My question involves traffic court in the State of: California.
In December of 2009, I was pulled over by the LAPD for talking on my cell phone while driving. This was in a rental car and this was shortly after I moved to California (I was still using a valid Colorado driver's license). The officer asked me if I was aware of the law, I politely said "no, I'm very new to town." He issued me a ticket.
In the next week or so, I also "earned" a few parking tickets (welcome to Southern California!).
The rental car agency took care of those parking tickets and simply charged the credit card I had on file.
Here's where I really started to screw up.
I mistakenly assumed my cell phone traffic ticket was also taken care of -- I failed to properly distinguish between my parking tickets and my traffic ticket -- and I moved on with my life.
Fast-forward to October-ish 2010...
I was trying to do something on the DMV's website and it came to my attention that there was a hold on my license for failure to appear in court to contest the traffic ticket that I had failed to pay because I had completely forgotten about it.
I looked into paying it with a collections agency, but the $25 ticket had skyrocketed to ~$800 after all the fees.
So I went the Superior Court house, filled out some paperwork and got an "abstract." I'm really not sure what that was, but it gave me a court date and removed the hold on my license.
And now we're at the present...
My "arraignment" date is this Monday, April, 4th.
I logged into the LASC website to get all the information I could about my impending court appearance, but I was saddened by the lack of information.
Case status reads "court."
New appearance date reads: "04/04/2011 in 064."
But it doesn't even give me a time of day. Of course, I spent the entire afternoon making phone calls but managing to get through to a helpful LIVE INDIVIDUAL in the LASC system seems like an impossible task. I was bounced back and forth between unhelpful pre-recorded messages, but I couldn't get any information relevant to my situation.
So now it's the close of business Friday afternoon and I'm expected to see a judge at some point on Monday.
So these are my questions:
1) (and foremost.) How do I find out what time I have court on Monday before, well, Monday?
I've heard stories that it can take hours just to get in the courthouse so I'm worried about just showing up at 9am and hoping for the best (because not getting in to see the judge would result in a second FTA which seems to be the worst case scenario.)
So do I show up at the court house at 7am and just plan to be there all day long?
If there was someone to talk to on a Saturday to get more info... or if there was some online registry that could help me out, that would be great.
I realize you guys are probably not intimately familiar with the LASC system, but any insight here would save me a lot of worry this weekend.
2) (this one is probably more up your alley) Once I get in front of the judge, what's my best plan of attack? I really just want to get the penalties/late fees reduced (or dropped) if possible. Should I just explain my situation in the same manner I explained it here and assume full responsibility for my mistake? What should I plead? etc.
Obviously a dismissal would be awesome, but I'm not really concerned with the cost of the original fine or the driving record implications so much as I'm concerned with the ~$800 in penalties they are expecting.
Thanks in advance for any help or advice given.