A woman receives a traffic citation

Did you know that the average traffic ticket in California is $230 for a speeding infraction?
It’s a hefty price, one that you likely don’t include in your expected budget. And if you are the type to budget for the inevitable moving violation, you should probably start taking the bus.

A ticket always catches you off-guard, and there are plenty of times when paying it on time isn’t possible.

Fortunately, there are processes in place to help you extend a traffic ticket when you can’t pay it off by the court date. We’ll walk you through getting a traffic ticket extension in California so that you can get through tough stretches with peace of mind.

Why extend a traffic ticket?

When you get a traffic ticket, you’ll notice a due date on your payment if you don’t plan on fighting it in court. So, what happens if you don’t take care of it on time?

There aren’t many positives in ignoring traffic tickets. If you fail to pay your ticket on time without working out an arrangement with the court, you could end up having your license suspended and unable to renew your registration. And that’s only the start of your problems.

Penalties for unpaid traffic tickets

When you ignore your ticket, a “failure to appear” will be marked against you. You sign your “Notice to Appear” when you get your traffic ticket, so you take responsibility for showing up on the date printed. A failure to appear may result in you facing a new misdemeanor crime to go along with your driving suspension.

Your criminal record isn’t all that’s at stake. You could have a new fine levied against you as a “civil assessment” as well, which can be up to $300 extra. Your original ticketed fine can go to collections, in which case you might face wage garnishments or automatic bank levies.
On top of all this, you’ll have a much slimmer chance of fighting your ticket. You can be deemed guilty in absentia without valid excuses, and you may even have a warrant issued for your arrest.

Whether you plan to fight it, pay it, or ask for an extension, you need to do it before you get penalized for letting your court date pass.

How to extend a traffic ticket

The first step in extending a traffic ticket is to find the California court that’s servicing your case. You’ll receive a reminder notice in the mail, usually within 2-3 weeks. The court noted at the bottom is the one to follow up with to discuss your payment.

Call the court before the trial date

Courts may have different processes for handling tickets. It’s crucial to follow up as soon as possible with the court to state your case and ask for an extension to avoid any penalties or additional hurdles in resolving your ticket.

If you don’t have an outstanding overdue fine, you’ll commonly have three options for requesting an extension:

  • Using an online payment portal for your court
  • Paying with the court by phone
  • Talking to a court clerk in person
  • You may find yourself with an expensive ticket that will be difficult to pay for in the foreseeable future. You can use any of these methods to work out a payment plan to chunk up your fine into manageable amounts. You can often work out an extension on that payment plan if you run into further difficulties paying it.

    Keep in mind that it can take a little while to enter your ticket into the system. It’s alright. You may have to wait a little bit, but you’ll still have ample time to take care of your situation. In general, it’s efficient to follow up with the court when you receive your reminder notice to work out a payment arrangement.

    Requesting an extension in court

    If your court date arrives, you can also ask for an extension on your arraignment date.

    In some instances, you may not be able to pay the ticket at all, in which case you can appeal to the judge in court. If you can demonstrate a financial hardship that’s keeping you from being able to pay your ticket, they may take it into account and give you leniency.

    You may consider going to traffic school if you’re eligible to avoid penalties for your ticket. There’s a separate fee for doing so, but if you’re experiencing financial difficulties, the court can consider that. Along with reducing your fine, they can sometimes help you out on the cost of traffic school.

    Requesting an extension after your court date

    There is still a chance that you can get an extension even after your court date has passed. You will have to appear in court to request an extension and avoid further penalties.

    Check your county’s rules and regulations

    Counties may have stricter rules than others around requesting an extension, and they may not be as kind in the amount of help they give for hardships. A particular court may only offer a one-time extension, or they may limit the length of the extension from your court appearance date.

    Your county may only offer extensions within a certain number of days before a trial. If you receive a traffic ticket, it’s essential to contact the court as soon as you feel you need an extension. They can let you know about the deadlines for requests and help you work out a payment arrangement right then and there.

    Find help with your traffic ticket

    A traffic ticket is always a bummer, but you don’t need to let it cause you any unnecessary stress. If you’re having trouble with your commitment, a quick call to your county court can give you some much-needed relief.

    Is this your first moving violation? Not everyone is lucky enough to qualify for traffic school, but if you don’t have a habit of unsafe driving, you can probably forget this one-time slip-up ever happened. Visit the California Department of Motor Vehicles to find a traffic school that fits your needs or register now to get started today!