A new program designed to assist California residents unable to pay off traffic fines and court fees. The fines and fees often lead to licence suspensions, and often greatly affect low income individuals.
ABC News reports that the program was pushed by California governor Jerry Brown, and was added to the annual budget, running through March of 2017. The governor also announced the signing of another bill, by state Senator Bob Hertzberg, which will allow people to schedule a court date, regardless of whether or not they have paid their traffic fines and fees.
The amnesty plan allows drivers with small infractions to only pay 50-80% of what they owe, depending on income. Other drivers will have the ability to apply for payment installments on outstanding tickets. Substance related and reckless driving cases are not eligible for the program. It will also allow for civil assessment fees to be waved in certain cases, and for those with revoked licences may be able to have them reinstated.
The push for the program draws attention to growing concern among lawmakers and the courts that the justice system is profiting off of targeting minorities and low-income individuals. Courts have become reliant on fines for funds, following budget cuts in the state. Because of this, traffic fines have had a significant increase in California.
The fee for running a red light 20 years ago was around $100. Today it is around as much as $500, as the fines are used to fund things such as buildings and medical services. That $500 ticket can quickly increase to over $800 if a court date is missed or the individual fails to pay the fine.
Only violations that were due before January 1st of 2013 are currently eligible for the amnesty program.