In The Golden State, traffic ticket add-ons can be about seven or eight
times greater than the base fine.
Penalty assessments and court costs are essentially a
back-door tax increase in an era when such moves have become politically unpopular and, in some
cases, illegal. These fees ostensibly go to pay for new court construction,
DNA tests and a myriad of other programs, but the money often finds its
way into the general fund.
In addition to the high fines and add-ons, traffic tickets can lead to
license suspension and substantially higher insurance rates, especially
for commercial drivers.
All these tickets may have a corrosive effect on the relationship between
police and citizens. In other words, the more speeding tickets that officers
hand out on Interstate 15 around Boron and Arvin that have little, if
anything, to do with keeping the roadway safe, the more resentful drivers become.
Rumors also persist of ticket quotas in some areas, as drivers share anecdotal stories about
heightened police activity at the end of the month and more traffic enforcement
officers at places where the speed limit suddenly drops.
Many officers are also concerned that they are viewed as tax collectors
instead of public safety officers and that this undermines their good
relationship with the community. It is only a matter of time before there
is a high-profile incident in The Golden State, like a Michael Brown or
Trayvon Martin shooting. Officers are under sometimes harsh scrutiny to
perform impeccably under difficult circumstances. Goodwill from the community
at large is important in continued trust in law enforcement when sensitive
Perhaps going forward, lawmakers will consider these consequences and make
traffic enforcement laws that are focused more heavily on safety and less
on punishment and raising revenue.