The Consequences for Your Driver’s License if You Fail to Appear for Your California Traffic Court Date

There are many different bases upon which the DMV may decide that it is proper to suspend your driving privileges. Obviously, one way to maintain your driver’s license is to avoid things that can lead to suspension. Other times, though, when you’re on the wrong end of an improper suspension of your driving privileges, the correct step is to utilize the administrative and legal systems to fight back and get your license back. When that becomes necessary, look to an experienced San Francisco DMV defense attorney to help you.

One action the DMV can take is to place a “hold” on your license. While this may sound somewhat innocuous or less serious, it isn’t. A DMV hold can prevent you from renewing your license or can lead directly to a license suspension. One way that you can get a hold placed on your license is by failing to appear in traffic court. If you get a ticket, your ticket will contain a court date listed on it. If you don’t show up for that court date and don’t otherwise resolve your ticket, then the DMV places a hold on your license under Vehicle Code Section 40509.5.

You may have heard that California changed its laws regarding traffic court and license suspensions in 2017. Be aware that that 2107 law ended the practice of suspending licenses based on your failure to pay your traffic ticket fine, not your failure to appear in traffic court.

However, if you live in San Francisco, there’s good news, which was reported by KPIX. Two years ago, San Francisco Superior Court became a leader by ending “the practice of suspending licenses for those who didn’t appear in court.” Additionally, this spring, Mayor London Breed announced that many of the people whose licenses were already suspended due to their failure to appear in traffic court were getting a fresh start. The action cleared the cases of 88,000 drivers whose failure to appear in San Francisco Superior Court on a traffic matter had already been reported to the DMV and triggered license suspensions.

For other drivers in the Bay Area, things may be more complicated. In Alameda County, for example, the Superior Court released 83,000 license suspension based upon failure to pay in 2017. However, if you fail to appear for your court date in traffic court there, you may still have the possibility of getting your license suspended.

For those who have incurred a license suspension for failing to appear, be advised that there is hope. There are several defenses you can assert against the DMV’s suspension of your license for failing to appear in traffic court. One is that you never got the required notice of your obligation to appear in traffic court. If you did not know that you were required to appear on a specific date and time, then obviously you could not appear.

Another defense is what the law calls “necessity.” In this context, that often means that you have proof of an emergency or unavoidable conflict. If, for example, you were in jail at the time, deployed overseas in the military at the time or was hospitalized at the time, then obviously you couldn’t appear in traffic court.

These are just a few examples and do not represent a complete list of all possible defenses you might be able to use. What they do signify is that, in most situations, there are options available to you. Don’t give up; instead, talk to a knowledgeable attorney to find out what can be done. The skilled San Francisco DMV defense professionals at Uthman Law Office are here to help. Attorney David Uthman has over 20 years of experience as a litigation attorney and almost a decade of experience as a police officer. At the Uthman Law Office, we know how to get results for our clients and are ready to get to work for you. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.