pay inflated fines and fees in full up front prior to releasing the hold. Don’t fall into this trap.
The good news is that the Vehicle Code provides you with options. The right way to deal with this situation is to realize that the unpaid or past due ticket and the suspension on your license pursuant to a 40509.5 hold are really two separate things. Getting your license back is one thing and figuring out what you are going to do with the ticket is another. Don’t let GC Services or any other collection agency convince you that your only option is paying a huge fee to get rid of the 40509.5 hold and get your license back. Find a way to get the hold off first, and then your options are wide open on the ticket. You can go trial, you can go to traffic school, you can take a plea for a reduced sentence, whatever you want, just like a regular ticket. Don’t let the collection agency convince you otherwise.
Before doing anything in this kind of situation it’s a good idea to verify the status of your license with the DMV. Don’t trust the collection agency, or even the court system to correctly tell you what needs to be done to get back your license. The only way to find out for sure is to contact the DMV directly. The California DMV can be reached at 1-800-777-0133 or, if you don’t like sitting on hold for an hour and a half, you can request an unofficial copy of your driving record online for $2. I have a link to the record request on my office website, but please realize my office is not affiliated with the DMV in any way and the $2 you are paying goes to the DMV, not to my office. A final option would be to walk in to the DMV (and I do mean WALK considering your license is suspended) and obtain the printout in person, but that can be a several hour affair.
Once you have the DMV printout, you need to review it to determine which 40509.5 holds have actually triggered the suspension of your license. It is very common for people to have multiple citations causing issues and you need to investigate them one by one. Your license may also have suspensions based on other factors such as failure to pay child support, failure to show insurance at the scene of an accident, DUI actions, unpaid civil judgments, etc. My best advice is that once you have the DMV printout, take it to a lawyer experienced with handling DMV problems and ask the lawyer to translate the DMV sheet into English. I offer this service free of charge so feel free to fax or email your sheet to me, or just come into the office. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach the office at 800-797-8406. There are also other lawyers in California that “speak DMV” but be advised there are not too many of us. I can’t tell you how many lawyers I see in court everyday that have zero clue how the DMV operates. Some of them are great trial lawyers with amazing skills in the courtroom, but for some reason when it comes to the DMV, they are useless.
Once you have verified the specific 40509.5 hold suspending your license its a matter of releasing the holds one at a time and then returning to the DMV to have your license reissued. Clearing the holds can be quick and easy if you have experience dealing with the particular court(s) where your ticket(s) originated. I clear holds everyday for my clients all over California. The tricky part is that every court has their own system and there is very little consistency from county to county or even from court to court within a county. What works in Metro Court in downtown LA, doesn’t work in Orange County. Getting it done in Moreno Valley is very different than getting it done in Chatsworth. If you can’t afford to have an experienced traffic lawyer do this work for you, my best advice is to head to the courthouse and start asking questions. It may be slow and frustrating but it can be done. Once you learn how that court treats the 40509.5 hold, you can solve the problem of releasing them without paying collections, and then dealing with ticket itself after the 40509.5 hold is clear.