Can You Request Traffic School After a Ticket is Paid?

women receives traffic violation

Paying a traffic ticket can seem like the easiest solution, but what happens if you later decide you want to attend traffic school to keep the ticket off your record? The short answer is generally no, once a ticket is paid, you cannot request traffic school. However, there are exceptions to this rule, which we will discuss today. 

Can You Request Traffic School After Paying a Ticket?

Here’s a look at the general rules and exceptions that apply.

The General Rule

In California, once a traffic ticket is paid, the opportunity to request traffic school is generally forfeited. Paying the ticket is considered an admission of guilt, and the case is closed. The ticket will be recorded on your driving record, potentially leading to higher insurance premiums and points on your license.


There are a few exceptions where you might still be able to attend traffic school after paying a ticket:

  1. Judicial Discretion: In rare cases, a judge might allow a driver to attend traffic school after the ticket has been paid. This typically requires appearing in court and making a special request.
  2. Administrative Errors: If there was an error in processing your payment or ticket, you might be granted an exception to attend traffic school. This would require contacting the court and explaining the situation.

Eligibility for Traffic School

Understanding whether you are eligible for traffic school is essential before requesting it. Here are the general criteria for eligibility in California:

  • License Type: Only drivers with non-commercial licenses are eligible.
  • Violation Type: The ticket must be for a moving violation, not a major offense like DUI.
  • Frequency: You must not have attended traffic school for a ticket in the last 18 months.
  • Court Approval: The court handling your ticket must approve your attendance at traffic school.

These eligibility criteria ensure that traffic school is used appropriately and effectively to improve driver behavior and road safety.

The Process of Requesting Traffic School

To ensure you can attend traffic school, it is crucial to request it before paying the ticket. Here’s a step-by-step look at the typical process.

Before Paying the Ticket

To maximize your chances of attending traffic school, follow these steps before paying your ticket:

  1. Check Eligibility: Verify that you are eligible for traffic school. You generally qualify if you have a non-commercial license, the ticket is for a moving violation, and you have not attended traffic school for a ticket in the last 18 months.
  2. Request Traffic School: When you receive your ticket, indicate your desire to attend traffic school either online, by mail, or in person at the court. This is typically done at the time of paying the fine.
  3. Pay Fees: Pay both the fine for the ticket and the administrative fee for traffic school.

After Paying the Ticket

If you have already paid the ticket, the process becomes more complicated and less likely to succeed:

  1. Contact the Court: Reach out to the court handling your case as soon as possible. Explain your situation and request permission to attend traffic school despite having paid the ticket.
  2. Appear Before a Judge: Be prepared to appear in court if required. You will need to provide a valid reason for why you did not request traffic school before paying the ticket.
  3. Follow Court Instructions: If the judge grants your request, follow any instructions provided, including completing the traffic school course by a specified deadline.

Tips for Managing Traffic Tickets

Properly managing traffic tickets can save you time, money, and stress. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process effectively.

Plan Ahead

To avoid the complications of requesting traffic school after paying a ticket, plan ahead. Understand the criteria for traffic school eligibility before receiving a ticket. This proactive approach ensures you know what to do when a ticket is issued. Promptly requesting traffic school immediately after receiving a ticket can ensure you do not miss the opportunity.

Understand Eligibility

Before you receive a ticket, familiarize yourself with the eligibility requirements for traffic school. Generally, you qualify if you have a non-commercial license, the ticket is for a moving violation, and you have not attended traffic school for a ticket in the last 18 months. Knowing these requirements can help you act quickly and confidently when you receive a ticket.

Prompt Action

When you receive a ticket, act promptly. Request traffic school immediately to ensure you retain the option. Delaying your response can result in missing the opportunity to attend traffic school, leading to a violation on your record and potential increases in insurance premiums.

Keep Records

Maintain records of all correspondence with the court and any payments made. This documentation can be crucial if you need to make a case for attending traffic school after paying a ticket. Keeping organized records ensures you have all the necessary information readily available if issues arise.

Consult Legal Advice

If you find yourself in a complex situation, consider consulting legal advice. A traffic attorney can provide guidance on how to handle your ticket, request traffic school, and navigate the legal system effectively. This can be particularly helpful if you need to appear before a judge or if there were administrative errors in processing your ticket.


The best approach is to request traffic school before paying the ticket to ensure you retain the option to attend. However, if you are unlucky, or decide to change your mind later, the best approach is to appeal to the judge for leniency. By staying informed and proactive, you can better manage your driving record and avoid potential increases in insurance premiums.