SACRAMENTO (AP) — Californians will no longer face losing their driver’s licenses because of unpaid traffic fines starting next month.

Gov. Jerry Brown said the punishment doesn’t help the state collect unpaid fines and can send low-income people into a cycle of job losses and more poverty.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, who has championed the issue in the Legislature, said the policy will ensure people’s lives are not derailed by traffic tickets.

Brown, a Democrat, approved the provision as part of a series of bills he signed Tuesday to enact the state budget. It will prevent courts from suspending someone’s driver’s license simply because of unpaid fines.

Brown called for ending the practice in his January budget proposal, saying “there does not appear to be a strong connection” between the license suspensions and collecting.

“Often, the primary consequence of a driver’s license suspension is the inability to legally drive to work or take one’s children to school,” the Democratic governor wrote.

In March, about 488,000 people had suspended driver’s licenses for unpaid traffic tickets or missing court appearances, according to data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Opponents of the policy have argued driver’s license suspension is a useful tool to compel people to pay traffic fines.

Supporters say losing the ability to drive to work can prevent people from earning money and actually make low-income drivers less likely to pay fines.

Under the bill Brown signed, courts will still be able to suspend licenses for other infractions like failing to appear in court.

Hertzberg said the new policy is a good first step in changing state law so it doesn’t punish people for being poor.

He has a related bill advancing through the Legislature that would allow low-income people who cannot afford their traffic tickets to ask a judge to lower fines or substitute them with community service.

Comments (8)
  1. Laws? We don’t have to obey any stinking laws. This state is a joke.

  2. This is a good start. We need a similar state law that applies to parking tickets. WHAT A RACKET!!! In Oakland, the city deliberately words parking signs vaguely in order to maximize the chance that people will not know when parking in that spot is prohibited, in order to maximize the number of parking tickets issued, in order to maximize funds paid to the city because of parking tickets! I’m not kidding: this is a total racket!

  3. What about the people who are already suspended because of traffic fines, will they be able to get their license back?

  4. so ur telling me its ok to speed or race nd ppl don’t have to pay the ticket if they get pulled over….so y even bother pulling us over if we make a wrong turn, speeding,having limo tint windows, or other stuff …so y bother pulling us over nd giving us a ticket

  5. Punishing them for being poor???? NOOOO, they are being punished for breaking the law! I’m sure a payment plan or something showing “good faith” in paying the fine would be accepted by the courts. This is insane!

  6. Linda Cooper says:

    I have been a California licensed driver for the past twenty-four years without any citations or accidents. On my DMV report under violations, it says, “None to report.” Yet my license has been suspended for the past almost five months for literally NO reason. How can this happen in America??