SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – California recently announced plans to offer drivers a deal – what amounts to an amnesty program – allowing them to pay just half of what they owe on some unpaid traffic tickets.
The announcement was, initially, well received. But, has the program’s shine lost some of its luster? Perhaps. During his travels About the Bay, KCBS’ Mike Sugerman found that even with the discount, drivers are paying more than they’d like for those violations.
KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:
For instance, the vehicle code says the penalty for an illegal left turn is $35. But, a driver caught doing so may receive a much heftier bill.
“I turned left in one of those places where you cannot turn left,” acknowledged a driver who identified herself as Sara. She’s been ordered to pay $234 for the infraction.
Caught driving without a seatbelt? The vehicle code says it’s a $20 fine. But another driver lamented receiving a bill for $156.
Cited for using your cell phone in the car? State law says it’s a $20 fine. But, drivers are receiving bills for upwards of $160 or $170.
Turns out the state vehicle code is just the start of what you’ll pay if you get caught doing something illegal behind the wheel.
“You’ve got the base fine plus the county gets fees and then there’s the court security fees and the fees for building new court buildings. It just goes on and on and on,” explained attorney Chris Dove. He says he can’t even accurately tell his client what they might owe on a traffic violation. “You have up to somewhere around 75 to 100 footnotes, so you can’t even look at it and say well, okay, here’s my base fine plus the fees and this is what my total bail is going to be. You’re then looking at all the footnotes and doing what comes down to what’s like calculus trying to figure out what you’re actually going to be paying.”
“Those penalties and assessments have grown into monsters,” echoed South San Francisco attorney Sherri Gendelman.
To be sure, the amnesty program will put a dent in the bill drivers are facing. But, Dove suggests there’s more to the story.
“The discount that they’re offering sounds great, I think it begs a bigger question which is if they’re charging so much money for this stuff that people are getting into a position where they can’t pay it, maybe it’s time to rethink how we start charging people stuff.”
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