Assembly Passes Legislation to Decriminalize Transit Fare Evasion Citations for Youths
SB 882, which helps prevent youths from entering the criminal justice system for transit fare evasion, goes to the governor
SACRAMENTO – The Assembly 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 44-28 vote. Criminal charges for transit fare evasions can force youths to miss school for court appearances, saddle a youth with a criminal record and, sometimes, result in a youth ending up in juvenile hall.
“No kid should be charged with a crime or go to jail simply because he or she can’t pay to ride the bus or train,” Hertzberg said. “This legislation ensures that people under the age of 18 will be held accountable if they jump transit fares – they will face fines and penalties – but they 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 pay fines for minor traffic 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 six months of that program, more than 132,000 Californians have received amnesty fine and fee reductions and more than 104,000 Californians have had their suspended driver’s licenses reinstated, 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.
“SB 882 is a key step to dismantle the cradle-to-prison pipeline, a crisis at the dangerous intersection of poverty and race that places too many of our youth at risk of entering the juvenile justice system,” said Alex Johnson, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-California. “This bill will end the practice of criminalizing youth for the simple act of not being able to pay a transit fare – especially when many of them are simply trying to access their public education or other opportunities. Until California ensures access to transportation for every child, criminally charging children for not paying a transit fare is unjust and undermines opportunity for our poorest youth.”
The bill, which was passed by the Senate in June, goes next to the governor for his 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 athttp://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