Unlike felony or misdemeanor offenses, a defendant who is convicted of an infraction cannot be sent to jail or prison or placed on probation. Infractions are considered low-level offenses that are punishable by a maximum fine of $250 plus penalties and assessments. Infractions may also trigger other consequences such as driver’s license suspensions. The majority of infractions in Los Angeles are traffic violations; however there are a number of non-traffic offenses with which someone can be cited.
Certain misdemeanors may be considered “wobbler” offenses that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. The prosecutor may decide at the time of filing whether or not to file misdemeanor charges or handle the offense as an infraction. Alternatively, the prosecutor may agree to reduce a “wobbler” misdemeanor to an infraction as part of a plea negotiation. This is often the case for defendants who are charged with driving without a license in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 12500(a) VC. This is a misdemeanor charge; however the prosecutor may offer to reduce the charge to an infraction if the defendant obtains a valid license. Other “wobbler” offenses that can be charged or reduced to an infraction include disturbing the peace under California Penal Code Section 415 PC and exhibition of speed pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 23109(c) VC.
When a person has been cited for an infraction, he or she will be provided a citation with a court due date. Unlike misdemeanor or felony offenses, the date on an infraction citation is usually a due date by which the defendant must schedule an arraignment. This can be done at the assigned courthouse or can be handled on the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s website. The defendant may be given the option of paying the infraction online or scheduling an arraignment date in court.
Like misdemeanor offenses, an attorney can appear on behalf of the defendant for all court appearances. At the arraignment, the defendant can enter a plea of “guilty,” “not guilty” or “no contest.” If the defendant enters a plea of “not guilty,” the matter will be set for trial. The defendant is entitled to a speedy trial within 45 days of the arraignment. If the defendant waives time for a speedy trial, the trial may be scheduled several months later.
A prosecutor typically does not appear at the arraignment and the judge will not hear arguments from the defense at arraignment. In the past, the judge usually required that the defendant post bail if he or she requested a trial on an infraction. The bail amount would be the fine owed on the ticket. However, the law has been changed to allow defendants charged with infractions to be released on their own recognizance (“OR release”) pending trial. Defendants who fail to appear at their arraignment can have their driver’s license suspended and can be charged with failing to appear in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 40508 VC.
Unlike misdemeanor or felony charges, the defendant would not receive discovery prior to trial on an infraction. Usually, the defendant will only receive a copy of the citation. For red light camera tickets, the defendant will be sent a copy of the red light violation that may have occurred.
The officer who issued the citation will be given the ticket trial date. If the officer does not appear in court on the trial date, the matter will be dismissed. In addition, the officer may appear but may have no independent recollection of the offense. The infraction may be dismissed in these circumstances as well.
There are certain infractions, such as fix-it tickets or citations for not having insurance, which can be cured by the defendant. If the defendant makes the necessary repairs or obtains valid insurance, the Court will dismiss the infraction and will assess a $25 dismissal fee.
If the defendant loses at trial, he or can face a maximum fine of $250 plus penalty assessments. In addition, the defendant may face additional consequences. For example, if the defendant is convicted of speeding in excess of 100 mph, he or she would face a 30 day driver’s license suspension.
If you have been cited for a misdemeanor or infraction offense, it is crucial that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who understands how to effectively defend those charged with felony, misdemeanor and infraction offenses.
For more information about Los Angeles infractions, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.