The actual cost of a traffic ticket in California is
much higher than it was 10 years ago, very difficult to calculate and possibly unfair.
In 2005, running a stop sign would cost about $138, when considering fine
and penalty assessments. Today, that ticket costs about $240. Super speeder
tickets have gone up even more in the same period, from $420 to $900.
The changes are also hard on court personnel. Since the add-ons often
change annually, when a ticket is unpaid for a year or two, it can be
difficult to calculate the total amount due.
A former Riverside prosecutor admitted that the system was "frustrating"
and that the add-ons are "almost like a tax" as opposed to a penalty.
These add-ons first appeared in the 1980s, were relatively low for a few
decades and then began to rise in the 1990s. In the past ten or fifteen
years, these costs have
really climbed. Theoretically, penalty assessments make violators pay for the programs
designed to curb the violations they commit. For example, DUI defendants
may have to pay money to an alcohol abuse fund. Altogether, a whopping
86 percent of penalty assessments come from traffic tickets. These costs do not even
include the higher insurance premiums, which can sometimes be more expensive
than the ticket.
These fees are mandatory. They are set by the state, and neither the officer
nor the judge has any discretion to apply many of them. About the only
way to get the penalty assessments reduced is to speak with an attorney
practicing in Fresno. In addition to the fines and penalty assessments,
a lawyer may be able to get the points reduced.