Senate Passes Legislation to Decriminalize Transit Fare Evasion Citations for Youths
SB 882 helps prevent youths from entering the criminal justice system, and potentially serving jail time, for transit fare evasion
SACRAMENTO – The Senate today passed legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, that prohibits youths from being charged with a criminal violation for transit fare evasion and instead treats the offense like a parking ticket, with an administrative process.
SB 882 was approved on a 21-12 vote. Transit fare evasion is the No. 1 cause of juvenile citations in Los Angeles County, according to Los Angeles County Probation Department. Those receiving the citations can end up missing school for resulting court appearances, or end up in juvenile hall if they fail to pay their fines.
“No kid should go to jail or be charged with a crime simply because he or she can’t pay to ride the bus or train,” Hertzberg said. “Under this bill, people under the age of 18 will still be held accountable if they jump fares and will face fines and penalties, they just won’t be charged with a criminal violation and enter the criminal justice system.”
The measure is part of Hertzberg’s ongoing efforts to roll back overly harsh penalties for minor offenses that hit the poor and the working poor especially hard. Hertzberg has also authored legislation (SB 881) that stops the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for people who fail to appear in court on minor traffic offenses or fail to pay fines for those offenses.
These two bills follow Hertzberg’s landmark measure, SB 405, and Gov. Jerry Brown’s related budget proposal that together established a new traffic amnesty program on Oct. 1, 2015. The program allows people to talk to a judge if they want to before paying fines, restores driver’s licenses to those with a payment plan and reduces exorbitant fee debts by taking a person’s income into account.
In the first three months of that program, more than 58,000 Californians have received amnesty fine and fee reductions and more than 40,000 have requested reinstatement of their driver’s licenses, according to the California Judicial Council.
SB 882 reduces the likelihood a youth will enter the criminal justice system or drop out of school. Research shows that when a youth makes even one court appearance during school, it quadruples his or her odds of being pushed out of school altogether.
Public transportation is crucial to youths from low-income families because many rely on it to get to school, jobs or health appointments. SB 882 helps prevent youths’ futures from being derailed by a needless criminal violation and saves taxpayers money by eliminating an unnecessarily burden on the courts and public safety systems.
The legislation is sponsored by the Youth Justice Coalition, the Children’s Defense Fund-California and the Western Center on Law & Poverty.
Juan Pena, a member of the Youth Justice Coalition, said he was once two hours late to school because he was stopped and checked seven separate times for his transit pass by sheriff’s deputies.
“As students, we are honored that we were able to work with Sen. Hertzberg to pass this bill, because we shouldn't be treated like criminals when we are just trying to get to school,” Pena said. “We shouldn’t be arrested, handcuffed and locked up when we don’t have fare.”
The bill goes next to the Assembly for consideration.
Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.
MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew LaMar
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814