The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is an agency with many responsibilities beyond issuing drivers licenses, registering vehicles, and assigning license plates. One of its most essential functions involves publishing the California Driver Handbook. These informational materials are designed to educate drivers about driving regulations and licensing requirements.
An area that is particularly relevant for drivers is the Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS). If you’ve ever been fined or penalized for a traffic violation in California, you’re probably already at least slightly familiar with the points that accompany this system. But do you know how they impact your driving record and eligibility to maintain a license?
The DMV has authority over several areas of transportation licensing and regulation in the State of California. This means that the agency can issue and suspend or revoke driver’s licenses for certain motor vehicle offenses.
For motor vehicle offenses like speeding tickets or reckless driving violations, the DMV will assign points attributed to the driver’s license in the aforementioned Negligent Operator Treatment System.
Although most people believe that avoiding major violations is the way to keep points low, they can also gradually accumulate through minor offenses if not taken seriously. Additionally, there is a different set of rules that may apply to commercial driver’s licenses issued by the same authority.
Nearly every moving violation in California results in points added to the NOTS system. Some of the minor offenses that result in one point added to your record include the following:
Major violations that will result in a two-point addition to the NOTS system are as follows:
Neither list is exhaustive, and other moving violations may fall into these categories, but it does highlight the stark difference in offenses.
The gradual accumulation of points can lead to drivers’ significant consequences beyond the fines and tickets or jail time that may accompany violations. One of the most significant troubles that can arise from these points involves insurance.
For first-time offenders, even one point added to the record can negatively impact insurance premiums. If an insurer checks a driver’s record and notices infractions and points added, they are likely to hike the monthly car insurance premiums. The bigger the moving violation, the worse the possible increase in insurance costs.
These driving records are publicly visible and can be seen by potential employers or other parties. Additionally, points remain visible on the record for 3-7 years, depending on the violation.
Once a driver has passed a certain point threshold, the DMV considers this individual a negligent operator. The threshold for reaching this status involves the following:
When this status is reached, it can result in severe consequences, which may include:
Additionally, as mentioned above, insurance premiums will also rise given the access insurers have to your driving records.
In some cases, but not all, a judge may offer a driver with a one-point infraction the opportunity to attend traffic violator school. If the course is successfully completed, the citation will be hidden from the driving record, helping drivers avoid higher insurance premium costs. However, this isn’t universally available to drivers, especially for more severe offenses. Additionally, drivers can only attend a course once every 18 months, and this offer is entirely at the discretion of the judge.
Fighting against points being added to your license is possible in certain circumstances, but it depends on your case’s strength. If you plead guilty or no contest to a charge, then there is no way to fight back against points being added to your license. The exception is if a judge grants permission to attend a traffic course to mask the charge from appearing on your driving record.
However, by contesting the charges, especially if you have evidence that supports your side of the story, you may be able to avoid a fine or jail time in addition to the points. Still, given the complicated nature of this activity, it is always best to engage an experienced lawyer who will analyze the situation and determine if there is any way to reduce or avoid the charges altogether. This can mean all the difference between receiving points and maintaining a clean record.
Before merely paying a fine for a traffic violation, it’s vital to seek the services of a lawyer. If you pay the fine, the points will automatically be added to your record. However, if you contest the ticket or violation, you won’t receive the points until a conviction decision has been reached. Here is where an experienced lawyer may be able to tilt the scales in your favor.
An experienced lawyer familiar with traffic court and the accompanying laws may be able to find facts and evidence that contradict a prosecutor’s case. If the ticket or violation was wrongfully administered, a lawyer would be able to fight for a dismissal.
Furthermore, they might challenge the prosecutor responsible for providing the burden of proof, or direct evidence, that a crime or violation was actually committed. Avoiding points helps reduce the possibility of higher insurance premiums and keeps the record clear of infractions.
Small traffic violations and infractions may feel harmless but can add up quickly and have severe consequences for drivers.
When points accumulate on your driving record, not only will you have to contend with higher insurance costs, but there is also the heightened risk of your license being suspended or revoked, leaving you unable to drive. While traffic school may be an option to avoid a point in some instances, the best practice is to dry as safely as possible and follow all the rules to prevent infractions altogether.
If you’ve been ticketed or charged with a traffic offense, it’s always wise to consult with an attorney first to ensure that all options have been completely exhausted before pleading guilty or no contest and paying a fine.
In certain circumstances and cases, you might be able to avoid points altogether with the right help, so always be sure to speak with a lawyer before merely paying a ticket and forgetting about the ordeal entirely. It might mean the difference between extra savings and harsh penalties like license suspension.