Assembly panel OKs revamped traffic-fine bill to improve court access for fighting tickets
Sen. Bob Hertzberg measure would help working Californians
SACRAMENTO – A key California Assembly policy committee today approved a revised traffic-fine bill by Sen. Bob Hertzberg to improve access to the courts for Californians seeking to contest minor traffic infractions.
“Our concerns with the current system have centered on both the size of fines and the ability of average Californians to have their day in court when they disagree with a citation,” Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, said about Senate Bill 405 after the Assembly Public Safety Committee approved his bill on a bipartisan, 6-0 vote..“We’ve made great progress in addressing this issue. But we still have too many Californians who do not have access to the courts because they were not able to appear, or didn’t understand the implications of not appearing at their scheduled court date.”
Recent developments, coupled with new rules from the Chief Justice’s court accessibility efforts, helped prompt changes to SB 405. Central was adoption last week by the governor of a 2015-16 state budget that included several provisions of SB 405. These include a traffic fine amnesty process for those caught up in the problem of compounding fines and delinquency fees that outpace their ability to pay the fine for minor traffic violations.
Hertzberg said that the newly amended version of SB 405 seeks to make it clear that motorists will not be required to pay court fees before seeing a judge. This affects those who have failed to appear in court or failed to pay court-ordered debt.
Hertzberg said the combined effect of changes in law and SB 405 will improve the ability of workers to reach their jobs, increase payments of fines and also allow defendants their day in court.
The changes were needed, he said, because the current system allows fines to increase dramatically because of added-on fees. This is criminalizing the poor and making it problematic for them to get to work, he said. The result has been a backlog of $10 billion in unpaid fines and more than 4.2 million suspended California driver licenses over the past eight years.
“Due to increases in fines and fees, a staggering number of Californians have no access to courts when they are cited for traffic citations,” Hertzberg said. “Exorbitant fees can make it challenging for low-income people to resolve minor traffic infractions since many counties require fines to be paid prior to a hearing on the infraction.”
This has often meant that many drivers didn’t get a chance to see a judge.
“They essentially lose the right to due process,” he said.
SB 405 is sponsored by the Western Center for Law and Poverty. It is cosponsored by the New Way of Life Reentry Project; the East Bay Community Law Center; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. Supporters include the American Civil Liberties Union; the California Association of Local Conservation Corps; California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones; the California Reserve Peace Officers Association; the Personal Insurance Federation of California; and People Improving Communities through Organizing California.
SB 405 will now face review by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. No hearing date has yet been set.
For more, including a Fact Sheet on SB 405, HERE or visit Hertzberg’s Web site at the address below.
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 HERE or 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. More HERE or at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg
MEDIA CONTACT: Ray Sotero
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, Senate District 18
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, Calif. 95814
(916) 651-4018 office; 916 834-1128 cell; or firstname.lastname@example.org