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How Many Tickets Will Suspend Your License In California?

Following the passage of a new California state law in 2017, the Department of Motor Vehicles is prohibited from suspending a person’s driver’s license for unpaid traffic tickets. However, the agency can suspend your license for a criminal offense of willfully failing to appear in traffic court for those tickets.
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When Can Unpaid Traffic Tickets Lead to a License Suspension?

Unpaid traffic tickets and fines were previously reported by California courts to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), leading to the suspension of the person’s driver’s license. However, a change in the law occurred with the passage of Assembly Bill 103 in 2017.

This law stripped state courts of their authority to notify the DMV of the failure to pay a fine or traffic ticket. Without being notified of the failure to pay, the DMV cannot suspend your license.

The change was made because the suspension of licenses did not effectively help the state collect unpaid fines and was likely to result in job loss for low-income individuals. Despite this change, California still imposes some of the highest traffic ticket costs in the country, primarily due to state and county add-on fees, which can significantly increase the overall cost of a ticket.

What About Criminal Traffic Tickets?

Your California driver’s license can be suspended for specific criminal offenses, such as:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs,
  • Failure to appear in court, and
  • Vandalism.

Engaging in prostitution could also result in a license suspension if it was done in a motor vehicle and within 1,000 feet of a private residence, but this law was repealed in 2020.

Accumulating too many driving record points from criminal moving violations can lead to a license suspension.

For instance, reckless driving adds 2 points to your record. Your license will be suspended if you accumulate:

  • 4 points in a 12-month period,
  • 6 points in a 24-month period, or
  • 8 points in a 36-month period.

For these traffic violations and others, such as speeding tickets, you might need to complete traffic school and pay a license reinstatement fee to regain your driving privileges.

During the suspension, you might qualify for a restricted license to maintain employment.

Seeking legal advice from a reputable law office, especially a traffic ticket attorney, can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

What Happens if You are Caught Driving with a Suspended License in California?

If you are caught driving with a suspended license in California, you may face more than just a simple traffic ticket. Law enforcement can arrest you, leading to serious consequences. A conviction could result in a misdemeanor on your record for life [1].

If you have already committed a driving offense, such as Driving Under the Influence,  or failure to provide a chemical test for a prior Driving Under the Influence matter and your license was suspended, do not expect much sympathy from California law enforcement for committing another offense (breaching an order not to drive).

How to Reinstate a Suspended Driver’s License in California

If your license is suspended due to unpaid tickets, you have several options to resolve the issue:

Contest recent tickets in court: You can contest tickets yourself or with the help of an attorney. Fighting tickets in court can lead to dismissals, but it requires time and money. Each ticket may have a different appeals process, so consulting a local attorney familiar with traffic rules is advisable.

Pay the balance of the tickets: Contact the parking authorities to get a full account of all unpaid tickets. If you’ve lost the ticket, you can request your driving records from the State DMV, which will include all traffic tickets and convictions, your license status, and any fees owed.

Request an alternative payment program: You can ask the court for a payment plan or alternative payment program, such as community service, to settle the fines.

Once you pay your fines, make sure to follow up with the agency to make sure the tickets have been removed as past due. While it may be painful and annoying to pay these tickets, the cost, and difficulty of remedying the situation greatly increases if your license is suspended.

You should be worried about potential jail time, probation, significant fines, and further suspension of your license.

California Traffic Statistics


  • Traffic fatalities increased approximately 7.6% from 3,980 in 2020 to 4,285 in 2021.
  • The 2021 Mileage Death Rate (MDR) – fatalities per 100 million miles traveled – is 1.38.

Alcohol-Impaired Driving

  • Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (fatalities in crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, of 0.08 or higher) increased 16% from 1,180 in 2020 to 1,370 in 2021.

Drug-Impaired Driving

  • In 2021, 52.9% of all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes, who were tested, tested positive for legal and/ or illegal drugs, a decrease of approximately 5.5% from 2020.

Occupant Protection

  • Unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in all seating positions increased 12.4% from 782 in 2020 to 878 in 2021.

Motorcycle Safety

  • Motorcycle fatalities increased 3% from 549 in 2020 to 565 in 2021.
  • Motorcyclist deaths from not wearing a helmet increased 9% from 34 in 2020 to 37 in 2021.

Teen Safety

  • Teen drivers involved in fatal crashes (age 15-20) increased 14.8% from 413 in 2020 to 474 in 2021.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

  • Pedestrian fatalities increased 9.4% from 1,013 in 2020 to 1,108 in 2021.
  • Bicycle fatalities decreased 8% from 136 in 2020 to 125 in 2021.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) [2].

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If you or a loved one was involved with these matters, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.



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