California Vehicle Code 27360 VC imposes two requirements on drivers 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.
- A driver that violates Vehicle Code 27360 VC will also receive one point on his DMV driving record. A driver risks getting a negligent operator license suspension if he receives a certain number of points in a given time period (e.g., 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months).
- A driver can challenge a ticket for violating California booster seat laws by raising a legal defense. However, the driver should consult with an experienced attorney before doing so.
- Motorists cannot disregard tickets for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC. If a driver ignores a ticket, he 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. Vehicle Code 27360 VC – Child restraint systems required under California law
- 2. Penalties for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC
- 3. Legal defenses if a driver fails to use a child restraint system
- 4. Violations of VC 27360 and traffic school
- 5. Violations of Vehicle Code 27360 and criminal charges
- 6. Ignoring a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC
- 7. The effect of a VC 27360 violation on a personal injury lawsuit
- 8. Laws related to Vehicle Code 27360 VC
1. Vehicle Code 27360 VC – Child restraint systems 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. People can also contact the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or local health department to speak to a child passenger safety technician.
2. Penalties for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC
A driver that does not follow the laws regarding child restraint systems will receive two penalties. These include:
- A fine; and,
- Points on the motorist’s DMV driving record.
A driver that does not follow California car seat laws 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 the motorist’s driving record
Motorists that violate Vehicle Code 27360 receive one point on their DMV driving record.5 Points placed on a person’s driving record get reported to that person’s insurance carrier. The result is typically an increase in that person’s insurance rates for years.
Note that points can accumulate over time. This can be a bad thing. If a driver in California accumulates a certain number of points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period, the DMV can declare that person a negligent driver. If this happens, the DMV can either suspend or revoke that person’s driving privileges.
Please note, however, that either of these actions will require a California DMV hearing.
3. Legal defenses if a driver fails to use a child restraint system
Drivers that receive a ticket for violating VC 27360 can always try to challenge it by raising a legal defense. If so, they 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;
- The driver’s 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’s important that drivers 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 to drivers with lawyers.
- Defense attorneys know how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
- A driver represented by a lawyer does not have to go to court. The motorist’s attorney can go on his behalf.
4. Violations of VC 27360 and traffic school
Persons that receive tickets for violating California booster seat laws do not have to attend traffic school. However, drivers that violate Vehicle Code 27360 can voluntarily choose to do so.
If a driver chooses to attend traffic school, he still must pay his fine.6 The good thing, though, is that drivers typically will not receive a point on their DMV driving record if they successfully complete traffic school.7
In general, a driver can attend traffic school if he meets three criteria. These are:
- The driver has a valid driver’s license;
- The offense occurred while the driver was driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
- The ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.
5. Violations of Vehicle Code 27360 and criminal charges
There are no criminal charges for violations of California car seat laws. This is because it’s not a crime in California if a driver does not use a child passenger restraint system.
Violations of Vehicle Code 27360 VC are infractions under California law; and, violators 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. But, this is not true.
Penal Code 273a is California’s criminal “child endangerment” law. It punishes someone who willfully exposes 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. Ignoring a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 27360 VC
Drivers cannot ignore a ticket if they fail to follow California booster seat laws. Ignoring a ticket will result in two things. These are:
- The driver violates a new law, California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
- The driver will receive penalties for violating VC 40508.
6.1. Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC
Upon receiving a traffic ticket in California, a driver is obligated to sign a written promise to appear in court.
If the driver willfully fails to appear as promised, he violates Vehicle Code 40508 VC.8 The driver willfully fails to appear when he is a no-show. Further, it is not a defense if the driver did not intend to break the law.9
It also does not matter whether the driver is guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.10 He violates 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. The effect of a VC 27360 violation on a personal injury lawsuit?
A driver that violates Vehicle Code 27360 may cause an car accident with another motorist that causes injuries – either to a child or another party. If a person later files 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 ordinance
This means a driver would be negligent per se for causing an accident while failing to use a child restraint system since he 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, no driver in California shall:
Operate or move a motor vehicle upon a sidewalk except as may be necessary to enter or leave adjacent property.17
A person that violates VC 21663 receives two penalties. These are:
- A fine of $238.00; and,
- One point on his DMV driving record.
8.3. Unsafe driving on a three-lane highway
California Vehicle Code 21659 VC states that no motorist shall drive 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
A motorist that violates VC 21659 receives two penalties. These are:
- A fine of $238.00; and,
- One point on his DMV driving record.
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 DMV.org.
- 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.
- California Vehicle Code 21659 VC.