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California Governor Brown: Driver’s license penalty harms th
Sun Feb 5, 2017 13:02

California Governor Brown: Driver’s license penalty harms the poor
California Gov. Jerry Brown File Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
By SOPHIA BOLLAG, Associated Press
SARAMENTO >> When Aaron Cutchon was laid off from his job at an auto body shop, he could no longer afford to pay for two traffic tickets he got for driving in a carpool lane.

His license was suspended, and he had to stop attending classes at a Napa junior college where he was working toward an associate’s degree.

New legislation in California supported by Gov. Jerry Brown would eliminate such a dilemma by forbidding courts from taking licenses from people just because they can’t pay their fines.

State Sen. Robert Hertzberg introduced a bill this week that would ban the practice. Brown and Hertzberg say the current policy disproportionately targets low-income Californians and can send people into a cycle of job losses and more poverty.

“What we’ve learned is it ruins people’s lives,” said Hertzberg, a Democrat from Van Nuys. “The privilege of driving should not be connected with the size of your wallet.”

Cutchon, 35, said his two tickets have snowballed from roughly $900 to about $2,000 because of added fines and fees. He found a new job at a warehouse but said he doesn’t make enough to pay off the tickets and can’t get a higher-paying job because he doesn’t have a license. The money he does make goes toward rent and taking care of his three children, said Cutchon, who lives in Cordelia, an area that overlaps the Bay Area city of Fairfield.

“I’m kind of stuck, in a sense, with this job,” Cutchon said.

Theresa Zhen, an attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, said she often sees clients who are limited to low-paying jobs because of suspended licenses.

“People’s lives are unraveled by one traffic ticket,” Zhen said.

The issue garnered national attention after the U.S. Department of Justice found similar laws in Ferguson, Missouri, burdened poor residents with “crippling” debt, according to a 2015 report.

In California, about 613,000 people had suspended driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic tickets or missing related court appearances as of August 2015, the most recent number the department could provide, DMV spokesman Artemio Armenta said.

In his state budget proposal this month, Brown called for ending the practice, saying “there does not appear to be a strong connection” between the license suspensions and collecting unpaid fines.

“Often, the primary consequence of a driver’s license suspension is the inability to legally drive to work or take one’s children to school,” the Democratic governor wrote.

Hertzberg said his new bill, SB185, prevents courts from suspending someone’s license simply because they can’t afford to pay. He said he agreed to drop a similar proposal last year after the Department of Finance asked for more time to study the idea.

Opponents have argued removing the penalty would eliminate a tool to help the state collect traffic fines. The California State Association of Counties and the California Police Chiefs Association declined to comment on the governor’s proposal, although they opposed Hertzberg’s previous plan, which was part of early versions of the 2016 bill SB881.

SB881 “eliminates any incentive for individuals to pay outstanding debt for traffic violations they received and failed to pay,” the California Association of Counties wrote in a June letter to Hertzberg. The group noted that those affected would still have “burdensome court-ordered debt that they cannot afford to pay.”

Supporters say there are other, more effective ways to collect fines, including putting people on payment plans and garnishing their wages.

The state’s finance agency does not have an estimate for how much the governor’s proposal might cost because license suspension is one of many collection methods and courts have not shown license suspensions lead to more collections.

Hertzberg’s new bill comes more than a year after California started an amnesty program to help low-income people pay traffic tickets by reducing fines for those who are too poor to pay them and allowing some residents to have their licenses reinstated. A report on its first nine months found more than 175,000 accounts have been resolved and courts have collected more than $18 million through the amnesty program, which is scheduled to end in March.

Hertzberg said his proposed law would help people whose licenses or permits have been suspended because they can’t afford to pay, but it won’t let dangerous drivers off the hook.

“If you’re a bad driver, you still lose your license,” Hertzberg said. “But if you’re a poor driver and you can’t afford to pay, you don’t lose your license.”



Might we think about when our Bill of Rights are in again then the jury will decide how much the fine should be or if there should be any fine at all?

How many might we wonder are aware that founding father Thomas Jefferson inserted the 7th amendment in to our American Bill of Rights making it American law that in any dispute over $20 dollars we have a right to a jury trial?

Will Labor not STRIKE THEM OUT, take the concession to issue our money away from them and put our Bill of rights in again? Thank you.

Neaveh Hope • 8 days ago
Wow, what a bullyfest of comments.
This is just one guy's story out of the bunch.
I am sure there are other factors with other people. Like single parents getting pulled over for expired tags, not being able to get tags because of expense, could not get the car to pass smog.
Yes, on the other hand it would be an issue if the tickets were DUI or Speeding, Running Red Light etc.Those are serious tickets. I don't think those tickets are what Governor Brown is talking about.
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MKREDDY • 8 days ago
Another free ride. How did this idiot ever get to the point that the license was suspended? He never even thought to ask the court for more time? Hey, just raise taxes and establish a special fund to pay fines. Simple.
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Fred • 4 hours ago
Forget fines start public lashings:
Car pool viol.= 10
Dui= 50
Just for being liberal= 2 daily
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Catherine Rucker • 6 days ago
Due to several supplemental fees, a traffic ticket with a base fine of $100 turns into a $490 ticket. The supplemental fees are for: restitution, peace officer training, driver training penalty assessment, corrections training, local prosecutor's and public defenders training, courthouse construction, criminal justice facilities construction, automated fingerprint identification, emergency medical service, and DNA identification. See CA Penal Code section 1464 and Government Code sections 70372 and 76000. Senate Bill 185 is a good start because it will allow some people to apply to pay lower fees and because it will make it more difficult for court to order driver's license suspensions for failure to pay fees. However, the main problem is that the programs that are funded by the supplemental fees should be funded through the State Budget process instead.
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wolflen • 8 days ago
why have a license at all...indeed..many drove and still drive without one..the penalty for that was to take the car from these offenders..but that was deemed too harsh as they would not be able to "get to work" .. even the fines for driving with out a license were now..if you have a license or not..the fines are going to be overturned..why do I continue to play by the rules..Im sure many are driving without a drop of insurance or a license..and if "caught" ..may not be fined at all...I read somewhere there were "laws and rules" and other such things that are keeping people from going to work..
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DDLobo • 8 days ago
Is this guy also to poor to buy auto insurance? This guy may be part of the reason I pay uninsured motorist premiums.
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Owens Boca • 8 days ago
"He could no longer afford to pay for two traffic tickets he got for driving in a carpool lane".
Well done, next time fight traffic or travel Metro.
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Larry Diaz Owens Boca • 3 days ago
what an racist asshole comment
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Owens Boca Larry Diaz • 3 days ago
It's not racist, it's the truth. You're not suppose to drive by youself in the Pool Lane. You're the asshole.
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wolflen Owens Boca • 8 days ago
I think the penalty for the carpool lane is around $ he didn't pay the first one and still continued to drive in the lane..and got another $700..and this guy admits he cant pay..or why enforce the law..if he wont pay..change the next Monday morn..hey drivers..move to the express lane..penalty free !!!
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thumper79 • 8 days ago
since fines are revenue generating and do nothing to correct bad behavior lets do away with them for all!
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wolflen thumper79 • 8 days ago
thumper...and while we are at it..bury the rule book on ALL driving bumper stickers: NO TICKETS--NO FINES--NO RULES
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thumper79 wolflen • 7 days ago
good idea, since man is so evolved that we would all follow the rules of the road without laws to back them up! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

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