California Eyes Emergency Rules On ‘Pay-To-Play’ Traffic Courts
The Golden State legislature is among governments statewide considering rapid reforms to traffic court policies in the wake of unrest in places like Furguson, Mo., that spotlighted how some policies send minority residents into a spiral of debt and fees that can lead to jail – usually without any real legal representation along the way.
California lawmakers this week are considering “emergency rules” that, the L.A. Times explains, “… would make it easier for drivers to contest traffic tickets — but will do nothing to help those already saddled with fines and fees they cannot afford to pay, according to lawyers and court officials. The state has added on charges that make the cost of a routine traffic ticket nearly $500, an amount that rapidly inflates when deadlines are missed. Although state courts charge people many fees — raised during the budget crisis — to use the legal system, the outcry has been loudest in the traffic arena.”
The LAT noted that “… lawyers representing the poor have complained that judges in some counties have been requiring drivers to pay the fines as a condition of contesting them, a practice that California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye called “pay to play” and vowed to stop.”
Nearly 5 million California drivers have had their licenses suspended because of an inability to pay fines, officials say.
Read the L.A. Times story here.