Mendocino Courthouse

Top Ten Tips > Getting Your License Back After a DUI

5. Traffic Tickets and Unpaid Fines

Traffic tickets may often be handled in a number of different ways. Read the back of your citation to obtain information about how to handle current tickets.

After receiving a traffic citation, the court procedure is to mail a courtesy notice to the address on your citation. If you do not receive a courtesy notice, you must still appear at the clerk's office or settle your case by mail. You must contact the court if your address is incorrect. The courtesy notice will supply the information about how to take care of your situation. If you do not understand your options, you may come in person to the clerk's office or correspond by mail prior to your appearance date. The courtesy notice will state whether your situation requires a mandatory appearance. Courtesy notices are not processed immediately after you receive the citation. It may take up to two weeks prior to due date for processing.

Most people would benefit by fighting a ticket if there are any viable defenses or one has the time to see if the arresting officer shows up at a trial in traffic court. Click here for Mendocino County's Traffic Trial Information. Usually a traffic defendant may contest citations in writing without having to appear in court. The link above will give you the forms required to be filled out for a Trial by Declaration, including instructions and remaining required forms.

If there are no defenses to a traffic ticket, or you do not wish to fight it, you may wish to elect traffic school during the time limit provided at the bottom of your original Mendocino County citation by asking for the traffic school alternative at the Mendocino County traffic court. Click here for the court's Traffic Violator School Checklist, and here for a list of DMV Approved Online Traffic Violater Schools, successful completion of which shold result in no further points if so ordered by the court. This may help you to avoid any additional points which would cause you to meet or exceed the point limits.

Out of State Residents

According to the Mendocino County court, out-of-state licensees may complete a home study or Internet course for eligible offenses. The course provider must be listed on the On-Line and Home study Traffic School list (see link above).

To request approval to take a home study or Internet course, the court requires that you submit the following three items to the Court by the due date shown on your citation or courtesy notice: (1) A copy of your driving record from your state's Motor Vehicle Department, (2) the required fine/bail and fees, including the $54 non-refundable traffic school fee, and (3) a declaration stating that you have not attended traffic school anywhere in the United States for a citation received within 18 months prior to your current citation.

Click here for form TR-007 - Declaration re No Traffic School Attendance Within Last 18 Months. According to the court, once your request has been granted, you will have 60 days to complete the course, where upon your completion certificate will be sent electronically to the Court.

Suspended Driver License

You may receive a Collection Notice with respect to unpaid fines. If your driving privileges are suspended due to unpaid traffic tickets (failure to appear--FTA--or failure to pay--ftp), then if you pay off the tickets, the Mendocino County court in Ukiah will release its hold on your license and you will be able to reacquire your driving privileges.

The county where you got the ticket while driving is the county which must lift its hold, not the DMV or your county of residence if you live outside Mendocino County. Each county which has a hold on your license for a nonappearance (FTA) or nonpayment (FTP) must be addressed separately. One of the most efficient methods for ensuring you fix every problem causing a suspension is to go to the Ukiah or Santa Rosa DMV office and ask for a long form h-6 driver license printout. Ask the counter clerk to circle each and every item causing a suspension, and the county where each item must be cleared.

Next, in Mendocino County it is usually best to visit the courthouse collections office (or GC services, located next door to the traffic division, which is a private collection agency with the same policies and procedures as court collections), or you may call the Mendocino County court collections division at (707) 463-7240, to determine the current status of your matters. Reference each citation number if you have documentation, but be sure to ask for a grand total of all matters including late charges, etc. All old cases (except unsigned citations which resulted in FTA) reside in either court collections or GC services, not traffic court.

Collection Problems And Unaffordable Late Fees

Pending court matters

courthouseIf you have a current criminal court case of any kind in Mendocino County (a serious case or another traffic ticket, or even just on probation for a past case),then the court has jurisdiction to hear you on these old matters, so you or your attorney can try asking the Ukiah judge in the current Mendocino County case to examine your old tickets and dismiss some of them, and/or remove the late penalty fees assessed pursuant to Penal Code Section 1214.1, and set up a payment plan for the remainder of the fees so that you can afford to pay and successfully cause the removal of the Mendocino County hold on your license.

You or your Ukiah DUI or traffic lawyer can point out to the court that if you can drive legally, then you may not have as many legal problems in the future and you may be able to start getting your life back in order by addressing substantial personal challenges such as employment, child care, etc. If you are or were incarcerated, then you can ask the court for credit for time served to simply dismiss all of the tickets and release the hold on your license.

Paying Fines with Community Service

The Community Service program is monitored by Mendo-Lake Alternative Service, Inc., located in Room 209 in the Ukiah Courthouse (468-3422). The Court converts your fine to community service at $8.00 per hour. For example, if the fine were $500.00, you would work 63 hours in your local community, scheduled around your work or school hours. Not all fines and fees may be converted to community service.

Failure To Appear

If you do not have a current court case but you receive a DMV Notice Of Suspension for failure to appear (rather than failure to pay after appearing) then usually you can arrange with the court collections department to pay one-half of the amount owed and obtain a payment plan for the remainder in exchange for the court lifting its license hold.

The Mendocino County collection department is located at 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1060, Ukiah, CA 95482. See Locations for directions to the other court branches.

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Failure to Pay

If you receive a DMV notice of suspension for failure to pay a ticket after appearing in court and promising to pay a fine, but you have a recognized reason for nonpayment within the allowed time, such as military service, incarceration, hospitalization, or death of a family member, then the collections department may lift its license hold if you can pay a satisfactory amount and arrange payments for the remaining owed. If you have a compelling reason not listed above, for example homelessness or drug addiction, then you may wish to consider writing a letter to the judge as described below, to ask for the same arrangements. You should consult with a local Mendocino County attorney about your specific situations.

If you are suspended for failure to pay after appearing in court, and you are able to afford the original bail amount of the tickets, then you may wish to consider paying that amount at the Ukiah courthouse and petitioning the Mendocino County traffic court to waive the late penalty fees on any remaining totals pursuant to Mendocino County's rules. This approach typically works best when you have a recognized valid reason for nonpayment within the allowed time, such as military service, incarceration, hospitalization, or death of a family member. Any compelling hardship reasons should be included in such a petition to the Mendocino County court, including economic and family hardship.

Click here to see an example of such a court request with the Mendocino County Petition, Sonoma County Petition, Solano County Petition, and the Napa County Petition to dismiss accumulated late fees and penalties.

Letter to the Judge

You may wish to write a letter to the Mendocino County traffic court judge in Ukiah to ask for leniency due to extraordinary circumstances which prevented you from appearing or paying in a timely fashion. A succinct, well-written letter which acknowledges responsibility and presents compelling reasons for nonpayment and offers an affordable payment plan may accomplish the relaxation or removal of a substantial amount of your accumulated total or even dismissal of tickets and release of your license.

You may find more information on this site for the Mendocino County courts and the traffic, fines and collection departments by clicking here on Mendocino County Traffic Court.

Failure to Pay Judgement in Traffic or Accident-Related Lawsuit

A related "failure to pay" suspension involves a driver license suspension for someone who failed to pay a judgement awarded by a court in an action described in Vehicle Code sections 16370-16381. Typically, a judgement creditor (presumably the person or entity whom you owe money) submits a Form DL30 to DMV swearing to certain facts about the judgement debt. Click here to see an example of an "Order of Suspension" describing the DMV action, the judgement and certain options. You can explore obtaining payments on a judgement as described in section 16379 to get rid of the suspension, or explore obtaining a restricted license as described in section 16072 to alleviate the hardship of a suspension.

Failure to Pay Child Support

Mendocino DUI attorneys will tell you that under California law, parents required to pay court ordered child support must pay on time and in full. If the payment is late or is not paid in full, the California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) can suspend or withhold a California driver (or other) license, pursuant to Family Code Section 17520. When the parent required to pay child support is 30 days or more delinquent, their name is submitted by DCSS to the DMV for suspension of their license. DMV sends a letter giving the parent 150 days to work with DCSS to pay their past due support. If payment isn't made, the driver license suspension is imposed on the parent.

Further, if a notice of intent to suspend has been sent to the same parent in the past, the parent's license will automatically be suspended when a child support payment is late again or not paid in full. If your driver license has been suspended due to non-payment of child support, you may call your local child support agency to discuss a possible license release by re-establishing payment arrangements. You can find the location of your local child support agency by clicking on Local Child Support Agencies, or by calling: (866) 901-3212. A Mendocino DUI attorney can help direct parents with these issues to the appropriate agency to help get their license back.

Failure to Pay Taxes

Starting in January, 2012, the California State Board of Equalization and the Franchise Tax Board publish lists of the the 500 largest tax delinquencies. Persons and entities appearing on these lists are subject to driver (and other) license suspensions pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 494.5. Successfully negotiating and resolving issues with the applicable tax authority results in lifting of any suspension imposed.


Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

Our DUI Lawyers

Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, North Bay resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of North Bay DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.


Dave Jake Schwartz