Ask the County Law Librarian – Cell Phone Tickets

Q: I got pulled over for talking on my phone while driving, and the ticket is $162!!! I thought first-offense tickets were only supposed to be $20. Why is mine so high?



A: You’re absolutely right – the base fine for a first-offense cell phone ticket is $20. However, like all traffic tickets, fines for cell phone tickets consist of a base fine plus penalty assessments and additional fees. The amounts of these assessments and fees are spelled out in the California Vehicle, Penal, and Government Codes. They do vary somewhat from county to county, so the following amounts may be slightly different for tickets received outside of Sacramento County.

For a cell phone ticket in Sacramento County, on top of the $20 base fee, you will also pay:

  • $4 Surcharge
  • $40 State penalty assessment
  • $10 DMV fee
  • $1 Night court fee
  • $8 DNA funds
  • $4 State court facilities construction fund
  • $35 Criminal conviction assessment
  • $40 Court security fee

So in total, a $20 ticket will result in approximately a $162 bill. More information on calculating traffic fines is available from the Sacramento County Superior Court website at

If you do not wish to contest the citation, you must pay the fine prior to the court date listed on your ticket or courtesy notice. You can do that online at Other options for making payment are described at

If you wish to contest the citation, you can find more information on the Sacramento County Superior Court website and on the California Courts Self Help website at You can also look at a book, “Fight Your Ticket and Win in California,” published by Nolo Press, which is available for review at the Law Library.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday's column. Even if your question isn't selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian













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    November 10, 2010 | 4:09 PM

    This is very similar to my water bill….where most of the fees are for everything except the water!

    November 11, 2010 | 8:54 AM

    While all these extra shakedown fees and assessments are ludicrous, I still have no sympathy for Becky. $500 would be a more suitable fine. Start being responsible and stop placing lives in danger.

    Avatar of ccc
    November 11, 2010 | 10:30 AM

    I thought the law was pretty clear on this. Mess with the bull, get the horns. A ticket is better than killing someone because you are obsessed with your phone.

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