The editorial board at the Porterville Recorder recently spoke out against traffic ticket add-ons in Barstow, Mojave, and other locales in Central California.
Citing examples like the $20 cellphone ticket that can be as much as $200 and the $35 ticket that can wind up costing $500, the editors concluded that penalty assessments are “a difficult thing for anyone to handle,” regardless of their income. The editors criticized the amnesty as too limited, and called upon the Legislature to end penalty assessments or at least dramatically reduce them.
Rather ironically, penalty assessments paid for the sparkling new South County Justice Facility in Porterville.
Traffic Ticket Secondary Costs
Under the first penalty assessment laws of the 1960s, traffic violators paid a few extra dollars that went to traffic-related programs, like road maintenance. Today, penalty assessments greatly outweigh the fines (the formula is $29 in penalty assessments for every $10 in fines), and in times of “budgetary crisis,” the money goes straight to the General Fund. In other words, penalty assessments are back-door tax increases that require no popular vote or politician accountability.
Penalty assessment are the only indirect costs. Additionally, most traffic tickets cause auto insurance rates to skyrocket. Due to legal restrictions, driving record is about the only effective way that insurance companies can measure risk, so the effect is magnified greatly.
The good news is that, since the county must remit most of the revenue to the state, prosecutors are often willing to reduce the penalty assessments, if the motorist has a legitimate defense and an effective legal advocate.