How to Read a Traffic Citation

traffic tickets

Have you tried to make sense of your traffic ticket? Even as they have become more electronic, citations can be intimidating to read and understand, especially when they look like a long drug store receipt. Having read thousands of tickets myself, I know it is nearly impossible to decipher an officer’s shorthand scribblings. This brief article aims at helping you glean the critical parts of your ticket without having to use the Rosetta Stone to crack the code.

Traffic Citation Edited With annotations

So here we go, starting from the top.

Who Issued the Ticket?

In the top left corner, you will find the name of the agency that issued you the citation be it CHP, the County sheriff’s office, or your local police department.

How to Find the Citation Number Listed on a Ticket

The citation number for a ticket issued in California is located in the top right corner of the citation. Your citation number usually starts with an agency code like SH or PD. The combination of both letters and numbers is essential when researching your case.

Personal Information

The top portion of your citation is your personal identification information like date of birth, driver’s license number, address, make and model of your car, registration information, and insurance details. This part of the citation is where you will most commonly see mistakes from police officers. Usually, these mistakes are recognized by the Court as typical human errors and corrected with the Court or the Clerk’s office. Seldom do these mistakes lead to the dismissal of a ticket. The color of your car might be Midnight Blue, but do not expect the Court to throw out your charge because the Officer listed the color as Black.

Description of the Charge

The middle portion of the citation is where you will find the code section and a brief description of the charge. Do not get wrapped up in the details; the description is written purposely in shorthand and may not adequately explain the violation itself. I recommend looking up the exact code section online for a full description. To the left of the code, the boxes let you know if this type of violation can be corrected. To the right, the boxes indicate the severity of the charge, such as a misdemeanor that may require jail time or an infraction, which only carries monetary fines.

Officer Information

Just above the Signature box, you will find the name of the Officer who cited you. Next to the Officer’s name is their badge number and vacation dates. Usually, the vacation dates are left blank, but on occasion, the Officer may be kind enough to fill this section out.

Where Is the Court Date Listed on a Ticket?

At the bottom of the citation, you will find the most critical information on the ticket: the date you must appear and the address of the Courthouse that will manage your traffic ticket. If the court has not received a response by the due date, a misdemeanor charge may be added, a warrant issued for your arrest, a $325 late fee added, and your privilege to drive suspended.

Do Not Ignore a Traffic Ticket

If you need additional help reading your traffic ticket or would like for us to manage from A to Z, contact us at RPM Law. We have handled thousands of cases and are here to help.