Budget deal includes plan to cut traffic fines

Sen. Bob Hertzberg seeks to undo ‘criminalizing the poor’

June 19, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s efforts to reduce unreasonable fees added to minor traffic-infraction fines is included in the budget deal reached by Gov. Brown and fellow lawmakers, under the budget agreement approved today. 

“These added-on fees have led to outrageous fines that working people simply can’t afford,” Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, said after final adoption by lawmakers of a 2015-16 budget agreement that reflects many of the goals of Hertzberg’s Senate Bill 405. “Most of these fines are never paid, which is why there’s $10 billion in unpaid fees. Today’s action means that we will now be creating both a fairer system and a more efficient one by distinguishing between the unwilling to pay and those unable to pay.

“Most importantly, the budget will now include provisions to reinstate driving privileges for many of the 4.2 million Californians who have had their licenses suspended.”

Using language in SB 405, a bipartisan coalition of Senators approved changes to the governor’s amnesty program through a trailer bill that outlines specific budget language. SB 405 complimented the governor’s proposed traffic amnesty program, which Hertzberg wanted to modify because of how the existing fine structure and added-on fees dramatically impact the lives of Californians.

Faced with being forced to either drive without a license or quit their jobs, the result was a lose-lose for California, resulting in unpaid tickets and suspended licenses. Virtually all the fines have far exceeded the original amounts because of various added-on fees, penalties and other mandatory payments.

To reverse that trend, SB 405 sought to improve court-ordered debt collection and recover at least some of the uncollected, court-ordered debt.

The agreement the governor and legislative leaders reached this week included several provisions that either were in SB 405 or supported by Hertzberg. Among them:

  • Reinstate driver’s licenses to eligible program participants.
  • Grant amnesty and permit reinstatement of a driver’s license to eligible undocumented persons.
  • Provide a mechanism to reasonably garnish wages should a participant become delinquent on payments (instead of re-suspending his or her license).
  • Grant 50-percent amnesty from state mandated fees and fines to persons whose annual incomes exceed 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Grant 80-percent amnesty from mandated fees and fines to persons receiving public assistance or who are below 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Require Judicial Council to establish affordable payment plans based on the ability to pay.
  • Direct the state Department of Motor Vehicles to notify motorists of the amnesty program via annual vehicle registration renewal forms.

Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, sponsor of SB 405, said under current law once a license is suspended, it cannot be restored until all the amounts owed are paid.

“But suspension of a driver's license makes it hard for people to keep their jobs and many employers will not hire persons with a suspended license,” Herald said. “This scenario ends up trapping people in a cycle of poverty that is hard to escape.”

Hertzberg agreed, saying the revamped program, coupled with new court rules expanding accessibility for amnesty, will restore justice and the livelihoods of many disenfranchised Californians.

The revised traffic amnesty program now has some common-sense pieces from SB 405,” he said.

SB 405 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.

Hertzberg’s bill is also supported by numerous law enforcement and community groups, including the American Friends Service Committee; the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs; the Association of Deputy District Attorneys; Bay Area Community Services; California Association of Highway Patrolmen; California Association of Code Enforcement Officers; California Catholic Conference; California College and University Police Chiefs Association; California Commission on Access to Justice; California In-Home Supportive Services Consumer Alliance; California Narcotic Officers Association; California Partnership; California Reserve Peace Officers Association; Courage Campaign; Drug Policy Alliance; Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Los Angeles Community Action Network; the Personal Insurance Federation of California; Los Angeles County Probation Officers Union, AFSCME Local 685; Los Angeles Police Protective League; Oakland Community Organizations (a group of 70 congregations and schools); People Improving Communities through Organizing California; Rubicon Programs; San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum; St. Mary’s Center; and the Western Regional Advocacy Project.


  • Read Hertzberg’s May 12 Op-Ed in the Sacramento Bee on SB 405 HERE:
  • Read a May 6 article on SB 405 by LA Times columnist Steve Lopez HERE:
  • Read an April 27, 2015 editorial on SB 405 by the Sacramento Bee  titled “Time to put the brakes on add-on fees for minor traffic citations,” HERE:
  • Read an April 15, 2015 story on the issue in the Sacramento Bee HERE:
  • Read an April 14, 2015 story on the issue in the New York Times HERE:
  • Read an April 9, 2015 story on the issue in Capitol Weekly HERE:
  • Read an April 8, 2015 Press Release on the introduction of SB 405 HERE:
  • Read an April 8, 2015 story by the Los Angeles Times on SB 405 HERE:
  • Listen to Sen. Hertzberg talk about why SB 405 is needed by clicking HERE:
  • Read the bill language for SB 450 HERE:

Read a Fact Sheet on SB 405, HERE. For additional stories on SB 405, visit Hertzberg’s Web site at the address below and key in SB 405 in the search field.

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


Communications Director
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, Senate District 18
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, Calif. 95814
(916) 651-4018 office; 916 834-1128 cell