Unpaid traffic court penalties are leading to driver's license suspensions for many of California's poor, trapping then in a cycle of debt.
Los Angeles Times (LA Times)
April 8, 2015
Organizations mentioned/involved: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP), A New Way of Life (Los Angeles)
Traffic-court fines layered with escalating fees and penalties have led to driver’s license suspensions for 4.2 million Californians — or one in six drivers — pushing many low-income people deeper into poverty, a report released Wednesday by a coalition of legal aid groups found.
The report calls for, among other things, an end to license suspensions for unpaid tickets and a reduction in fees and penalties that raise a $100 fine to $490 — or $815 if the initial deadline to pay is missed.
The threat of losing one’s license over traffic tickets and other infractions has long been viewed as an essential tool for compelling violators to pay the fines, but recent figures released by the Legislative Analyst’s Office show that uncollected court-ordered debt has grown to more than $10 billion.
“It doesn’t work,” said Meredith Desautels, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) of the San Francisco Bay Area, the lead author of the report.
Advocacy organizations hope to allay fiscal concerns with a proposal that would allow people to get their licenses back if they first agree to a payment plan, said Mike Herald, legislative advocate for the Los Angeles-based Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP), which collaborated on the report.
For now, ticket-holders with unpaid debt must access workarounds or according to Theresa Zhen, an attorney with A New Way of Life, seek hearings for certain cases with the help of an attorney.Tags: Disaster, Driver's license suspension