My Traffic Ticket Dilemma; or: Can the System Be Reasoned With? (Or at Least Stroked Gently Into Submission?)

Friends, I need your advice. Yeah, sure, in the comments section you can leave your clever, borderline snide remarks, but I am requesting a fair share of genuine counsel. Otherwise, I could end up in jail. And because I'm real pretty, burly men will want to violate me. And I know you all think that that would be a dream come true for me, but it's not. Because the burly men in jail will not all look like Channing Tatum or Ryan Reynolds. I will be screwed—in a bad way.

So here's the situation:

A few months ago, I was stopped by a police officer for making an illegal left-hand turn off of Los Feliz Boulevard in Los Angeles. (There are certain hours each day where left turns are not okay.) Because I have an irrational fear of authority, I fumbled for my license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration, all of which were up to date. To my surprise and subsequent panic, the car registration paperwork I handed the officer was from the previous year—so I desperately dug through my glove compartment for the correct piece of paper. Sensing that I was crumbling like a little bitch, the kind officer decided to not cite me for the moving violation, and instead wrote me a "fix-it" ticket for the registration. All I had to do to clear my name was go into the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles and show my valid registration from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Several days later, I went to the court to resolve the situation, only to find out that there was no record of my citation in the computer system. The court clerk looked at my traffic ticket. The officer had intended to check off the downtown Los Angeles courthouse as the location that the citation would be processed at, but the check mark that he wrote was awfully close to the box for the San Pedro courthouse. The clerk speculated that my citation was being processed at a different location and that it would take a while for it to get back to Los Angeles. There was nothing she could do for me that day.

And here's the part of the story where you have to understand my history with traffic tickets. I have only been stopped once in my entire life, 15 or so years ago. (I'm a good Asian driver!) It was for speeding, and I don't remember any other circumstances surrounding the incident because it was so long ago. Now of course I have received parking tickets since then—after all, I lived in San Francisco for 12 years—and I assumed that traffic tickets were processed the same way that parking tickets were processed. I mean, it's totally reasonable for me to think that, right? It's completely logical for me to assume that, since you receive a notice in the mail about your parking ticket after the ticket has been issued and attached to your car, you're supposed to receive a notice in the mail for a traffic ticket too. So, with this knowledge, I thought, "Oh, since the clerk said it would take a while for the citation to come back to Los Angeles, I will know when that happens because I will receive a notice in the mail."

Most of you know where this story is headed. YOU DON'T GET A NOTICE IN THE MOTHERFUCKING MAIL! That ticket the officer writes is your only notice before the system starts trying to assault you with its huge, ugly, misshapen cock!

Several weeks after me waiting for the imaginary notice to come, I received an angry letter on yellow stationery that said a "hold" had been placed on my driver's license, that it was subject to suspension, and that I had 10 days to pay the $811 bail amount.

After freaking out, I thought to myself, "Oh, this is a simple matter to resolve. I just need to talk to someone."

Most every time I called the courthouse and navigated the menu to get to a real live person, the system automatically hung up on me because it said it was overloaded with calls. On the few occasions I was lucky enough to be put on hold, I was told I was the 75th or so person waiting to speak someone. (I'm really not exaggerating!) I never made it through.

I called the collection agency that the courthouse had sent my matter to. The person I spoke to was mean, and her only goal was to get that money. She didn't want to hear my story, and she wouldn't give me any names of someone, anyone, I could talk to or any numbers other than the general courthouse line.

"Okay," I thought. "I'll just write to the courthouse." I sent a long, involved explanation of my circumstances, along with a copy of the original misinterpreted traffic ticket, and waited for a response. What I got instead was a notice that said I had an outstanding warrant and that reiterated the hold on my license and the bail amount.

"Well," I thought, "maybe if I address a letter to someone specific, they can help me." After extensive research on the Internet, I was able to get the names of two traffic court referees, who handle cases at the Los Angeles court. I sent both of them certified letters and waited for a response. What I got instead was a notice from the Department of Motor Vehicle saying that my license "hold" would convert into a suspension if I don't resolve this matter within the next month.

I finally realized what I had been doing wrong this whole time: I was trying to resolve the situation in a logical manner. It was like attempting to reason with a crazy person or to use common sense with the criminally insane.

Okay, folks, what do you think? Did I lose before I had even begun? Or is there still hope? Should I try to contact someone higher up in the court system? Who? Should I track down the police officer? Could he help in any way? Would physically going to the courthouse do anything? Would the clerk even allow me to speak to a supervisor or someone higher up? Do you know someone who has vast knowledge on matters such as these? Or should I just shut up and pay the goddamn fine already?

The well-being of my ass is now in your hands.

[Update 08.14.09: Read "My Traffic Ticket Dilemma, Part 2: It's Over, It's Over, It's Finally Fucking Over."]

[Update 08.20.09: I'm such a good boy. At least I didn't pay my ticket with a bunch of urine-soaked coins, like this disgruntled citizen in Portland. Seriously. Watch:]


  1. The court will always win. You're fucked. I fought the South Carolina courts on numerous mistakes that THEY made. You cannot win. Their mistake is now your mistake. They cannot be reasoned with.

  2. Anonymous7/20/2009

    If I were you, I'd see if any of the local law schools has a pro bono clinic that could assist you. And if not, then you might want to speak to a local attorney. And I wouldn't just assume that you're screwed as long as you eventually get your day in court so that you can explain the situation. It's quite possible that the judge will understand the bureaucratic BS that you went through. But definitely attend to it ASAP.

  3. You'll probably need to take a day and deal with it in person. But, as the above individual said, a legal sidekick might be helpful too. Hell, you could probably get an ambulance chaser for a couple hundred bucks for less than the bail/fine amount. And drive carefully to the courthouse.

  4. Anonymous7/20/2009

    Pay the fine. The situation has the making of a great play. You can always write it off your taxes-ha!

  5. Anonymous7/20/2009

    It depend on you tolerance for pain. If it is causing you too much stress, call it a loss and move on. If you enjoy the challenge then go ahead and go for it. I am going through the exact same thing with the state of Illinois and it is a bureaucratic nightmare. Since attempting to rectify an original problem I've spent two months not moving the ball forward one inch, but instead ending up with numerous new problems to resolve that were not of my making either. Worse case scenario is it will be great fodder for writing like another poster mentioned. The government didn't earn their reputation by accident. Welcome to hell.

  6. Aww Prince that sucks. You are caught in a bureaucratic catch 22 mother effin' nightmare. You might as well be talking to a field of daisies. Poor Scott is involved currently in a similar situation, get a lawyer friend to help you and prepare to fight. Do you have a record of the original clerk you spoke with? And records of the attempts you made to clear this up? You shouldn't have to pay for some robot employee's mistake and lack of attention to detail. You'll never see that money again if you hand it over to them. If you have the stamina and time to devote to this, you can win! Get in front of a judge or some half-wit court clerk with a working brain cell so you can make your case in a rational and logical way. Good luck darlin'. Hang in there.

  7. shit prince i am sorry to hear that you are going through this. i recently had a similar but not as evil situation here and well i am paying on a payment plan for the next 3 years. and if i get one more ticket i loose my license. well my infraction was an illegal right turn - and if you know nyc, nearly all the streets are one way and they like to put up restrictions for turns that take you 20 blocks out of your way.
    long story short. i think you need to take up a collection. and once you pay the fee try to reason with them to get something back.
    unless you don't mind giving up your license - which if i did not need mine for work i would have done just to avoid paying the fine and contributing to 'the system'
    in any case, good luck and if i ever get paid for the past 2 months of work that i have done i will contribute to the "save prince's ass fund".
    in the meantime, perhaps i can suggest a song for you to sing by NWA...

  8. I actually just went through something very similar about a month ago. I was facing a 1400 dollar bail and a suspended liscence due to a registration fix-it-ticket. I wound up going to court very early one morning, waiting for hours, finally seeing a judge, and getting everything reduced and solved. All you need to bring with you is the ticket itself, and proof that you did have valid registration at the time of the incident.

  9. i suggest calling your city council district office and asking someone there to assist you in navigating the system. all elected offices handle casework and have their own contacts within the bureaucracy and there will be someone in that office who can advise you on how to deal with your situation. if the city council office is unable to assist you, they may recommend legal representation. however, if you get legal counsel first, you will not be allowed assistance through your elected's office.

  10. If you can find a way to get in front of an actual judge (as opposed to a zillion bureaucrats who have no real power), I think you stand a good chance. You can play the I'm-a-good-kid card, and the fact that you have such a squeaky clean record will probably work in your favor. Judges see professional fuck-ups all day long, and getting to do a favor for a very apologetic Good Kid who made a clerical error will make them feel good.

    So yeah, go there in person; I'm sure you won't get to see a judge that day, but you can probably make an appointment. $811 is a lot of money. This situation sucks, and I am rooting for you with all my non-lawyerly might.

  11. Did you know the ad that popped up when I came to your blog today was about how to beat your traffic ticket?

    Good luck!

  12. Oh much of your sanity is equal to $811?

    I'm a very "fight the man" type of person when I feel like the man is the one who fucked up up.

    However what I learned about the he not only fucks up all the time, but the man devises these intricate systems, rules, standards, procedures that cover their asses when they fuck up. (Heaven forbid they instead use these systems, rules, etc. to prevent themselves from fucking up in the first place.)

    Having been in the same situation twice, and rolling over once and fighting the man the other time...I advise rolling over, paying the fine, and taking advantage of as many public services as possible, to feel like you're getting some value for the $811 you just shelled out...

  13. Traffic tickets and citations suck. Especially when you don't think you deserved them.

    However, I have a bit of good news for you: The system can be beat if you are persistent and do your homework.

    For instance, I beat a traffic ticket in Orange County, Ca this year with the help of The Magic Genie that is Google, and a handy book I checked out of the local library called "How To Beat (pausing for audible sigh) Your Traffic Ticket."

    Basically, I trolled the internet for any and all info regarding the precise code violation / issue I had and took notes.

    Pretty much just took the free advice, followed directions and it worked. To this day, is citation/ticket free, but it wasn't easy researching it all and fighting it being on my record.

    Here's my two (Apparently, unread by you, yet) blog links on the subject.

    Speeding Virgin No More:

    Speeding Virginity Restored:

    Fight your ticket! It's worth it to beat something other than yourself, Prince.


  14. Again, I want to state this clearly: Fight that ticket, but take action soon.

    Get that book How To Beat Your Traffic Ticket.

    It might have been a Nolo book, but it had great info on fighting the insanity.

  15. Thanks for the advice and support, everyone!

    It sounds like I can beat the system if I feel I have the time and patience and persistence. I'm not sure that I do. But the thought of shelling out nearly a thousand bucks because of government bureaucracy makes my blood boil.

    I shall mull it over further and report back....