The Initial Hold
Counties across California can issue steep fines for even minor traffic violations. And when you can't pay those fines—or go to court to contest them—you put your license at risk. 40509.5 is the legal code section that permits the traffic court to tell the DMV to put a hold on your license for failure to pay a fine or appear in traffic court. These holds are common, and many people receive notice of a hold without knowing what they did wrong.
How a Minor Ticket Can Become Serious
Many people assume a routine traffic ticket can't be that bad. But when the DMV puts a 40509.5 hold on your license, things can get serious very fast. If you don't clear the hold by paying the fine or going to court within a specified period, it will become a full license suspension. And if you are caught driving on a suspended license, you could face criminal charges.
In addition to the hold, your ticket might have been sent to collections. Typically, unpaid California traffic tickets are sent to GC Services. Like any other collections agency, GC Services will try to get you to pay the fine to protect your license. GC Services is notorious for coercing defendants into paying their inflated fees.
True to the collections agency business model, GC Services will call you and send you notices repeatedly. If you call them, they will try to convince you to pay the fee and might mislead you in the process. What they might not tell you is when you pay your ticket through GC Services, you waive your rights to contest the ticket. And paying the collections agency might not even be the quickest route to releasing the hold. I recommend instead addressing the legal issue of the hold before paying the ticket.
Remember that paying a traffic ticket is like pleading guilty to the offense. Once you pay the fine and essentially plead guilty, you could face additional consequences such as points on your driving record, increased insurance premiums, and even civil liability if you injured someone in an accident. If you don't want to plead guilty or want to find out if you have other options, don't pay the fine, but take steps to address the hold first. Once you lift the hold, you might be able to contest the ticket in court or attend traffic school to resolve the matter.
Handling the Hold
Dealing with a 40509.5 hold can be difficult. If you receive a notice regarding a hold, your first step should be contacting the DMV to find out what exactly is on your driving record. It is not uncommon for people to receive notice of a hold but not know what prompted the hold. You can request a copy of your driving record through the DMV that should clearly list the offense. If you have multiple citations, you will need to identify which one specifically caused the hold so you can address that one first.
You could also have a suspension on your license from unpaid child support or civil judgments, or criminal charges such as DUI or hit and run. Your DMV record will give you an up to date look at the status of your license. You can request a copy of your record online, by mail, or in person if you don't want to wait on hold.
Your next step should be to call an attorney. An attorney might be able to clear the hold quickly. At the very least, an attorney can identify the cause for the hold and tell you the exact steps you need to take to lift it, including any steps you should take to take care of your ticket before the court turns to other methods of enforcement. Other than the 40509.5 hold, the court can issue a warrant, impose additional fines for failure to pay, or even charge you with a misdemeanor offense.
Don't wait until you've reached a point where your options are exhausted to address your hold. If your license has been suspended under a 40509.5 hold or if you are facing charges for driving on a suspended license, contact an attorney today. A simple traffic ticket has the potential to turn into jail time and steep fines if left unaddressed. But you should also be strategic and wait until you've spoken to an attorney before you pay the collections agency.
Are you facing charges for driving on a suspended license? If so, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for expert counsel. Experienced in driving crime defense, our Visalia area legal team can advise you of your options and help you take steps to reinstate your license and fight your charges. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Christopher Martens will aggressively defend your rights at trial and help you get the outcome you want. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.