The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee today passed legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to prevent the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for people who are unable to pay fines or fees for minor traffic tickets and require courts to determine violators’ ability to pay before setting fine amounts.
SB 185 states that your economic status shouldn’t determine your access to justice and ability to make amends. In addition, any previously suspended licenses must be reinstated for violators who make a good faith effort to begin payment plans.
The committee passed the bill on a 12-1 vote. SB 185 goes next to the Senate Public Safety Committee for consideration.
“We’ve seen the horrible consequences of overburdening struggling Californians with big fines and fees for minor traffic offenses,” Hertzberg said. “Many go deep into debt, lose their licenses and end up out of work. It’s a harsh penalty that doesn’t fit the original offense, and it’s not fair or smart. This legislation restores common sense to how we deal with traffic offenses.”
According to a report issued last year by the U.S. Federal Reserve, 46 percent of Americans don’t have $400 to pay for an emergency expense and would have to sell something or borrow money to cover the cost. Traffic tickets often exceed $400, depending on the offense.
“We have to quit punishing people simply for being poor, and unfortunately, that’s what our justice system often does with high fines and fees for minor traffic offenses,” Hertzberg said. “The Traffic Amnesty Program, which reduced debt for more than 200,000 Californians, showed us what a huge problem this is.”
Raul Bocanegra is the Democratic Majority Whip in the California State Assembly. He represents the 39th Assembly District, which includes the Los Angeles communities of Arleta, Granada Hills, Lakeview Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hollywood, Pacoima, Shadow Hills, Sun Valley, Sunland-Tujunga, Sylmar and the City of San Fernando.