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California's Racist Traffic Fines

Updated on May 14, 2015

First, besides a few other states, California has the most unfair smog rules for registering a car. The smog rules vary across the state, from city to city, from county to county. What this means is in certain cities or towns, smog tests are required and range from $65+. If it fails, then the car must be repaired and retested adding another several hundred dollars. In other cities or counties, there is no smog test required! Now, one cannot simply go down the road to a city not requiring a smog test and have your car tested. The DMV knows where you live based upon your registration, so no smog is allowed to be done if the Zip Code is different.

Traffic fines for infractions in the state are increasingly expensive. Most impacted are those in the low income levels, which are mostly black and Hispanic origins. If you fail to pay your fine for speeding, running a red light, not totally stopping at a stop sign, or not wearing a seat belt, the fine will soar into the stratosphere. Now, like anything else in life, if you can afford it you pay with a grumble, but when the bill for not wearing a seat belt hits $300 and you cannot afford to pay it, your license gets suspended. In California, 4.2 million of them have got their license suspended.

Most people need to drive to work and live, so when you drive with an unpaid traffic violation and you are pulled over again for not totally stopping at a stop sign, the amount owed simply compounds and your past due $300 fine now becomes nearly $800. California has increased the traffic violation fees for a variety of state issues. Traffic fines are income for counties and the state. In Sonoma County, some 28,400 tickets were issues in six months. During that time, courts suspended 9400 licenses for people unable to pay. Once these are paid, the revenue generated is $2.7 million!

California is making the poor suffer due to the traffic violation fees according to a new U.S. Department of Justice Division report. The state is using practices that were similar to those in Ferguson, Mo., where a black man was shot and killed. Traffic fines are becoming so high, only the upper middle class or rich can afford to pay them. To wit, running a stop sign outright or simply slowly rolling through it (called a California stop) was just $35, but because of so many local and state fees attached to the base cost, the fine is $234! If you fail to yield for emergency vehicles, a $100 fine jumps to $480!

If a driver fails to pay the fine on time, DMV places a hold on the license and adds another $300 in fees. If the driver is stopped while the license is suspended, its another $1000! Because of the fees, the state has $10 billion in court ordered debt! Of the 4 million who got a suspended license, only 80,000 got it back, all due to the high associated fees other than the base fine for the ticket. How can the state collect on the $10 billion? It can't.

The governor is now considering of slashing the amount the debtors owe by 50%, so they can get the license and so the state can collect some of the debt (some is better than none!) and allowing those with a suspended license to immediately get on a payment plan. This helps them get their license back fast and provides revenue for the state.

In a poll, welfare workers cite that some of the homelessness is a direct cause of losing a license in a chain reaction. A person making $10 hr. cannot afford to pay the huge fine, then loses their license, then their job because they cannot get to work. Soon, they no longer pay their rent from savings forcing them to welfare aid. If they fail to qualify, they become homeless living under a bridge. There is a direct correlation for some of those polled. When you earn only $10 hr., a $500 bill for traffic fine, is excessive. How are you supposed to live?

The courts in the traffic division are not very sympathetic to the poor or low income because much of the money goes back into the court system budget for the state to pay salaries etc. Their attitude is mostly one of indifference- why did you break the law?


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