Report: CA Traffic Fines Drive Inequality


More than four million Californians have lost their licenses due to the inability to pay punitive fees and court fines, according to a new report by several legal aid and civil rights groups.

The report comes on the heels of a widely publicized Department of Justice inquiry into the practices of the police department and municipal court in Ferguson, Mo., which found the city’s policies are shaped with revenue in mind, rather than public safety.

In California, initial citations stem that can lead to the loss of one's license stem from not just driving-related infractions, but also littering sleeping outdoors and failure to pay a transit fare.

Budget shortfalls in the state have led to steadily increasing fees and traffic ticket costs, the report, which was published by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, found.

“What used to be a $100 violation now costs nearly $500, and jumps to over $800 if a person misses the initial deadline to pay,” researchers wrote. “As the fees have gone up, and with the economic crisis, fewer people can afford to pay their tickets.”

The DMV took more than 4.2 million actions between 2006 and 2013 to suspend driver's licenses based on a failure to appear or pay, the report found.

The report recommends restructuring debt collection procedures to end the use of license suspensions for citation-related debt.

Read the full report HERE.

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