DMV Point System Demystified by Traffic Lawyer Kenneth M. Hallum
Are you familiar with the DMV point system in California? California’s DMV point system was established to safely monitor driving behaviors using a simple and quantitative format. This system rates each traffic violation or accident report and assigns a corresponding value to your DMV driver’s record. Most traffic tickets can carry one point, while serious offenses can carry up to two points. Drivers who incur too many points could face heftier fines or even license suspension. Let’s take a look how the DMV point system works.
Getting DMV Points on Your License
Each traffic ticket you get corresponds to one point in your driver’s license record. However, not every traffic violation will automatically add points to your license. There are two main types of traffic violations, but only one of which adds points to your license.
1. Moving Violations
A moving violation is basically any violation of the law committed by the driver while the vehicle is in motion. Running a red light, speeding, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are some examples of moving violations. These traffic law violations add points to your record.
2. Non-Moving Violations
A non-moving violation is pretty much self-explanatory. It refers to any violation of the law committed by the driver while the vehicle is not in motion. Some examples of non-moving violations are parking tickets, fix-it tickets, and broken lights among others. These violations don’t add points to your record. In addition, insurance-related paperwork violations also don’t add points.
Cell Phone Violations
Although texting or talking on the phone while driving is a violation committed while the vehicle is in motion, it does not add a DMV point on your driver’s record. It should also not affect your insurance rates, but it’s best to ask your insurance company just to be sure.
However, a new law is being considered by the California Legislature that will make cell phone violations point as a DMV point starting on January 1, 2021. If this law is passed, using your phones while driving won’t only damage your record, but shoot up your insurance rates as well.
DMV Points for License Suspension
If you accumulate 4 points in one year, 6 points in two years, or 8 points in three years, then California DMV will suspend your driver’s license. Here are some examples of traffic law violations and their corresponding points.
One-Point Traffic Violations
- Running a red light
- Reckless lane change
- At-fault accident
- Out of state traffic ticket
Two-Point Traffic Violations
- Reckless driving
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol
- Driving without license
- Driving over 100 mph
Computing DMV Point Totals
Your point total is computed based on the date of your violation and not the date of your conviction.
All points for traffic violations incurred within the past 12-months are added to compute for your 12-month point total. Once 12 months have passed from your ticket date, those points will no longer count on your current 12-month total. However, your points will still remain on your driving record as long as your conviction is still active.
All points for traffic violations incurred within the past 24-months are added to compute for your 24-month point total. Once 24 months have passed from your ticket date, those points will no longer count on your current 24-month total. However, your points will still remain on your driving record as long as your conviction is still active.
All points for traffic violations incurred within the past 36-months are added to compute for your 36-month point total. Once 36 months have passed from your ticket date, those points will no longer count on your current 36-month total. However, your points will still remain on your driving record as long as your conviction is still active.
DMV Point Errors
If you claim that someone else committed a violation on your driver’s record, then you can request for a DMV hearing to prevent your license from getting suspended.
California DMV will still add one point on your driver’s record if they find out that you received an out-of-state traffic ticket.
Incurring Too Many Points
If you receive too many points in a span of 12 months, then you must request a DMV hearing as soon as possible to save your license from getting revoked. A Negligent Operator DMV Hearing is usually the only way out of this mess. If you need a free case evaluation, you may call Santa Barbara’s Traffic Attorney at 805-564-3103
Checking Your DMV Points
Basically, there are three ways to check how many points you have incurred on your driver’s license: in person, online, and by snail mail.
1. In Person
You can personally go to your local DMV office and make a request for your record for a $5 fee.
You can register online at California DMV’s website and request your record for a $2 fee. You only have one chance to print your record once your fee is paid.
You can send a formal written request and mail it to the DMV office with a check or money order for the $5 fee payment.
How Long Does a Point Stay on Your License?
In general, a DMV point stays on your license for 3 years. However, the length of time depends on the gravity of your offense. It can vary from 3 to 13 years.
One-point traffic tickets such as speeding or red-light tickets will remain on your license for 3 years. DMV can use this point against you for 3 years in a negligent operator action. You may only request the DMV to remove the violation and point from your driving record after 3 years and 3 months.
Two-point traffic tickets such as driving on a suspended license violation and speeding over 100 mph will remain on your license for 7 years. You may only request the DMV to remove the violation and point from your driving record after 7 years.
Two-point traffic tickets such as driving under the influence will remain on your license for 13 years. You may only request the DMV to remove the violation and point from your driving record after 13 years.
The Dangers of Paying Off a Traffic Ticket
If you’re wondering if you can still get points on your record once you’ve paid your fine, then the answer is YES. Keep in mind that even if you pay off any moving violation, it will still add at least one point in your driver’s record and may result in higher insurance rates. On top of that, your future career plans that may involve driving can also be affected.
Many drivers tend to just pay off their tickets to avoid court appearances. However, doing so means you’re pleading guilty to the violation and putting at least one point on your record.
As mentioned earlier, accumulating 4 points within a 12-month period will result in license suspension. DMV will send you a letter informing you that your license will be suspended for 6 months. This also holds true to letters from GC services. GC services is a private collection agency used to collect money from unpaid tickets. If you pay GC services for a ticket in which you have never come before a court, then you are essentially pleading guilty with the violation.
Fighting Your Traffic Ticket
To avoid incurring DMV points, I highly recommend that you consider fighting your ticket or doing traffic school if you’re eligible. You are only allowed to do traffic school once every 18 months. If done successfully, this will mask or hide the point from your record. Keep in mind that the 18-month eligibility period is based from your violation date and not from the date when you attended traffic school.
Masking Points on Your DMV Records
Masking points on your DMV records means your points are hidden from the public and your insurance company. Your convictions are kept confidential and will not be disclosed to anyone, except a court. If you incur another point on your license within 18 months, the judge handling your case will be able to see your traffic school history as well as your masked points.
Traffic School Eligibility
You are eligible for traffic school if you have a valid driver’s license, moving violation ticket, and driving a non-commercial vehicle. However, your traffic ticket must be an infraction and not a misdemeanor. If you get a traffic ticket, but have already attended traffic school within the past 18 months, then you will get points on your license and your insurance company will be informed of your violation.
Drivers with Commercial Driver’s License
If you have a commercial driver’s license and were not driving a commercial vehicle when you were cited, your record of conviction will not be held confidential but will not add a point to your record—that is if you have successfully completed a DMV-approved traffic school program.