What are California Public Traffic Records?
Public traffic records in California are official documents containing information about an individual's driving or traffic history, including any traffic offenses, traffic tickets and sentences. Essentially, these records are a compilation of documents and information generated and maintained by different government agencies.
California traffic records are accessible to members of the public on request. Interested persons may query the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the state's courts to access or make copies of them.
Are Traffic Records Public in California?
Yes, traffic records are public in California, and the California's Public Records Act guarantees access to public records generated and maintained by government agencies. However, traffic records contain information that may be deemed confidential according to the Driver's Privacy Protection Act. Confidential information contained in these records may include the driver's phone number, social security number, or residential address. Even though traffic records may contain confidential information, they are still considered public records, and may be accessed by interested members of the public. However, any confidential information on a traffic record will be typically redacted or removed before it is issued to a requestor.
What Do California Traffic Records Contain?
California traffic records contain the subject's traffic history and records, including but not limited to:
- Traffic violations
- Driver's license suspension and revocation
- DUI fines
- Traffic accidents
- License renewals
- Driver's license number
- Convictions and sentences
Does a Citation Go on Your Record in California?
Certain traffic citations or tickets go on an offender's record in California. Tickets or citations resulting from traffic infractions or minor traffic offenses are not included on an offender's record since they are not considered criminal offenses.
California uses a point system to monitor traffic offenses and penalize offenders. Accumulated points may result in a license suspension. Traffic offenses assigned points are usually criminal by designation, and so, are usually included on the offenders record. Examples of such offenses are hit and run, evading law enforcement, and driving under the influence.
Types of Traffic Citations in California
There are three main types of traffic citations in California:
- Parking tickets are issued for parking violations and are filed with parking agencies. Recipients may respond to parking tickets by paying or contesting the ticket. Recipients of parking tickets may only visit traffic courts to appeal a parking agency's decision.
- Infraction tickets are issued for minor traffic offenses such as running a red light or overspeeding. Recipients may respond to infraction tickets by paying or contesting the ticket. There are three types of infraction tickets, namely:
- owner-responsibility tickets
- correctable violations tickets
- Photo citation
- Correctable violation tickets are issued for broken equipment on a vehicle. A correctable violation ticket is also called a "fix-it" ticket. Owner-responsibility tickets are issued to the vehicle owner when a non-owner receives a fix-it ticket from using the vehicle. A photo citation is issued when an automated camera captures a person at a red light or rail crossing.
- Misdemeanor tickets are issued for more serious crimes than infractions, which are criminal offenses. Examples of these crimes include driving without a license and driving under the influence of alcohol.
California Traffic Citation Lookup
Interested parties may look up California traffic tickets on the website of the superior court where the violation was heard. These websites often provide portals or online search tools that requesters can use to look up traffic tickets.
The California Judiciary's Find a Court page is useful for finding direct links to or web addresses for all superior courts in the state. Interested parties may find specific courts through a zip code search or selecting the View All Courts option. The View All Courts option provides direct links to each court's traffic division for ease of use.
Requestors may also lookup traffic citations by visiting the Superior Court in the county where the ticket was issued or by visiting a local DMV office.
How to Lookup my California Traffic Records
Interested parties may look up California traffic records by requesting personal driving records or motor vehicle reports (MVR) from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The report contains records of traffic offenses, convictions, and other related information. Queries may be made online or in person.
To check MVRs online, requesting parties must visit the California DMV website and register for an account to submit records requests. Users with registered accounts may only access personal driving records on the site. Each download costs $2, however, credit or debit card payments include additional processing fees. To request another person's MVR, the requesting party must submit a special request form and a $5 fee by mail to the DMV.
Some information on driving records, such as social security numbers, residence addresses, and other personal information, are not open to public access under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act. Online records are for personal use only and cannot be used for official purposes. Persons interested in official records may visit the DMV headquarters or a local DMV office to request official records. Alternatively, the requestor may fill an INF1125 form and mail it to the DMV at the address on the form.
California traffic case records may also be available from third-party websites since they are considered public records. Unlike government sources or websites, third-party websites do not have geographical limitations. Hence, interested parties may access these websites from anywhere in the world. However, some third-party websites may require registration or subscription to access traffic records.
California Traffic Violations
A traffic violation in California is any infraction of the state's vehicle code. This can include speeding, running a red light, or failure to yield. Depending on the severity of the offense, a traffic violation can result in a warning, citation, or even arrest. In some cases, points may be added to the offender's driving record.
A traffic violation in California can be a minor infraction, such as speeding, or a major offense, such as DUI. The severity of the crime will determine the penalties the offender faces. A minor violation may only result in a warning or citation, while a major offense could lead to arrest and points on your driving record.
Some of the most common traffic violations in California are:
- Running a red light
- Failure to yield
- Driving without insurance
- Reckless driving
- At-fault accident
- Driving with a suspended license
California License Plate Lookup
License plates are essential in California traffic records because they can help identify the owner of a vehicle. California license plate lookups can be used to find out the owner of a car and the make and model of the car.
The California DMV website offers a license plate lookup service for free. However, this service is only available to law enforcement agencies and authorized individuals.
Private websites that offer license plate lookup services charge a fee. However, these websites may have access to other related information, including the driver's criminal history.
How to View Traffic Case Records for Free in California
California courts maintain official records of all cases in different formats. Persons interested in viewing traffic court records may visit or contact the Traffic Division of the Superior Court in the county where the case was heard or where the traffic offense occurred. The California Courts website has a Find Your Court tool that helps interested parties find information about courts in the state.
Requesting parties may visit the courthouse to view paper records or electronic records. While court clerks maintain court case records, the court also provides public access terminals or computers at the courthouse where users can search for electronic versions of traffic case records. Some courts offer remote access to electronic records; users may view traffic case records using these websites.
Electronic case record access and availability are guided by California Rule of Court 2.503. Some records are not available remotely while others are only accessible remotely to authorized parties such as the case parties, their attorney or other legal representatives, government staff, and others appointed by the court. Confidential records and other records exempt from public access by court order or statutes may not be available online through electronic access or at the courthouse.
Interested parties may also lookup California traffic case records on remote access websites provided by local superior courts, such as the Sacramento Superior Court's Public Case Access System.
How Long do Traffic Offenses Remain on a Public Record in California
The length of time a traffic offense remains on a public record in California depends on the nature or severity of the offense. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in California retains and reports driver record information for three (3) to 55 years, depending on the nature of the traffic offense.
Records of traffic offenses that attract two (2) points on the offender's driver's license are reported for ten (10) years from the date of the violation. However, other traffic offenses are reported for three (3) years from the date of the violation. Also, court records of traffic offenses that occur in commercial vehicles are reported for 55 years from the date of the conviction, and DUI convictions are reported for ten (10) years.
The California DMV also maintains and reports records of actions that result from traffic offenses. Driving privilege actions resulting from DUI convictions are reported for three (3) years from the reinstatement date or proof of termination date. Records for commercial drivers in this category are reported for 55 years.
Actions resulting from failure to pay fines or appear in court for a DUI are reported for ten (10) years from the date of the violation. In the same vein, actions resulting from a failure to provide proof of financial responsibility are reported for three (3) years from the reinstatement or proof of termination date. The DMV's reporting schedule provides more information about retention and reporting periods for traffic violations in the state.
According to the California Vehicle Code (CVC §1807), the department does not need to maintain driving records when the Director determines that the records are no longer useful.
How to Remove Traffic Records from Public Websites in California
Pursuant to the California's Public Records Act, records generated by government agencies in the state, including traffic records, are public. This means that such records are available not only on government websites and databases but also on public websites created by data brokerage firms. The public availability of such records could unduly expose the subject of the record or pose other risks. Therefore, it may be beneficial to remove traffic records from public websites.
One way to remove traffic records from public websites is to petition the court for a sealing or expungement. Typically, sealed or expunged records are not accessible to the public; however, California laws do not allow true expungements. The expungement process does not erase the conviction or the record - it merely shows that the court dismissed the conviction. Also, sealed or dismissed records in California are still accessible to the public in some cases. California state laws allow for the sealing of some arrest records. However, the only eligible arrest records are ones for which the subject was not charged or convicted of any offense.
Another way to remove traffic records from public websites is to obtain a P.O. Box address and dedicated phone number, then update personal records with government agencies such as the DMV and the courts. This helps protect some of the record subject's personal information such as residential address and active phone number from public access.
Some third-party websites offer opt-out services at a fee. The service also covers monitoring to ensure that where traffic records cannot be completely removed, personal identifiable information stays removed from public records.
Do Motoring Offenses Affect Criminal Records in California?
Motoring offenses can affect criminal records in California.
Generally, motoring offenses may be categorized as civil or criminal. While civil traffic offenses are considered minor and penalized as such, criminal traffic offenses can be misdemeanors or felony crimes. Minor traffic offenses, also known as traffic infractions, are not considered criminal and do not affect the offender's criminal record. On the other hand, criminal traffic offenses can result in a permanent criminal record. Typically, criminal traffic offenses are repeated offenses involving injury, harm, or the risk of injury or harm to another party.
In California, criminal motoring offenses are penalized as criminal offenses and thus, appear on both the offender's driving record and criminal history records. Criminal traffic records could show up in background checks, driving record checks, and public records. Criminal traffic violations or offenses could also result in additional consequences, such as increased insurance premiums. Some criminal offenses also result in the loss of driving privileges and career or employment limitations.
If a criminal motoring offense appears in an offender's criminal record, it may limit the offender's access to employment opportunities involving driving or other related fields. Ultimately, if a traffic offender does not resolve a minor traffic violation appropriately, it may result in criminal charges, affecting the offender's criminal record.