This article is from the California Driving (and Surviving) FAQ, by "George J Wu" firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
from jordan@MooreNet.COM (Jordan Hayes) on 29 oct 1991:
Here's the scoop. Note: this changed recently, and I'll note the
differences between what's in effect now and what was before Jan 1, 1991.
There are two versions of your DMV record, what I'll call the private one
and the public one. The private one has all of your transactions, since the
establishment of your bits in their computer. This is a "write-only" type
of record. Nothing ever gets removed (except for incorrect information :-).
The public record is the one that you can get for a fee, and the one that
your insurance company can get. This has things dropped off after certain
time limits that vary with the charge (for instance, DWI events stay
longer). In addition, if you go to traffic school, moving violations do not
get transferred to your "public" record, and you don't get the "points"
involved added to your record -- get a certain number of points in a certain
amount of time (4 in a year, 6 in 2 years, 8 in 3 years [CVC 12810.5]) and
you can lose your license; you may have to check up on DMV to make sure that
they received your of certificate of traffic school completion. The right
time to do this is *before* your insurance comes up for renewal ...
Starting January 1, 1991, if you get another moving violation within the
first year after going to traffic school, the *original* violation gets
moved from your private record to your public record (so that insurance
companies can see it), but you don't get charged points for it. In
addition, you are ineligible for traffic school, so you'll now have two
convictions on your record.
from Ed.Evans@f227.n103.z1.fidonet.org (Ed Evans) on 1 nov 1991:
I've been told that if you go to traffic school, and if you get another
moving violation within 18 months, then your original citation will appear
on your DMV printout. This information has been denied by DMV personnel.
However, Gov. Deukmejian signed a bill to this effect before he left office.
Before he signed the bill, the policy was for the citation to reappear if
the violator violated within 12 months.
Going to traffic school is an admission of guilt. The violator's citation
is not "forgiven" and it does not "disappear." It is "masked." This means
that it is kept in an informal holding area (of a computer) forever. To
wit: a violation within 18 months of attending traffic school causes the
citation to become "unmasked" and it remains unmasked until it has been
presented to the world for its 36 month tour of DMV abstract access. After
36 months, all citations are masked and do not reappear, except for PD's on
request, courts, and the National Security Agency on request. This is
important to know if you want to become a cop or need a top secret
clearance. Otherwise, it'll probably never matter, once the citation is
There's a lot of folk wisdom passed out by traffic violator school
instructors. I know, I'm one of them.
from email@example.com.NET (Mark Walsh) on 16 Dec 91:
Lesson: make sure that your traffic school paperwork gets all of the way
through the system. I went through the traffic school, and sent the
paperwork in via certified mail, etc. A few months later, I was at the DMV,
and found out that I had a warrant out for my arrest! My paperwork had
fallen through the cracks.