Appeal a traffic ticket decision

If you lost at a traffic ticket trial (you were found guilty), it's possible to appeal the decision. Appeal means asking a higher court (an appellate court) to review the decision. It's not a new trial. 

Basics of traffic court appeals

An appeal means a review for legal errors that changed the outcome

A traffic appeal means you ask a higher court (an appellate court) to review a final decision in your traffic court trial. In almost all cases, the appellate court only considers if the judge made a legal error in your trial. And, if there was an error if it affected the final decision. The appellate court only reverses the judge's decision from your trial if the error was so important it changed the outcome.

An appeal is not a new trial or a chance to present new evidence. You can't present your case again or bring in new evidence or witnesses. In an appeal, you argue that there was a legal mistake in your trial and that the mistake changed the outcome. 

If you want to appeal, make sure you still can

To appeal, you must file a Notice of Appeal by a deadline. If you're appealing the final decision, the deadline is 30 days after the judge made its judgment. This is usually the date the judge ordered you to pay a fine. If you miss the deadline, you lose your right to appeal.

An appeal does not postpone the deadline for you to pay your fine or complete any part of your sentence. 

To postpone your sentence, you must ask the trial court for a "stay" of the judgment that includes the order for you to pay the fine.
 

How to appeal a traffic ticket

These steps give you an overview of what you'll need to do and what you can expect if you decide to appeal. You can get more detailed instructions in Information on Appeal Procedures for Infractions (form CR-141-INFO).

  • Fill out Notice of Appeal

    Fill out a Notice of Appeal and Record of Oral Proceedings (form CR-142). You must file this no later than 30 days from when the court made the decision you're appealing. This is usually the date the trial court orders you to pay a fine or orders other punishment in your case (sentences you). 

    Deciding what records the appellate division needs

    On the form, you will need to tell the court if you want them to send a copy of the record of what was said at the trial to the appellate division. This is called "a record of the oral proceedings." If any of the issues you are appealing requires the judges in the appellate division to know what was said, they will need a record of these oral proceedings. 

    If you want the record of the oral proceedings sent to the appellate division, check that box and then check the box for the type of record you want to be sent. There are 3 different forms of the record of the oral proceedings. 

    • If the case was recorded, an Official electronic recording or a transcript of that recording
    • If there was a court reporter, the Reporter's transcript
    • If it wasn't recorded and there wasn't a court reporter, you'll have to use a Statement on Appeal. This is a summary of what happened at the trial approved by the judge that heard the case.

    The next step has instructions on how to prepare a Statement on Appeal.

  • File and serve a Statement on Appeal if required

    Fill out, serve, and file a proposed statement by the deadline

    If you decide to use a "statement on appeal," you must prepare the proposed statement. The proposed statement must be served and filed with the trial court within 20 days after you file the Notice to Appeal. If it's ready, you can also file your proposed statement at the same time as you file your Notice of Appeal.

    1. Fill out a Proposed Statement on Appeal form

    Fill out Proposed Statement on Appeal (form CR-143)

    2. Serve the prosecuting attorney

    Once you've filled out the Proposed Statement you must have it sent (served) to the prosecuting attorney (the city attorney, district attorney, or other government agency attorney).

    To serve means that someone, not you, 18 or over that's not part of the case mails it to the prosecuting attorney. The person who mails it is your server.

    Your server must fill out and sign a Proof of Service (Appellate Division) (form APP-109). You can get more information on how to serve in What is Proof of Service? (form APP-109-INFO).

    3. File the Proposed Statement and Proof of Service

    File your Proposed Statement with the Proof of Service by the deadline.

    After you serve and file the Proposed Statement

    The prosecuting attorney has 10 days after you serve them with your proposed statement to file and serve any proposed changes (amendments) to this statement.

    The judge of the trial court will review your Proposed Statement and the prosecuting attorney's amendments. If the judge makes any changes, the court will send you and the prosecuting attorney a corrected statement.

    If you disagree with any part of the judge's statement, you have 10 days from the date it is sent to you to serve and file objections. After the judge reviews objections and makes any additional corrections, they will certify the statement. The clerk will send it to the appellate division as the record of the oral proceedings in the trial court.

  • File Notice of Appeal by the deadline

    Bring or mail the original Notice of Appeal to the clerk of the trial court in which you were convicted of the infraction.

    • There is no fee for filing the Notice of Appeal.
    • Ask your court clerk if your court requires you to file any other court forms or do any other steps.

    After you file your Notice of Appeal, the clerk will send a copy to the prosecuting attorney in your case (like the district attorney or city attorney).

  • Prepare, serve, and file a brief

    You will need to write, serve and file a brief by a deadline. This is the hardest part of the process. You will need to follow many rules and likely do legal research.

    California Rules of Court 8.926 to 8.928 have the rules about how to prepare, who to serve, and the deadlines for filing briefs.

    Calendar

    Get your due date for the brief

    Once the appellate division receives the complete record on appeal, the court clerk will send you a notice with a deadline to file a brief. It's usually 30 days after the record is filed, but it could be different. You must write, serve, and file a brief by the deadline.

    illustration of some paper forms with signature

    Prepare a brief

    A brief is a written description of the facts in the case, the law that applies, and your arguments about the issues. Briefs are the single most important part and the hardest part of the appellate process.

    Arguments in the brief explain:

    • The legal error the judge made
    • How that error changed the outcome of the case

    The best briefs guide the court through the case using the record and legal authority to support your points. Writing a good brief requires specialized knowledge. 

    illustration representing a mailbox

    Serve the brief

    Once your brief is done, you must have it sent (served) to the prosecuting attorney.

    To serve means that someone, not you, 18 or over that's not part of the case mails it to the prosecuting attorney. The person who mails it is your server. 

    Have your server fill out and sign a Proof of Service (Appellate Division) (form APP-109). You can get more information on how to serve in What is Proof of Service? (form APP-109-INFO).

    File the brief

    File your brief with the Proof of Service by the deadline in the Notice. If you miss the deadline for your brief, the court may dismiss your appeal.

    The prosecuting attorney may file a response to your brief (a respondent's brief). You can respond to it if you want. Learn more
    If the prosecuting attorney files their own brief, they must have this sent to you (have it served).  If you're served with the respondent's brief, you have the right to file a "reply brief." A reply brief responds to the "respondent's brief." You do not have to file a reply brief. If you do, you have to serve and file it within 20 days of being served with the respondent's brief.
  • Ask for exhibits to be sent to appellate court

    If you want the appellate division to consider an exhibit used in the trial, you must ask the trial court clerk to send the original exhibit to the appellate division. You must ask within 10 days after the last respondent’s brief is filed in the appellate division.

  • Oral argument, if requested

    Once briefs are served and filed or the deadline has passed, the court will let you know about the date for oral argument in your case.

    Oral argument is your chance to explain your arguments to the appellate judges in person. It's optional. If you don't want an oral argument, you can give up (waive) your right to have it. The other side has the same right to have it, they can also waive it if they want.

    • If both sides waive oral argument, the judges will decide your appeal based on the briefs and on the record from the trial court.
    • If only one side waives oral argument and the other one does not, the judges will have oral argument with the side that didn't waive it.
  • Get decision

    After the date set for oral argument (whether it actually takes place or not), the judges have 90 days to make a decision on your appeal.

    The clerk will mail you a notice of the appellate division's decision.