Traffic ‘Amnesty’ Ending. Will It Be A Return To ‘The F-Barrel’?

Photo Credit: KCRA3 online report, 3/28/17.

Photo Credit: KCRA3 online report, 3/28/17.

A California amnesty program created after an outcry over municipal traffic fines and fees is going away. The amnesty scheme was put into place in 2015 after a general outcry that included a national HBO report on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” program. That report made use of a a KCRA 3 (Sacramento) investigative story about the ballooning cost of court fees. It also introduced Oliver’s campaign to stop the “f-barrel,” although the cable host did not abbreviate his hopes.

David Manoucheri of KCRA is reporting that the amnesty program “… provides relief for drivers whose licenses were suspended because they failed to appear in court or had outstanding court debts, the DMV said in a news release. The fines would be reduced by 50 to 80 percent depending on the driver’s income.” Before, the station report, “… basic fines such as a $35 stop sign violation could balloon to over $300.”

Such fees and fines are not considered “criminal” by the courts, so violators do not hold the right to legal counsel. But they can still land people in jail for non-payment. Manoucheri notes that it’s been good for the municipal collections: “Since the program went into effect, 205,686 delinquent accounts have been reduced, 192,452 driver licenses have been reinstated and $35,530,680 in fines has been collected. That money would never have been collected by officials if the program wasn’t in place.”

Oliver connected the dots to illustrate that such municipal fees have been linked to the unrest in Ferguson,. Mo. and other problems. And his report remains one of the more anger-inducing indictments of municipal policy. You can see that vial YouTube here:

And the find KCRA report here:

California Eyes Statewide Amnesty Plan For Paying Off Traffic Tickets

California Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing for an amnesty program for residents who can’t afford to pay off their traffic ticket debt, which often includes a range of court-funding fees. The costs are largely blamed for some 4.8 million driver’s license suspensions since 2006. Such reforms are being discussed at the municipal level, but this would be a landmark move by the nation’s most populated state.
The Associated Press is reporting that “… the push by the Democratic governor spotlights concern among lawmakers and court administrators that California’s justice system is profiting off minorities and low-income residents. It’s a civil rights issue that has prompted discussions between the Brown administration and the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the governor’s spokesman, Evan Westrup.”
The AP notes that “… advocates for the poor have likened California’s problem to the police and municipal court structure in Ferguson, Missouri, which was criticized by the Justice Department as a revenue-generating machine following last year’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer.”
The report also breaks down how the traffic fines have become a revenue machine: “Traffic fines have been skyrocketing in California and courts have grown reliant on fees as a result of budget cuts during the recession. Twenty years ago, the fine for running a red light was $103. Today, it costs as much as $490 as the state has established add-on fees to support everything from court construction to emergency medical air transportation. The cost can jump to over $800 once a person fails to pay or misses a traffic court appearance.”
Read the story here.