Traffic and minor violation matters are heard in Department B at the Watsonville Courthouse on Thursdays and Department 10 at the Santa Cruz Courthouse on Fridays.
Remote Appearance Information
Appearing at arraignment by video is quick and easy. You may appear by video at arraignment if you cannot attend in person or if you don’t want to come to court in person. You do not need to ask or notify us in advance. Simply click the appear remotely button. Please note that you must appear in person for all Traffic Court Trials.
If your fine is delinquent and has been assigned to Alliance One (the Court's collection agency) all questions must be directed to Alliance One at 1-877-541-8420. The Alliance One office previously located at the Santa Cruz Courthouse is closed indefinitely. Please be sure to contact Alliance One at the number above if you have questions about your collections account.
Traffic Amnesty Program Ended as of 03/31/2017
Trial by Written Declaration
Vehicle Code Section 40902 allows defendants to contest citations in writing, without having to make personal court appearances. This procedure is called a "Trial by Written Declaration." Trials by Written Declaration (TBD) are available in cases involving infraction violations of the Vehicle Code or local ordinances adopted under the Vehicle Code.
Additional Eligibility Requirements include:
- The due date to take care of your ticket has not passed;
- Full bail must be paid (per VC 40902);
- Violation(s) must be vehicle code infractions only;
- Does not involve alcohol or drugs;
- Does not require a mandatory appearance; and
- No failure to appear or failure to pay fine on the case.
You must submit a request for Trial by Written Declaration along with the full bail, proof of correction (if applicable), and any facts or evidence to the Court no later than the due date listed on your Courtesy Notice. A written statement will be requested from the citing agency. At a date set by the Court, a judicial officer will review the papers filed by you and the officer, and make a decision on your case. You will get the court’s decision by mail telling you whether you were found guilty or not guilty.
Instructions and forms are listed below:
For further information about Trials by Written Declaration please visit the Judicial Council website, or call the clerk's office at (831) 420-2200.
Important: By filing a declaration in a trial by written declaration, you are waiving and giving up the rights to remain silent and not incriminate yourself, and the right to a public and speedy trial. You are also waiving the right to appear in person before a judicial officer, except that you will have a right to a new trial (also called "trial de novo") in court if you disagree with the court’s decision in your trial by written declaration.
Financial Hardship and Ability to Pay
Find more information about financial hardships and what you can do if you cannot pay a fine.
- Pay Online: Click this link https://portal.santacruzcourt.org/portal. Note that there is a convenience fee assessed for all online payments.
- Pay by mail: Send payment to Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060; make check or money order payable to Santa Cruz Superior Court. Include the citation number on the check or money order. Do not mail cash.
- Pay in person: Place payment in the drop box at either the Santa Cruz or Watsonville Clerk's Office (check office hours here). Do not place cash in the drop box. The Court does not accept credit cards by phone.
Some violations require you to appear in court and cannot be resolved without a court appearance. Read your Courtesy Notice to see if you are required to appear for court.
- If you choose to pay your ticket without going to trial, it is called bail forfeiture. Bail forfeiture means the ticket will be deemed paid and a conviction will be reported to DMV.
- For moving violations, you may attend Traffic Violator School if you meet certain requirements. Please read Question #7 (below) to learn more about Traffic School.
- If your ticket includes “correctable violations,” (like mechanical issues, missing a headlight, or insurance/registration violations) “proof of correction” is required to pay the correctable (reduced) fine amount.
- Making installment payments to pay a fine may be available if you are financially unable to pay the entire fine amount at once. Please contact the court at 831-420-2200 to discuss this option.
- Contact the clerk's office and declare yourself "not guilty," pay the full bail amount, and schedule a trial date. You may submit your "not guilty" plea through the mail with a check or money order made out to Superior Court of Santa Cruz County. Do not pay for a court trial using the court's Online payment system because that will cause your case to bail forfeit and your case will no longer be eligible for trial.
- Contact the clerk's office and request an arraignment date to appear in court to enter a plea. At arraignment, you will be given a trial date to contest your ticket.
- Contact the court to request a trial by written declaration. This option is available for moving violations only. See FAQ #4.
A courtesy notice contains general information about the violations charged against you and the options available to resolve them. The notice is sent to the address listed on the citation once the court receives the citation from the issuing law enforcement agency. Make sure to carefully read both sides of the courtesy notice.
It can take three weeks for the court to process and mail a courtesy notice. The court must first receive the citation from the law enforcement agency before it is mailed to you. Please use one of the following options when attempting to follow up on a citation:
- Call 831-420-2200 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide your ticket number when calling or emailing the court.
- Go to either the Santa Cruz or Watsonville Clerk’s Office and ask if your ticket is entered. Please bring your ticket with you. Location and hours information is listed here.
The Court is not required to send out courtesy notices but does it as a courtesy. Notices are mailed to the address written on the traffic ticket. If you move and your address is different from the one on your ticket, you must contact the court immediately. Not receiving a courtesy notice does not relieve you of responsibility to resolve your ticket.
If the citing officer issued you a ticket for an infraction violation, then the date at the bottom is not a court date. Your ticket should state that you are to contact the court within 30 days.
Some Photo “Red Light” tickets contain a date at the bottom of the ticket but that date is not a court date. That is the deadline for contacting the court if you have not received a courtesy notice.
In order to attend Traffic School, you must pay the court the entire bail amount listed on the courtesy notice, and, at the same time, also pay a non-refundable $52.00 Traffic School fee. The Traffic School Company will charge an additional fee upon enrollment; this fee is separate from the fines due to the court.
Important: You will not be eligible for a fine reduction or community service hours if you request to attend traffic school.
There are three ways to pay your fine and Traffic School fees:
- (Recommended) Pay online. Please note that there is a convenience fee added to online payments. If you want to attend Traffic School, you must select the option for paying the fine plus the Traffic School fee. If you do select Traffic School and do not pay the additional fee, you will loose the traffic school option for your citation.
- Pay by mail: Send payment to Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Please make your check or money order payable to ‘Santa Cruz Superior Court’ and include your case number and the additional $52 Traffic School fee. The Court will not accept a cash payment by mail.
- Pay In person: At either Santa Cruz or Watsonville Clerk’s Office or by placing payment in the drop box at either location. The Court will not accept a cash payment through the drop box. Again, remember that your payment must include both the fine amount and the $52 Traffic School fee.
For Traffic School Programs, please visit the DMV's system.
Eligibility requirements to attend Traffic School are as follows:
- You must currently possess a valid driver’s license;
- You must not have attended Traffic School within the last 18 months, calculated from violation date to violation date;
- Your ticket must not have defaulted to a failure to appear;
- The violation(s) on your ticket must be Traffic School eligible;
- The violation must have occurred in a non-commercial vehicle; and
- All correctable violations must be cleared prior to electing to attend Traffic School.
You Cannot go to Traffic School for:
- Equipment offenses
- Non-moving offenses (like parking offenses)
- Offenses with a mandatory court appearance
- Alcohol-or drug-related offenses
- Offenses in a commercial vehicle
You are also not eligible if you have gone to Traffic School for another ticket that you got in the last 18 months.
There are other reasons you may not be eligible for traffic school. For more information on eligibility for traffic school, see the California Rules of Court, rule 4.104.
You will be given 90 days to complete the Traffic School course. Please note that there is no extension or grace period provided for theTraffic School completion date. Additionally, there are no refunds of any type for any reasons of fees paid by a defendant in order to register with the court for Traffic School. If you have a valid non-California driver's license, the court has no control over whether states other than California will observe completion of a traffic school program. Anyone who is cited with a non-California driver's license should contact the issuing state's motor vehicle department to determine whether completing a traffic school program is appropriate and/or advantageous.
Failure to complete the Traffic School in a timely manner will result in a conviction against your driving record and the non-refundable Traffic School fee will be forfeited as payment in full.
If you are eligible and decide not to attend Traffic School, your automobile insurance may be adversely affected.
Correction for most mechanical violations can be inspected and signed off by law enforcement officers or certain employees of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The inspecting officer will sign the back of the citation or the Courtesy Notice. Send the signed off citation or courtesy notice to the court along with a $25.00 transaction fee, per Vehicle Code Section 40611(a), for each correctable violation. Do not pay your fine on line if you wish to provide proof of correction for a reduced fine. You can mail in your proof of correction or come to either the Santa Cruz or Watsonville Courthouse.
If you have lost your ticket or courtesy notice, the court can provide you with a replacement proof of correction form. You may call the court or go to the clerk’s office to request this form.
Insurance Violations may not be signed off or corrected by law enforcement or DMV personnel.
If you were insured at the time the ticket was issued, but were unable to provide proof of financial responsibility (insurance) to the officer who cited you, you may submit a copy of your insurance card or policy along with the $25.00 transaction fee to the court.
Acceptable proof of financial responsibility must be issued by the insurer and MUST include the following information:
- Name of insurance carrier
- VIN number (vehicle identification number)
- Policy number
- Effective dates of coverage must cover the date the ticket was issued for dismissal of the charge
- Name of person who received the ticket AND the vehicle listed on the ticket
If you did not have proof of financial responsibility (insurance) at the time the ticket was issued you may either:
- Submit proof of insurance purchased after the violation date with a plea of guilty or no contest and request a reduction in the fine. (Court's Plea Form) or,
- Pay the full bail amount for this violation
Registration Violations: The Court will accept a copy of your current valid registration as proof of correction for most registration violations. If the officer cited the violation as “non-correctable” then you may submit proof of current valid registration with a plea of guilty or no contest and request a reduction in the fine amount.
If you cannot provide valid registration but you have paid all DMV fees, or if you have sold or junked the vehicle, you may provide proof to the Court with a plea of guilty or no contest for a reduction or dismissal of the fine. (Court's Plea Form)
Yes. Courts must provide defendants notice of their right to request an ability-to-pay determination and make available instructions or other materials for requesting an ability-to-pay determination. (Generally, the Court’s Courtesy Notice serves as notification of your right to request an ability-to-pay determination. The information contained on this site is also provided for the purposes of notification.)
There are many opportunities to request consideration of your ability to pay due to financial hardship and to discuss alternate payment options. The following is a list of those options:
Notification at arraignment – Individuals choosing to appear at arraignment can notify the Court of their ability to pay and request the Court allow community service, payment plan, or a fine reduction for the offense.
Notification upon judgment – Individuals choosing to contest a violation would have an opportunity to address the Court during the judgment phase of the case in order to inform the Court of the ability to pay.
Notification following judgment – Individuals may contact the Court following a judgment to inform the Court about the ability to pay or changes in circumstance that have impacted ability to pay. Individuals can use the Court’s Modification Form SUPTMV-56 found here to request modification of a previous court order based on an ability to pay and request to perform community service and/or establish a payment plan to pay a fine in installments. The Court does not reduce fines after judgment is made.
Individuals may choose to waive formal arraignment and enter a plea of guilty or no contest and request a payment plan, community service, and/or a fine reduction. Individuals may use the Court’s Plea Form SUPTMV-057 found here in order to exercise this option.
Scan and email to:
701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Deliver in person to:
Santa Cruz or Watsonville Courthouses
NOTE: If a fine reduction is requested, or if community service hours are requested, you are forfeiting your opportunity to attend Traffic School for eligible violations. (See FAQ #7.)
No. By signing a payment plan, you are admitting guilt to the charges and promising to pay the fine amount.
Fill out the Modification Request Form SUPTMV-056 found here. Include your name, address, and case number. This form may be used for a variety of reasons, including, when you want the Court to consider your ability to pay in making a determination about setting a fine amount. Please send the competed form to one of the following:
|Scan and email to:
|Santa Cruz Superior Court, 701 Ocean Street, Room 120, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
|Deliver in person to:
|Santa Cruz or Watsonville Clerks office
It is the first hearing after you receive your ticket. At arraignment, the commissioner or judge will explain the following information:
- The charge;
- The fine amount; and
- Your rights.
Arraignment is also a time when you may ask the court to consider your ability to pay when setting the fine amount. An arraignment is not mandatory in most cases; however, if your courtesy notice says “Mandatory Court,” then you will need to schedule an arraignment hearing. It is not necessary to post bail if you schedule an arraignment date separate from a trial date.
You may schedule an arraignment by:
- Calling the Court at 831-420-2200; or
- Visiting either the Santa Cruz or Watsonville Clerk’s Office.
You can ask for a trial by written declaration in person at the clerk’s office or by mail. The request must be received prior to the the due date on you Courtesy Notice.
If you request a Trial by Written Declaration ("TBD"), you waive your right to appear, to testify in person, to subpoena witnesses and your right to a speedy trial. Please see the Trial by Written Declaration information section below for further information about this process.
Please Note: Only infraction cases resulting from a moving Vehicle Code violation, including local ordinances adopted under the Vehicle Code (excluding Bike and Skate violations) are eligible for Trial by Written Declaration.
What happens when I go to court?
The court will listen to the statements of the sworn witnesses against you and may question each witness. You may then present your case to the Court and question any witnesses. After both sides have presented their case, the Court will rule on the matter or take the matter under submission. If the Court takes the matter under submission, you will be notified by mail of the court's decision and if found guilty a sentence will be imposed.
How long will the trial take?
Court trials are regularly scheduled in the mornings and afternoons. If your trial is scheduled in the morning, plan to be in court until 12:00 p.m. If your trial is scheduled in the afternoon, plan to be in court until 4:30 p.m.
Should I bring my evidence?
If you have photos, diagrams, reports, or any other exhibits, which you plan to present at the time of the trial, bring them with you on your trial date
Should my witnesses appear?
If you have witnesses that are necessary to your defense, you should have them subpoenaed to appear in court. Do this well in advance of your trial date using the Court's Order to Attend Court Form. You can also obtain a subpoena form from the Clerk’s Office or the Law Library. Please complete the subpoena form, have the subpoena served, and file the subpoena, including proof of service, with the Court on or before your trial date.
What if I am found not guilty?
The violation will not appear on your record and, if reportable, will not be reported to the DMV. If you paid your bail, your payment will be returned by mail within sixty days. Make sure your current address is on file with the Court.
What if I am late?
If your case is called before you arrive for court, you will be considered absent for your trial.
What if I do not appear at the time of trial?
Your trial can be heard in your absence. You may be found guilty and, if you paid your fine, your fine payment will be applied to your bail; and, if applicable, your driving record will show a conviction. If you did not pay bail and you fail to pay as ordered, you may be referred to a collections agency and the matter will be reported to the DMV if your conviction was for a vehicle code violation.
Will the officer who issued the citation be in court?
The officer will be subpoenaed to appear in court.
What if the officer does not show up?
The officer will be notified to attend court and your case will be heard regardless of whether or not the officer attends the hearing.
How do I request a Postponement of a Traffic Court Trial?
You must perform the following steps when requesting to postpone a traffic court trial:
- Request a postponement at least 15 days prior to the hearing date;
- Make the request in writing and state the reason(s) you need a postponement;
- Your request must also state “TIME IS WAIVED”, if you are submitting it 45 days beyond your arraignment date;
- The original request must be filed with the Court; and
- Mail or deliver a copy of your request to the citing agency. Your original request will not be processed unless it indicates that you have mailed or hand delivered a copy to the citing agency (i.e., Santa Cruz Police Department, CHP, etc.)
How is a Trial by Declaration different than a Court trial?
A Trial by Written Declaration (TBD) is a written trial where you and the citing officer send in testimony through the mail. Only infraction cases resulting from a moving violation (including skateboards and bikes) are eligible for TBD. If you request a TBD, you are required to waive your rights to appear as well as your right to testify in person and to subpoena witnesses. A request for TBD must be received prior to the due date on your Courtesy Notice.