Last week, I was helping a friend clear up old non-traffic infractions that had been sent to collection. Over time, my friend had racked up a handful of minor infractions for things like smoking within 25 feet of a trolley station and not having a license for his/her dog as they walked on a Del Mar beach.
In researching ways to help, I stumbled across a state amnesty program signed into law last June for tickets like my friend’s, as well as traffic tickets. The program started Oct. 1, 2015, and ends March 31, 2017. The program offers discounts to people who meet an income threshold, and cuts down on administrative fees for those who’ve had their licenses suspended.
In proposing the program last May, Gov. Jerry Brown called the state’s infraction ticket system a “hellhole of desperation.”
Indeed, a San Francisco-based group, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, published a report last year documenting how traffic courts drive inequality in California. The report found that “over four million Californians do not have valid driver’s licenses because they cannot afford to pay traffic fines and fees. These suspensions make it harder for people to get and keep jobs, further impeding their ability to pay their debt. They harm credit ratings … Ultimately they keep people in long cycles of poverty that are difficult, if not impossible to overcome.”