According to a recent
report, four million Californians have invalid drivers' licenses because
they cannot afford to pay their traffic tickets from Kern County and elsewhere.
San Francisco civil rights lawyers sponsored the project, which compares
the system in California to the system in Ferguson. A few months ago,
the Justice Department blasted the Missouri city for over-reliance on
traffic ticket fines that unfairly targeted minorities and the poor. Closer
to home, "Not Just A Ferguson Problem" alleges that high penalty
assessments and other costs lead to license suspension and a cycle of
poverty for many Californians.
The report conveniently fails to mention that up to
80 percent of people with a suspended license ignore the order and keep driving,
so the evidence may be largely anecdotal.
Although the effect may be debatable, it is a cold, hard fact that California
traffic tickets are among the most expensive in the nation.
Penalty assessments have exploded over the last ten years. The current
formula is $29 for every $10 in fines. Most of these funds go to the state, which
is good news, in a way, for motorists. Since the county doesn't keep
much of the money, prosecutors are more inclined to reduce the fine, and
by extension, the penalty assessments.
Court costs can easily add another $100 or more to even a miniscule fine.
These fees vary by location, but there is usually a 20 percent surcharge,
a court operations fee, a "Conviction Assessment Fee," and add-ons
for court construction, night court operation, judicial salaries, and
many other associated costs.
Increased car insurance premiums are still the largest effect of most speeding
tickets, particularly when a good driver discount is lost.
An attorney can contest your ticket in court and dramatically reduce the
financial consequences of a speeding ticket in Lamont or Shafter.