Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, introduced legislation today to roll back driver’s license suspensions for Californians who have been unable to pay their traffic fines and fees.
SB 237 would apply to about 200,000 Californians who did not benefit from Traffic Amnesty Program that ended this spring and who had their licenses suspended before Gov. Jerry Brown changed the law to prevent the practice in a trailer bill attached to the 2017-18 state budget.
“The governor and the Legislature have changed the law, because everyone understands suspending a person’s driver’s license simply because he or she can’t pay the fine for a minor traffic violation is ridiculously harsh and unfair,” Hertzberg said. “We have ended this injustice moving forward and we should end it retroactively, too.”
The new law took effect June 27 when the Legislature passed the budget trailer bill. In his budget proposal, Brown noted that there didn’t appear to be a connection between suspending people’s driver’s licenses and collecting their fines yet the suspension could have serious negative consequences, such as preventing people from getting to work or taking their kids to school.
The legislation comes after the Judicial Council released a report last week showing the tremendous success of California’s Traffic Amnesty Program. In 2015, Hertzberg authored SB 405, which, along with a related budget measure from Brown, established the program for traffic offenses prior to 2013.
The Judicial Council report said that more than 255,000 Californians had their debts reduced, more than 246,000 received their driver’s licenses back and the court system netted $31.5 million in revenue.
“Amnesty proved the naysayers wrong and showed that many Californians weren’t paying their traffic fines and fees simply because they didn’t have the money to do it, not to thumb their noses at the law,” Hertzberg said. “Amnesty had a huge positive impact on the lives of a quarter million Californians and on the court system, which netted revenue it almost certainly never would have seen without this program.”
SB 237 is sponsored by a coalition of social justice groups that include Western Center on Law and Poverty and American Civil Liberties Union.