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Ask a Cop: Why Don't Officers Tell Me How Much a Ticket Will Cost?

It can be incredibly frustrating to get a ticket and have no idea how much it will set you back. But there are reasons why officers won't tell you.

Got a question for the cops? Send it to brad.kava@patch.com and he'll ask for you!

Question: Why don't cops tell me how much my ticket will cost?

Answer: It's police department policy not to give the bail amount, according to CHP spokeswoman Sarah Jackson and sheriff's spokeswoman April Skalland.

Prices may vary based on how many other tickets you have or if there are added fees, which are commonly tacked on by the courts, such as a DNA fund or sex registration fee.

The laws change frequently.

For cell phones, for example, the first offense was $25 originally, but with added fees it jumped to $100, said Skalland.

"If I say it's probably $30 but when they get the ticket it's $100," she said, explaining that they are going to be angry.

Jackson says she understands the frustration people feel, but trying to remember every code is impossible.

"There are over 40,000 sections in the California Vehicle Code. I feel quite accomplished to have been able to remember many of them (not all!) along with their elements, recognize violations of each, and testify on them competently in court.

"For each of those sections, the fines vary from one county to another, and every one of them is updated at the beginning of each year. To be able to reliably remember ever-changing information of that kind of volume would be super-human. 

"I honestly do not know how much any given fine may be. I am quite happy to leave that to the judge to remember and decide what is appropriate."

Cordell January 30, 2013 at 05:10 PM
The tickets are cheap, its the bloated judicial system that is expensive. 1st cell phone ticket was $25, after court fees it jumped to $117.
Mary Smith January 30, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Why don't you just stay OFF your cell phone??? Then you won't get ticketed at all! I'm so tired of having to watch out for people who are weaving all over the place because they are talking, dialing, or texting. Stay off the phone, or pull over if you have to use it. Then you won't have to complain about the price of a ticket.
Marie Norstrom March 11, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Ditto Mary, I carpool from Watsonville to Santa Cruz five days a week, and the things I see drivers do on the rode are amazing. Apparently there are lots of drivers who think that the cell phone law does not apply to them. (and not all of them are young drivers. I guess they think they have the god given right to endanger the other drivers on the road. If you want to break the law, then don't complain when you have to pay the price. And by the way, those added fees, they primarly go to the State of California. Marie

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