California Vehicle Code 27360 VC imposes two requirements on you with respect to using child restraint systems. These are:
- A child under the age of two must ride in a rear-facing car seat, not in a forward-facing car seat (unless more than 40 pounds in weight or 40 inches in height); and,
- Children under 8 years of age must sit in a child car seat or booster in the back seat of the vehicle.
There are four important points to know about California car seat law.
- The “base fine” for not using a child restraint system is $100 for the first violation; and, $250 for every other violation. Base fines are much less than the actual fine given since actual fines include fees and penalty assessments.
- If you violate Vehicle Code 27360 VC, you will also receive one point on your DMV driving record. You risk getting a negligent operator license suspension if you receive a certain number of points in a given time period (for example, 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months).
- You can challenge a ticket for violating California booster seat laws by raising a legal defense. However, you should consult with an experienced attorney before doing so.
- You cannot disregard tickets for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC. If you ignore a ticket, you could get charged with a new law, failure to appear, per California Vehicle Code 40508. Failure to appear may be charged as a misdemeanor.
Our California car accident attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What child restraint systems are required under California law?
- 2. What are the penalties for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC?
- 3. What are the legal defenses if I fail to use a child restraint system?
- 4. Do violations of VC 27360 require traffic school?
- 5. Is violating Vehicle Code 27360 a crime?
- 6. What if I ignore a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC?
- 7. What is the effect of a VC 27360 violation on a personal injury lawsuit?
- 8. Laws related to Vehicle Code 27360 VC
1. What child restraint systems are required under California law?
California Vehicle Code 27360 sets forth the main laws regarding the use of child restraint systems for drivers in California. The purpose is to promote child passenger safety.
According to this section, a child under the age of two must ride in a rear-facing car seat unless:
- The child weighs more than 40 pounds; or,
- Is more than 40 inches tall.1
VC 27360 also states that children under the age of 8 must be secured in a child safety seat or booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle – never in the front seat, where the passenger airbag can hurt the child.2
For both groups of children, the only authorized child restraint systems (including convertible car seats) that may be used are those that meet applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.3
The car seat owner’s manual should have instructions on how to use car seats in conjunction with the vehicle seat belts. You can also contact the
to speak to a child passenger safety technician.
2. What are the penalties for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC?
Not following the laws regarding child restraint systems carry two penalties. These include:
- A fine; and,
- Points on your DMV driving record.
If you do not follow California car seat laws, you will receive a ticket for doing so and must pay a fine associated with the ticket.
The fine for not using a child restraint system is:
- $100 for the first violation; and,
- $250 for every violation thereafter.4
Please note that these amounts are base fines. The actual fines for violating California booster seat laws are substantially higher since they will include fees and penalty assessments.
2.2. Points on your driving record
If you violate Vehicle Code 27360, you will receive one point on your DMV driving record.5 Points placed on your driving record get reported to your insurance carrier. The result is typically an increase in your insurance rates for years.
Note that points can accumulate over time. This can be a bad thing. If you accumulate a certain number of points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, the DMV can declare that you are a negligent driver. If this happens, the DMV can either suspend or revoke your driving privileges.
Please note, however, that either of these actions will require a California DMV hearing.
3. What are the legal defenses if I fail to use a child restraint system?
If you receive a ticket for violating VC 27360, you can always try to challenge it by raising a legal defense. If so, you should contact an experienced California traffic attorney for help.
3.1. Common defenses to a child restraint system ticket
There are four common defenses for violating California car seat laws. These are:
- An emergency made it impossible to use a child restraint system;
- Your child did not fall under the specific parameters outlined in VC 27360;
- The child in question has a medical condition or other pediatric medical reason making the law impractical to follow; and,
- The parent or legal guardian of the child is a passenger in the motor vehicle.
As to this last exemption, Vehicle Code 27360 (c) specifically states:
This section does not apply to a driver if the parent or legal guardian of the child is a passenger in the motor vehicle.
3.2. Contact an attorney for help
It is important to consult with a lawyer prior to challenging a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC.
There are three main reasons why lawyers are critical when it comes to challenging a ticket. These include:
- Prosecutors normally give better deals if you have a lawyer.
- Defense attorneys know how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
- If you are represented by a lawyer, you do not have to go to court. Your attorney can go on your behalf.
4. Do violations of VC 27360 require traffic school?
If you receive tickets for violating California booster seat laws, you do not have to attend traffic school. However, if you violate Vehicle Code 27360, you can voluntarily choose to do so.
If you choose to attend traffic school, you still must pay your fine.6 The good thing, though, is that you typically will not receive a point on your DMV driving record if you successfully complete traffic school.7
In general, you can attend traffic school if you meet three criteria. These are:
- You have a valid driver’s license;
- The offense occurred while you were driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
- The ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.
5. Is violating Vehicle Code 27360 a crime?
There are no criminal charges for violations of California car seat laws. This is because it is not a crime in California if you do not use a child passenger restraint system.
Violations of Vehicle Code 27360 VC are infractions under California law; and, you are not subject to
- incarceration or
- other criminal penalties.
Some people think that the act of not using a child restraint system leads to the criminal charge of child endangerment. This is not true.
Penal Code 273a is California’s criminal “child endangerment” law. It punishes willfully exposing a child to pain, suffering, or danger. As stated above, however, violations of VC 27360 are infractions and generally do not lead to criminal charges of child endangerment.
6. What if I ignore a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC?
You cannot ignore a ticket if you fail to follow California booster seat laws. Ignoring a ticket will result in two things. These are:
- You violate California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
- You will receive penalties for violating VC 40508.
6.1. Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC
Upon receiving a traffic ticket in California, you are obligated to sign a written promise to appear in court.
If you willfully fail to appear as promised, you violate Vehicle Code 40508 VC.8 You willfully fail to appear when you are a no-show. Further, it is not a defense if you did not intend to break the law.9
It also does not matter whether you are guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.10 You violate Vehicle Code 40508 VC just by breaking a promise to:
- Appear in court,
- Appear to pay bail,
- Pay bail in installments,
- Pay a fine within the time authorized, or
- Comply with any condition of the court.11
6.2. Penalties for violating VC 40508
Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:
- Up to six months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.12
7. What is the effect of a VC 27360 violation on a personal injury lawsuit?
Violating Vehicle Code 27360 may cause a car accident with injuries – either to a child or another party. If you file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver (because of such injuries), the driver may be found “negligent.”
California law defines “negligence” as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. Regarding auto accidents, negligent drivers
- are at fault for the accident and
- may also have to pay for any damages caused.
Negligence “per se” is a legal theory in which negligence is presumed based upon a defendant’s violation of a
- statute or
This means a driver would be negligent per se for causing an accident while failing to use a child restraint system since they would be in violation of Vehicle Code 27360.
8. Laws related to Vehicle Code 27360 VC.
There are three laws related to VC 27360. These are:
- Cell phone tickets for minors;
- Driving on a sidewalk; and,
- Unsafe driving on a three-lane highway.
8.1. Cell phone tickets for minors
VC 23124 (b) states:
[persons under the age of 18] shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device, even if equipped with a hands-free device.13
“Electronic wireless communications device” includes, but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, specialized mobile radio device, handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, pager, and two-way messaging device.14
Vehicle Code 23124 (f) provides an emergency exception to the basic law on a minor’s use of cell phones and devices while driving. VC 23124 (f) states:
This section does not apply to a person using a wireless telephone or a mobile service device for emergency purposes, including, but not limited to, an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency services agency or entity.15
The penalty for violating VC 23124 is a base fine of $20.00 for a first offense and $50.00 for each offense thereafter.16
8.2. Driving on a sidewalk
Under Vehicle Code 21663 VC, you may not
Operate or move a motor vehicle upon a sidewalk except as may be necessary to enter or leave adjacent property.17
Violating VC 21663 carries two penalties. These are:
- A fine of $367.00; and,
- One point on your DMV driving record.
8.3. Unsafe driving on a three-lane highway
California Vehicle Code 21659 VC prohibits driving in the left or center lane of a three-lane roadway, except when:
- Overtaking and passing another vehicle;
- Preparing for a left turn; and/or,
- The center lane is being solely used to move traffic and notice is given.18
Violating VC 21659 carries two penalties. These are:
- A fine of $367.00; and,
- One point on your DMV driving record.
For further help…
See our article on California safety belt / seat belt laws, including information on lap belts and shoulder belts. Also see our article on California seat belt laws for children 8 through 15 (27360.5 VC).
For more information, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
For cases in Nevada, please visit our articles on Child restraint systems requirements (NRS 484B.157) and Nevada car seat laws.
- California Vehicle Code section 27360 (b) VC. If a child comes under the protection of this section, the child must be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat. See same.
- California Vehicle Code 27360 (a) VC.
- California Vehicle Code 27360 (a) and (b) VC.
- See Same.
- See same.
- See California Courts website.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
- CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1: Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.
- California Penal Code 19 PC. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.
- California Vehicle Code 23124 (b) VC.
- California Vehicle Code 23124 (g) VC.
- California Vehicle Code 23124 (f) VC.
- California Vehicle Code 23124 (c) VC.
- California Vehicle Code 21663 VC. See Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedules, Judicial Council of California, 2021.
- Same. California Vehicle Code 21659 VC.