How A $100 Traffic Ticket Grows To A $495 Fine

The news website has a good breakdown of why California is in the middle of a traffic-fine rebellion, with millions of drivers going unlicensed and emergency measures halting the practice of forcing payment before allowing people to contest their tickets. 
Milt Younger. Photo: The Bakersfield Californian.

Milt Younger. Photo: The Bakersfield Californian.

Milt Younger, a longtime attorney writing for the op-ed page, explained that a hypothetical “$100 ‘average” ticket will actually cost a driver $490. Even tickets in the $25 range, for example for failing to notify the DMV within 10 days of moving, will swell to $196. Do the math on how much a $300, or $1,000 ticket will cost.”
The additions have to do with the array of fees added over the years. For example, the “state penalty assessment” is $10 for every $10 of base fine and something called a “conviction assessment” is another $35 while the “county fund” is $7 for each $10 of base fine.
It’s a good argument for starting over. Check it out here.

Traffic ‘Debtors Prison’ Decried As California Courts Struggle

The San Diego Reader has a story up about how Orange County created a revenue-generating operation from traffic fines, collecting “bail” up front to both discourage challenges and assure court attendance. As with other areas around the nation, the traffic court has become a focal point in both terms of race and ability to pay.
Ken Harrison’s story in the Reader quotes Bill Niles, president of the California Traffic School Association, saying, “This was unconstitutional. Nobody should have to pay the fine before seeing a judge. People have had their cars taken away and their driver’s licenses suspended just because they couldn’t pay the fines. It was like debtors’ prison.”
Read the story here.

California Eyes Emergency Rules On ‘Pay-To-Play’ Traffic Courts

The Golden State legislature is among governments statewide considering rapid reforms to traffic court policies in the wake of unrest in places like Furguson, Mo., that spotlighted how some policies send minority residents into a spiral of debt and fees that can lead to jail – usually without any real legal representation along the way.
California lawmakers this week are considering “emergency rules” that, the L.A. Times explains, “… would make it easier for drivers to contest traffic tickets — but will do nothing to help those already saddled with fines and fees they cannot afford to pay, according to lawyers and court officials. The state has added on charges that make the cost of a routine traffic ticket nearly $500, an amount that rapidly inflates when deadlines are missed. Although state courts charge people many fees — raised during the budget crisis — to use the legal system, the outcry has been loudest in the traffic arena.”
The LAT noted that “… lawyers representing the poor have complained that judges in some counties have been requiring drivers to pay the fines as a condition of contesting them, a practice that California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye called “pay to play” and vowed to stop.”
Nearly 5 million California drivers have had their licenses suspended because of an inability to pay fines, officials say.
Read the L.A. Times story here.

State’s Chief Justice Seeks Emergency Rule On Tickets

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Photo: California Courts)

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Photo: California Courts)

You can add California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to those supporting Gov. Brown’s push for reforming traffic tickets. The Chief Justice is asking the court’s governing body for an “emergency rule” to prevent courts from requiring drivers to pay traffic tickets before they can go to court to contest them.
The Los Angeles Times, saying the Chief Justice was “… weighing in on a troubled system” explains that “… her directive, issued Monday, comes as legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown tackle the issue of escalating traffic fines, fees and penalties that have led to driver’s license suspensions for 4.8 million Californians.” The situation has grabbed headlines around the nation as communities take hard looks at how they treat traffic citations, which have become a revenue stream for many places.
Read the L.A. Times story, reported from San Francisco, here.