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California’s high traffic fines unfairly punish the poor: activists

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California legislators have raised fines for traffic infractions to some of the highest in the United States to generate revenue, and the poor are bearing an unfair burden, losing cars and jobs because they cannot pay them, civil rights activists said on Friday.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area said in a new report that the $490 fine for a red light ticket in California was three times the national average. The cost was even higher if motorists wanted to attend traffic school in lieu of a conviction or were late paying.

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“Our state is raising money off the backs of California families to balance the budget for special projects, and it’s using traffic tickets as a revenue generator instead of to protect safety, instead of to do justice, said Elisa Della-Piana, the group’s legal director.

The report, released on Thursday, comes as lawmakers in some states and local jurisdictions have begun to recognize the implications of high traffic fines on the poor and unemployed, especially in minority communities.

Failure to pay a fine on time can lead to a motorist losing his driver license and car, suffer further financial problems and even wind up in jail.

“Studies show 78 percent of Californians drive to work and a very high percentage have to have a license to have a job,” Della-Piana said. “If you can’t afford to pay $500 this month for a traffic ticket, that’s also saying to many families, you lose your household income.”

California lawmakers have begun to take baby steps to address the problem, Della-Piana said, with Governor Jerry Brown lately vetoing new attempts by state legislators to raise fines or tack on new fees to traffic tickets as they grapple with deep budget deficits brought on in part by mushrooming public employee pension obligations.

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Brown, a Democrat, has also said in his latest budget proposal that the state should not be suspending driver licenses for failure to pay a ticket.

State Senator Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat from Los Angeles, has introduced legislation that would reduce fines based on a motorist’s ability to pay.

Della-Piana said California should next stop arresting motorists who cannot afford to pay their tickets. Black people are statistically more likely to be jailed for such offenses, according to the report.

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(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


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75 years ago: When atomic scientist Leo Szilard tried to halt dropping bombs over Japan

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As this troubled summer rolls along, and the world begins to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation, and use, of the first atomic bombs, many special, or especially tragic, days will draw special attention.  They will include July 16 (first test of the weapon in New Mexico), August 6 (bomb dropped over Hiroshima) and August 9 (over Nagasaki).   Surely far fewer in the media and elsewhere will mark another key date:  July 3.

On July 3, 1945, the great atomic scientist Leo Szilard finished a letter/petition that would become the strongest (virtually the only) real attempt at halting President Truman's march to using the atomic bomb--still almost two weeks from its first test at Trinity--against Japanese cities.

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‘Insane’: Park ranger shoots unarmed man through his heart and then handcuffs his dead body

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A ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park tased and then fatally shot a man during a New Mexico traffic stop and then handcuffed his lifeless body.

Charles "Gage" Lorentz was traveling March 21 from his work site in Pecos, Texas, to his family's home in southwest Colorado when he detoured at the national park to meet a friend, and that's where he encountered National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell, reported KOB-TV.

The ranger stopped the 25-year-old Lorentz for speeding on a dirt road near the park's Rattlesnake Springs area, and Mitchell's lapel video shows him ordering Lorentz to spread his feet and move closer to a railing.

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Former Trump administration official refers to a renowned Black scholar as ‘some criminal’

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President Donald Trump's former Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred to renowned Black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. as "some criminal" in an interview with The New York Times Magazine.

Sessions, one of Trump's earliest supporters who was later fired after years of attacks from the president, is currently attempting to reclaim his old Senate seat in Alabama. Sessions has desperately tried to tout his Trumpist credentials on the campaign trail, even as the president has waged a campaign aimed at sabotaging his primary bid.

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