By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
So some cash-poor residents are asking the courts for community service. "You can request community service in lieu of paying the fine," says Patricia Kelly, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles County Superior Court. "It's in the hands of the judge."
Community service is typically valued at $8 per hour, according to a courthouse worker — the California minimum wage. Working off a $446 red light–camera traffic fine would require more than 55 hours of, say, picking up trash. In addition, coordinating agencies like the Volunteer Center of Los Angeles charge an "administrative fee" of about $40 that the violator must also work to pay off, to cover his or her participation in 21 to 80 hours of community service.
Working off a fine might be looking better and better. As the Weekly was first to report in December, the city of Los Angeles plans to double the number of intersections with red light–violator cameras from 32 to 64 in 2011, potentially reaping huge new profits. While this move is, in theory, being pursued for safety reasons, it could double the tickets written — and fines paid.
Zine has proposed that traffic violations, starting with red light–camera tickets, be taken out of the court system and placed under city jurisdiction as administrative violations, which he hopes would cut costs to motorists from $446 to around $250. Not incidentally, the city would keep all $250, as opposed to the current setup of sharing each $446 windfall with the state of California and Los Angeles County.
Says Zine: "We'd relieve the courts, which have a furlough day once a month. We'd help the city recoup the money. We're doing all the enforcement, we should get the benefit. And the cost they're charging traffic violators is absurd. It's unfair and we should change it."
Long Beach–area State Senator Jenny Oropeza is already trying to block Zine's plan to lower fines for violators while keeping more of the windfall in city coffers. Oropeza describes Zine's idea, not ironically, as a "raid" on the California treasury.
Meanwhile, outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed his own bold raid on wallets by allowing cities and counties to add speed-detecting cameras to existing red-light cameras on surface streets. Motorists would be fined a hefty $225 for traveling "up to" 15 miles an hour over the speed limit, and $325 for traveling more than 15 mph over the limit. The state would grab 85 percent of the lucrative $397 million the speed-detecting cameras might raise.
Will Angelenos find a way to rebel? If Schwarzenegger's speed-camera scheme goes through, local drivers could take a page from Phoenix motorist Dave Vontesmar, who allegedly evaded at least 37 tickets generated by Phoenix's hated highway speed cameras — by wearing a monkey mask.
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