We’ve all heard this scenario: You plead guilty on a traffic ticket and the judge orders you to pay all sort of fines. Fines for the ticket, fines for court, fines to process the fines, fines if you had oatmeal for breakfast, and fines if you didn’t eat breakfast. Face it, if you have a ticket, the court is gonna make you pay.
After you plead you go to collections to get put on a payment plan. Now, nobody ever has the intention to stop paying, but sometimes life catches up with us and we stop making payments. A few months later you realize that there is a hold on your license from the failure to pay! On your record it will usually show a “failure to pay” or it will say “matters set for compliance.” So what can you do?
The bad news is, not much. You can look up your DMV record to make sure the hold really does exist with the DMV. If it does, then you gotta pay. If the hold is more than five years old, you might be able to purge the charge with a call to the DMV, but otherwise, be prepared to pay up.
Did you know that a failure to pay could also be treated as a misdemeanor on your record? While courts don’t normally do this, they can, and Orange County is famous for filing these charges. The reason the court can file the misdemeanor charge for a failure to pay is found in section 40508(b) of the California Vehicle Code. Here is what the section says:
(b) A person willfully failing to pay bail in installments as agreed to under Section 40510.5 or a lawfully imposed fine for a violation of a provision of this code or a local ordinance adopted pursuant to this code within the time authorized by the court and without lawful excuse having been presented to the court on or before the date the bail or fine is due is guilty of a misdemeanor regardless of the full payment of the bail or fine after that time. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d17/vc40508.htm
What this means, is that you could actually go to jail for failing to pay your fine! Crazy, huh? The reality of the situation is that the courts file this simply to get you back into court and pay your fine. Most of the time, you go back in and they will dismiss the misdemeanor failure to pay, or at least reduce it to an infraction and get you back on track to make payments. However, they don’t have to dismiss or reduce the charge. It depends on the judge. If the court is unwilling to reduce or dismiss that failure to pay, since it is a misdemeanor, you are entitled to a jury trial. Take the jury trial! You don’t want a silly misdemeanor like this on your record!
Of course, if you find yourself in this situation, you should probably talk to an attorney and be prepared to hire one. We handle cases like this all the time. Give us a call! We will be happy to answer any questions you might have. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 800-797-8406