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California offers amnesty for traffic tickets

At the behest of Gov. Brown, California is experimenting with a new program where people with unpaid traffic tickets or failures to appear can receive legal amnesty and a greatly decreased fine. This program has been rolled out all across the state, although reports indicate some areas have been better served by it than others.

The traffic court system of California is well known to be disproportionately arduous for the poverty stricken and economically disadvantaged. The fines and fees associated with traffic tickets can easily climb to $500 or more, and secondary citations such as failure to appear in court to answer for the traffic ticket are commonly added on. This situation is especially difficult for the poor, as the mounting penalties can lead to a cycle of debt that severely impacts their ability to pay for rent, food and other necessities.

Amnesty reduces the fees associated with certain traffic citations by 50 or 80 percent, and the income of the defendant is considered when weighing the reduction. If the defendant qualifies, then it may also be possible to pay off the fine in increments.

Traffic infractions should not be taken lightly, although it is sometimes easy to do so. A failure to appear or to pay off even a small traffic ticket can result in a driver’s license suspension, which can be a great hardship for those who have little access to public transportation. In many cases, an experienced attorney can be of assistance in reducing the penalties that would otherwise be assessed.

Source: CBS Local, “Courts: California Traffic Amnesty Program Helps 58,000 Drivers In 3 Months”, Mar. 15, 2016

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John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.