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Sticker Shock

Sticker Shock

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.