Amnesty Is Coming for Those Who Lost Licenses Due to Inability to Pay Tickets

Amnesty Is Coming for Those Who Lost Licenses Due to Inability to Pay Tickets
Lucy Rendler-Kaplan/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

If you owe a lot of cash because of unpaid traffic citations, you could be in luck.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg of the San Fernando Valley recently announced that some of his proposals to give drivers a break from unreasonable fees have been integrated into a budget deal expected to be signed soon by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Hertzberg wants to provide limited amnesty for those who owe the state money based on unpaid fees. The deal will give many of those folks their licenses back if they were suspended based solely on monetary considerations. Hertzberg:

 ... Added-on fees have led to outrageous fines that working people simply can’t afford. Most of these fines are never paid, which is why there’s $10 billion in unpaid fees. ... We will now be creating both a fairer system and a more efficient one by distinguishing between the unwilling to pay and those unable to pay.

Many of Hertzberg's aims were included in the budget via a trailer bill, Hertzberg's office says. His own bill, with many of the same goals, will still work its way through the Legislature, his spokesman told us.

The bill seeks to provide 50 to 80 percent off ticket debt, along with license reinstatement, depending on your income level.

The budget language will help folks get their driving privileges back if they have had their licenses taken away because they can't afford ticket fees , Hertzberg says.

"The budget will now include provisions to reinstate driving privileges for many of the 4.2 million Californians who have had their licenses suspended," he said.

His office explained the effects of unfair ticket fees:

Faced with being forced to either drive without a license or quit their jobs, the result was a lose-lose for California, resulting in unpaid tickets and suspended licenses. Virtually all the fines have far exceeded the original amounts because of various added-on fees, penalties and other mandatory payments.

Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty argued that even a few traffic tickets could put a poor person into a downward economic spiral:

Suspension of a driver's license makes it hard for people to keep their jobs and many employers will not hire persons with a suspended license. This scenario ends up trapping people in a cycle of poverty that is hard to escape.

Hertzberg's spokesman said the traffic amnesty program, first proposed by Gov. Brown, will take effect Oct. 1.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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