California Driver Handbook - Administrative
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 4 forms of financial responsibility:
- A motor vehicle liability insurance policy.
- A deposit of $35,000 with 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.
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 DL will be suspended. If the driver is not identified, the owner of the motor vehicle involved in a collision will have his or her DL 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 3 of the following conditions must be met to avoid the suspension of your driving privilege:
- Your liability policy must provide bodily injury and property damage coverage which equals or exceeds the required limits stated in this section.
- Your insurance company must file a power of attorney allowing DMV to act as its agent for legal service in California.
- 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.
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 $1,000 ($750 for accidents prior to January 1, 2017) in damage, or if anyone is injured or dies.
It does not matter who caused the collision; the DMV must keep this record.
If you are under 18 years old, your parent(s) or guardian(s) must sign your DL 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 DL cancelled at any time while you are a minor.
If you are stopped by a peace 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 DMV and it will also show on your driver record. Even 1 FTA or FTP can cause DMV to suspend your DL. To end the suspension will cost you a DL reissue fee of $55.
Each time you are convicted of a moving traffic law violation, the court notifies DMV and the conviction is placed on your DL record. Convictions reported by other states are also added to your driver record.
Any person, while operating a motor vehicle, who willfully flees or attempts to evade a peace officer performing his or her duties is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than 1 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 3, 5, or 7 years or in a county jail for not more than 1 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 4 to 10 years (CVC §2800.3(b)).
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 1 of the following "point count" totals:
- 4 points in 12 months
- 6 points in 24 months
- 8 points in 36 months
Some examples of 1 point violations:
- Traffic convictions
- At-fault collisions
Some examples of 2 point violations:
- Reckless driving or hit-and-run driving
- DUI of alcohol/drugs
- Driving while DL is suspended or revoked
If you get 4 points in 12 months, you will lose your DL. A violation received in a commercial vehicle carries 1½ times the point count normally assessed. For detailed point count information, refer to the California Commercial Driver Handbook (PDF).