Local California Drivers Can Now Contest Traffic Tickets Without Having To Pay Fine First

cbslocal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Motorists in some California counties will no longer have to pay traffic tickets before they can contest them in court under a new rule adopted Monday by the state court system’s governing body.

The Judicial Council voted unanimously to abolish the practice of demanding bail as a prerequisite to challenging a traffic citation. The vote came as state officials have raised concerns that traffic fines and penalties are ensnaring minority and low-income residents. Fines have skyrocketed in California over the past two decades, and courts have grown reliant on fees as a result of budget cuts during the recession.

The Judicial Council’s decision takes effect immediately, and also requires courts to notify traffic defendants that they don’t have to make the payments to appear in court in any instructions or other materials they provide to the public.

“I am proud of the rule that has been developed,” California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. “This is an important first step to address an urgent access-to-justice issue.”…

The ACLU challenged the practice, saying a court appearance was a right that should not be contingent on someone’s ability to pay. The pre-payment requirement disproportionately affected minority and low-income residents, according to the ACLU…

Monday’s vote came as Gov. Jerry Brown last month proposed amnesty for residents who can’t afford traffic fines and penalties that have resulted in 4.8 million driver’s license suspensions since 2006.

Under Brown’s plan, drivers with lesser infractions would pay half of what they owe, and administrative fees would be slashed from $300 to $50. Brown called the traffic court system a “hellhole of desperation” for the poor… (more)

I wonder what kind of effect this will have on SFMTA’s billion dollar budget. Not much.

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