RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE: Traffic ticket amnesty program begins
Eligible motorists can get fines and penalties reduced by 50 or 80 percent, depending on income, on past-due tickets.
Under an amnesty program that begins Thursday, Oct. 1, people with unpaid traffic tickets may be eligible to have the amount of money they owe reduced.
Gov. Jerry Brown pushed the program as a way to help those can’t afford to pay off spiraling traffic fines and have had their licenses suspended as a result. It will be in effect for 18 months, ending March 31, 2017.
In the Inland area, it may take a phone call, a written application or a visit to a courthouse to determine whether someone is eligible, and how much their debt will be reduced. Depending on income, they could have 50 or 80 percent knocked off their debt, if they meet the criteria for the amnesty.
The program does not apply to parking tickets, reckless driving or DUI offenses. People otherwise eligible may be excluded if they owe victim restitution or have certain outstanding warrants.
People with unpaid tickets whose fines were due by Jan. 1, 2013, and who did not pay it off in full as of Sept. 30 may be eligible for amnesty and have their driver’s license reinstated.
Originally, anyone who had paid off a delinquent fine after June 24, when the governor signed the amnesty bill, would not have qualified for the amnesty when it took effect. But on Wednesday, Brown signed another bill by Sen. Robert M. Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, that eliminated that issue.
More significantly, the new legislation helps other motorists by giving them the right to challenge many routine traffic tickets without having to first pay the contested fines, according to a news release from Hertzberg’s office.
In Riverside County, adult vehicle code misdemeanors are also eligible for the amnesty, with the exception of reckless driving and DUI offenses.
In San Bernardino County, no misdemeanors are included in the program, said Christina Volkers, court executive officer.
People wishing to apply for the 50 percent amnesty for a Riverside County ticket may contact a Riverside County court directly, either in person or by phone, and an automated system will help determine if they are eligible. The phone number is 951-222-0384, with operators available from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except court holidays.
To seek the 80 percent reduction based on income, people need to fill out an application on the Riverside County Superior Court website, riverside.courts.ca.gov, or in person.
For delinquent tickets in San Bernardino County, people must go to a courthouse to find out if they are eligible for amnesty. One clerk’s window will be designated to handle inquiries at each site, Volkers said.
Both Riverside and San Bernardino counties expect to handle inquiries with existing staff.
“We are hoping to automate as much as possible to reduce any manual tasks,” Marita Ford, spokeswoman for the Riverside County courts, wrote in an email.
Volkers served as chairwoman of the statewide working group, made up of court, county, city and other interested parties, that came up with the program.
“We don’t know what to expect” in terms of volume of requests, she said.
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