California Driver Handbook - Administrative

Financial Responsibility

The California Compulsory Financial Responsibility Law requires every driver and every owner of a motor vehicle to maintain financial responsibility (liability coverage) at all times. There are four forms of financial responsibility:

  • A motor vehicle liability insurance policy.
  • A deposit of $35,000 with the DMV.
  • A surety bond for $35,000 obtained from a company licensed to do business in California.
  • A DMV issued self-insurance certificate.

You must possess evidence of financial responsibility whenever you drive, and show it to a peace officer after a traffic stop or collision when asked to do so. You may have to pay a fine or have your vehicle impounded if you do not comply with this law.

Insurance Requirements

The law states that you must be financially responsible for your actions whenever you drive and for all the motor vehicles you own. Most drivers choose to have a liability insurance policy as proof of financial responsibility. If you have a collision not covered by your insurance, or you do not have insurance, your driver license will be suspended. If the driver is not identified, the owner of the motor vehicle involved in a collision will have his or her driver license suspended.

The minimum amount your insurance* must cover per collision is:

  • $15,000 for a single death or injury.
  • $30,000 for death or injury to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for property damage.

Call 1-800-927-HELP, before you purchase insurance to confirm that your agent/broker and insurer are licensed by the California Department of Insurance.

If you are visiting California or have just moved here, be aware that not all out-of-state insurance companies are authorized to do business in California. Before you drive here, ask your insurance company if you are covered in case of a collision. If you have a collision in California, all three of the following conditions must be met to avoid the suspension of your driving privilege:

  1. Your liability policy must provide bodily injury and property damage coverage which equals or exceeds the required limits stated in this section.
  2. Your insurance company must file a power of attorney allowing the DMV to act as its agent for legal service in California.
  3. You must insure the vehicle before you come to California. You cannot renew the out-of-state policy, once the vehicle is registered in California.

Collisions On Your Record

The DMV retains information on every collision reported to the DMV by:

  • Law enforcement, unless the reporting officer states another person was at fault.
  • You or another party involved in the collision, if any one person has over $750 in damage, or if anyone is injured or dies.

It does not matter who caused the collision; the DMV must keep this record.

Collisions, Insurance, and Minors

If you are under 18 years of age, your parent(s) or guardian(s) must sign your driver license application and assume financial responsibility for your driving. When you reach age 18, your parent(s) or guardian(s)’ liability automatically ends.

If you are involved in a collision, your parent(s) or guardian(s) may be liable for civil damages and you may also be fined.

EXCEPTION: Your parent(s) or guardian(s) can have your driver license cancelled at any time while you are a minor.

* Low cost automobile policies are available in Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus counties. Please contact your insurance agent.

Getting a Ticket

If you are stopped by a police officer and cited for a traffic law violation, you sign a promise to appear in traffic court. When you go to court, you may plead guilty or not guilty, or you may forfeit (pay) the citation fine. Paying the fine is the same as a guilty plea.

If you ignore the traffic ticket and do not keep your promise to appear in court, the failure to appear (FTA) goes on your driver record. If you fail to pay a fine (FTP), the court will notify the DMV and also show on your driver record. Even one FTA or FTP can cause the department to suspend your driver license. To end the suspension will cost you a driver license reissue fee of $55.

Each time you are convicted of a moving traffic law violation, the court notifies the DMV and the conviction is placed on your driver license record. Convictions reported by other states are also added to your driver record.

Evading a Peace Officer

Any person, while operating a motor vehicle,  who willfully flees or attempts to evade a police officer performing his or her duties is guilty of  a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year (CVC §2800.1).

If a person is convicted of causing serious bodily injury during the course of a police pursuit (CVC §2800.3(a)), he or she is subject to:

  • Imprisonment in a state prison for three, five, or seven years or in a county jail for not more than one year.
  • A fine that is not less than $2,000 or more than $10,000.
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.

When a person is convicted of manslaughter resulting from evading police during a pursuit, he or she is subject to imprisonment in a state prison for a minimum of four to ten years (CVC §2800.3(b)).

Points on the Driver Record

The DMV keeps a public record of all your traffic convictions and collisions. Each occurrence stays on your record for 36 months, or longer, depending on the type of conviction.

The Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) is based on negligent operator points and consists of a computer generated series of warning letters and progressive sanctions against the driving privilege.

You may be considered a negligent operator, when your driving record shows one of the following "point count" totals:

  • 4 points in 12 months
  • 6 points in 24 months
  • 8 points in 36 months

Some examples of one point violations:

  • Traffic convictions
  • At-fault collisions

Some examples of two point violations:

  • Reckless driving or hit-and-run driving
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol/drugs
  • Driving while driver license is suspended or revoked

If you get 4 points in 12 months, you will lose your driver license. A violation received in a commercial vehicle carries one and one-half times the point count normally assessed. For detailed point count information, refer to the California Commercial Driver Handbook.

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