California’s Traffic Violation Point System

How California’s licensing demerit point system works, including how too many tickets can lead to license suspension.

California issues fines and fees for traffic infractions but also imposes license-related penalties on repeat offenders. Like many states, California keeps track of traffic violations with a driver’s license point system. When a motorist is convicted of a traffic violation, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) assigns a certain number of demerit points against the driver’s record. Accumulation of too many points within a set period of time (generally, 24 or 36 months) will result in license suspension.

Points Values for Specific Violations

California assigns the following point values to moving violations.

Violation

Points assessed

Failure to stop at accident (hit and run)

2

DUI (driving under the influence)

2

Reckless driving

2

Vehicular manslaughter or assault

2

Flee and elude (wanton) an officer

2

Driving on wrong side of highway

2

Speeding 100 miles per hour or more on highway

2

Racing

2

License restriction violation

2

Under 21 years old with BAC of .05% or more

2

Driving while suspended or revoked

2

At-fault accident

1

Child restraint violation

1

Unlisted traffic violation (some exceptions)

1

Some traffic tickets won’t add any points to a person’s driving record. For example, texting-while-driving is currently a zero-point offense.

For commercial drivers, the normal point values are multiplied by 1 ½. For example, street racing in a semi-truck will result in three points.

Consequences of Acquiring Too Many Demerit Points

The California DMV sends the following notices to drivers who accumulate a certain number of points.

  • First warning letter. The DMV will send a warning letter to drivers (explaining the consequences of acquiring too many points) who receive two points in 12 months, four points in 24 months, or six points in 36 months.
  • Second warning letter. Drivers who receive three points in 12 months, five points in 24 months, or seven points in 36 months will receive a second warning letter from the DMV. This letter will inform the driver that any future violations points will result in license suspension.
  • Suspension letter. Drivers who accumulate four points in 12 months, six points in 24 months, or eight points in 36 months will receive an order of probation or suspension and notified that they have been designated as a “negligent operator.” The DMV can issue a suspension of up to one year but normally imposes only a six-month suspension. The DMV also has the option of putting the driver on a one-year probation period. If the driver receives any traffic violations during the probation period, the DMV can impose additional suspension penalties.

Insurance. As a condition of license reinstatement following a point suspension, the DMV can require the licensee to maintain special proof of insurance (an SR22) for the next three years.

Under age 18. Drivers under 18 years old are subject to tighter restrictions. Any minor with two points will automatically receive a 30-day license restriction. During this period, the teen can drive only while supervised by a parent, guardian, spouse, or licensed adult who’s at least 25 years old.

Avoiding Points

For most violations, a California driver can avoid demerit violation points by paying the fine and completing traffic school. However, a driver is eligible for traffic school only once every 18 months.

Restricted Licenses

Drivers suspended for excessive points can request a restricted license. If granted, the license will authorize travel to and from work during limited hours. The DMV can also impose other restrictions it deems relevant. The restricted license isn’t available for CDL holders.

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