Demanding bail for traffic trials happens all across California.
Let’s say you get a ticket for running a stop sign, but you know you didn’t to it. You go to court and ask the clerk or judge for a trial so you can put the officer to their proof. In most California courts, you will be asked to post “bail” before they will give you your day in court.
Though flatly unconstitutional, courts from San Diego to Del Norte routinely force motorists to “pre-pay” the amount of the violation’s fine in order to set their traffic case for trial. We have always considered bail for traffic trials illegal and unconstitutional, and DMV lawyers usually advise their clients to refuse.
Sadly, many motorists are unaware that charging bail for traffic trials is illegal, and they allow themselves to plead guilty to violations they may have beaten. The outrageous fines that can accumulate–coupled with the driver’s license suspension that often may accompany them–make this an access to justice issue.
No less than the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court agrees. On Monday, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye asked the Judicial Council to expedite the creation of a statewide rule that make it clear that Californians do not have to pay for a traffic infraction before being able to appear in court.