Civil liberty groups fighting license suspensions for those guilty of “being poor”

traffic ticketA band of civil liberties groups are demanding that California courts stop suspending drivers licenses for failure to pay traffic fines, a practice they argue overwhelmingly affects low-income drivers.

A 2013 provision in the state budget offered major relief of fines due before Jan. 2013 but not for those after. So the ACLU of Northern California and others are calling to cease the suspensions entirely, or at least until certain safeguards are established.

What happens is that drivers receive an initial fine with lots of additional fees tacked on. What could be a $100 fine is now several hundred dollars and it only swells from there, sometimes even into the thousands, according to ACLU of Northern California staff.

The ACLU of Northern California and other groups have been studying the effect this has on low-income drivers in Bay Area counties. They note the problem is only worsened if fees aren’t paid on time, because then the license is suspended, jeopardizing the driver’s ability to get to work.

And many of these citations are for minor infractions like not wearing a seat belt or not signaling on a turn.

“What we’re looking for is a system that doesn’t punish people for being poor,” said Micaela Davis, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, told CalWatchdog. “What we see is that the fines and fees are so exorbitant on simple traffic citations that people simply can’t afford to pay.”

Detractors may argue that it’s the driver’s actions that incurred the fine in the first place, but Davis dismissed that notion, saying there are more effective ways of handling the issue.

“We can hold people accountable without also ruining their lives,” Davis said.

On Monday, the ACLU of Northern California, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and the Western Center on Law and Poverty sent a demand letter to the San Mateo County Superior Court arguing that it change its policy. The coalition argued that judges have an option to suspend, not a mandate.

The coalition, along with Bay Area Legal Aid, also on Monday sent a letter to the the California Judicial Council, which is the policy-making board of the California court system, urging it to instruct the courts to stop.


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  1. Dude
    Dude 22 March, 2016, 10:40

    Weakly veiled effort to make illegal aliens exempt from our traffic laws. Gotta keep the cheap labor coming.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 22 March, 2016, 12:40

      Newsflash,illegal aliens are not the only poor people in CA, it is everyone who is not a trough feeding public employee or a Tech wizard.

      Reply this comment
  2. Terry
    Terry 22 March, 2016, 10:55

    The US Constitution states we have the right to travel. A right should not be taxed or licensed to use it.
    So no license or plates should be required. Just another tax to make money from us.

    Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 22 March, 2016, 11:30

      The right to come and go as we please does not mean that we are automatically entitled to drive a motor vehicle. That is because these machines are dangerous if not handled properly. We have laws in place to protect the public from irresponsible drivers. Everyone has the right to apply for a driver’s license, but you do not have a right to be granted one unless you pass the written test and the driver’s test. If you pass these tests you have demonstrated a working knowledge of the laws applying to the road which are in place to protect the public. Fines and suspensions are levied against drivers who show a reckless disregard for the safety of others. That being said, we should expect that these laws will not be perfectly obeyed or enforced all the time. It is good for us to keep an eye on both sides of the law to make sure things are being done correctly.
      I think you are wrong about not requiring driver’s licenses or vehicle license plates. Without them, there would be no way to enforce the laws that are there to protect us from reckless drivers or car thieves or carjackers. We could not prove which car ran the red-light, whose car was retrieved by law enforcement after being stolen, which car was taken at gun-point with a baby in the back seat.
      Liberty is not a God-given right to do whatever you want without regard to others. Otherwise, government’s purpose would be to protect a “right” to cause harm to others. Liberty is reciprocal. That means there are limits on our freedom, and there is individual responsibility to exercise self-restraint so that we are not a danger to others and they are not a danger to us.

      Reply this comment
      • Terry
        Terry 22 March, 2016, 11:58

        Nobody has a right to cause harm to anyone. That is a crazy statement. If you do something in person or your car you should be held responsible for your actions.
        All the drivers license testing is a joke. I had to take the written test a few years ago. Question what is the maximum speed limit in CA? Answers 35 55 75. This was when the speed limit was 55. You would have to be a complete idiot to not pass this kindergarten level written test. All the other questions were as stupid. It did not prove that I could drive or follow the law. And driving around the block did not prove anything either. And you would have to blind to not pass the eye test. In fact when I had the eye test the person in front of me had a hard time reading the complete line on the eye chart. So the DMV person told them what to say.

        Reply this comment
  3. Ms. Right
    Ms. Right 22 March, 2016, 11:02

    I know, let’s make the ‘rich’ people pay for their fines, or better yet, let’s charge ‘rich’ people more, based on their income. Or even better, let’s charge the ACLU for the fines.

    Reply this comment
  4. PeaceKeeper
    PeaceKeeper 22 March, 2016, 11:06

    It’s pretty simple, the idea behind a “fine” is punishment. Just obey the law, rich or not.

    Reply this comment
  5. Oh Please....
    Oh Please.... 22 March, 2016, 11:11

    Here’s an idea…if you can’t afford the fine, don’t do the crime. That’s what keeps me out of the HOV lanes.

    Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 22 March, 2016, 11:42

      Dear Ms. Right, PeaceKeeper, and Oh Please:
      Thank you.
      For those who don’t understand why we are all so mean:
      Equal Justice under the Rule of Law is when the law applies to everyone and no one is above the law. Whether you are rich or poor it means if you make an illegal U-turn on a city street you pay exactly the same fine. Unless the police officer decides to let you off with a warning because you humbly and respectfully admitted your mistake.
      This would make you think that poor people would be better drivers than rich people. Curious to know why that doesn’t seem to be so. (Except in Orange County.)(That’s just a joke, folks.)
      Whatever happened to “Liberty means responsibility”?

      Reply this comment
      • Rex the Wonder Dog!
        Rex the Wonder Dog! 22 March, 2016, 12:42

        Unless the police officer decides to let you off with a warning because you humbly and respectfully admitted your mistake.
        Sergeant Friday, if you “admit your mistake” to a GED cop you just signed over your guilty plea.
        Come on,you can do better than that!

        Reply this comment
        • The Ted Manuscripts
          The Ted Manuscripts 28 March, 2016, 15:02


          POODLE GIRL

          First of all, sweetie, EVERTY cop has more education than you…and

          you have NEVER been let off with a warning because I’m sure you escalate Everything into something—- so—– you’ve spent your sad life incurring huge problems— but you know that , right, little buddy?

          it’s just this easy! ™

          Reply this comment
          • Rex the Wonder Dog!
            Rex the Wonder Dog! 28 March, 2016, 19:30

            LOL…even comments 6 days old makes the Stooge dance!

            Where do I send my rent check Steals??

  6. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 22 March, 2016, 12:45

    If a person CANNOT pay a “fine” they are ENTITLED to “community service” in lieu of the fine, typically $10 an hour. Considering most of these people who cannot pay are minimum wage workers, or unemployed, that is a good deal because $10 an hour credit is about $15 an hour in real life, because they withhold taxes and FICA. You get a $250 fine, no problem, work 3 days for CalTRANS.

    Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 22 March, 2016, 17:11

      Now, how many folks knew this? I didn’t. See, we already have a just law in place. Thank you, Rex.

      By the way, what does GED stand for? I can’t think what this means. But my example of humbly and respectfully admitted my mistake is a true story. I really did that and the officer really let me off with a warning. I was humble and respectful because at the time I had forgotten my wallet and did not have either my driver’s license or proof of insurance with me. Afterwards, I thanked him for his kindness to me and his professional courtesy. Which he truly did deserve.

      Reply this comment
      • Ulysses Uhaul
        Ulysses Uhaul 22 March, 2016, 18:55


        GED is an obscure regional cult founded during Bewolf’s times. Members were hairy buggers with big bulging eyes caused by trough feeding, some say. Members jousted regularily in GED stadium….prelude to the one in Rome. Their mascots were Romulus and Remus, the cousins of Ragwenetus the founder of RAGWUS. RAGWUS were the purported founders of trough feeding by early humans…..

        Hope this helps!

        Reply this comment
      • PeaceKeeper
        PeaceKeeper 22 March, 2016, 20:43

        Standing Fast, General Educational Development (GED). It is basically the same as a high school diploma. It was designed for students who wanted to finish high school early or students who could not function in a regular high school. Rex the Wonder Dog’s reference to GED cop is really old school. Most of today’s officers have a minimum of an AA Degree or 60 college units. Many police departments require an AA to apply. Additionally, signing a ticket is not an admission of guilt, only a promise to appear.

        Reply this comment
        • Rex the Wonder Dog!
          Rex the Wonder Dog! 23 March, 2016, 08:17

          Most of today’s officers have a minimum of an AA Degree or 60 college units.
          Stop it, the laughter is KILLING us 🙂

          Fact = GED cop is a GED job, as established by P.O.S.T.

          Fact = 80% of ALL cops are hired with just a GED or HS diploma

          Fact = GED cops are extremely embarrassed by the fact they have a GED job that pretty much ANY HS grad could do, so they make wild, bogus and ridiculous claims that they have a “college” job.

          Reply this comment
          • Ulysses Uhaul
            Ulysses Uhaul 23 March, 2016, 08:49

            They are members of the Ragwanetti, a secret Italian diner’s club from the Brooklyn 1840’s that did charity work for widows of police…..their founder was Ragwanettus , and he was the founder of Nero’s Pectoran Guard, the first urban professional police force.

            Totally simple. RAGWUS is well known but hopelessly misunderstood-

          • Ted, Defender of the American Way
            Ted, Defender of the American Way 25 March, 2016, 14:19

            He is right Poodle girl– you’re just angry because you failed the physical agility and psych test and were never hired by LE—LOL !!!!! LMAO—– so easy to spin em up with the sad truth!

        • Standing Fast
          Standing Fast 23 March, 2016, 16:22

          It helps a lot–I rarely get a good laugh anymore.
          I read your follow-up comment below, too.
          You must be quite a scholar to come up with explanations like these. Not many folks know Ragwanetus was king of the Ragwanetti.

          Thank you for reminding me.
          I took that test 44 years ago now, but the meaning of the acronym escaped me. And no, for those who may be curious, I am not ashamed of passing a GED test.
          Frankly, at the time, I thought it was the best test I’d ever taken, very well designed and written, plus interesting. I even learned things I hadn’t known before.
          It certainly beat trying to figure out the correct answers to ambiguous statements in true-false tests one of my high school teachers was famous for. He didn’t appreciate it when I adjusted them so my answers would make sense, either. The last time he gave me a big F and wrote “just answer the questions”.
          And, yes, I guess Rex the Wonder Dog’s reference to “GED cop” is really old school. Really, really, really old.
          Are you a lawyer?

          Reply this comment
          • Rex the Wonder Dog!
            Rex the Wonder Dog! 24 March, 2016, 12:34

            And, yes, I guess Rex the Wonder Dog’s reference to “GED cop” is really old school.

            The TRUTH is never “old school” 🙂

            Of course, that is the very reason why GED cops hate the GED truth!

          • Standing Fast
            Standing Fast 25 March, 2016, 11:30

            Right you are, Rex.

  7. desmond
    desmond 22 March, 2016, 19:24

    If you are illegal, and break a traffic law you should be shot or forced to live under same roof as Seesaw. Most would live with her and then kill themselves in 10 days. Their last thought, “better late than never, adios.”

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 22 March, 2016, 20:09

    If you are illegal, and break a traffic law you should be shot or forced to live under same roof as Seesaw.
    That kind of punishment would be 100%, absolutely, positively illegal.

    Cruel and unusual punishment is banned by the 8th Amendment.

    Reply this comment
  9. Dork
    Dork 23 March, 2016, 06:45

    We have been told Time and Time again by Proud Liberals that FEDERAL Always Supercedes State Law, well folks here is Federal LAW:

    See or Google Tom Hyland and his New Mexico PRECEDENT Setting case regarding “Traveling on the Nations Highways in your own Personal Conveyance”
    By law, the only individuals who are required to license themselves and their vehicles are those who are involved in the commercial activity of transporting goods or paying passengers for a living. We The People have a Right to own the cars we have purchased and travel upon the public Right of Way. However, it has been written since the times of horse and buggy that the commercial activity of transportation shall be a regulated privilege. “The right of the citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, either by carriage or by automobile, is not a mere privilege which a city may prohibit or permit at will, but a common law right which he has under the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Thomas v. Smith, 154 SE 579.

    18 U.S. Code § 31 – Definitions

    (6)Motor vehicle.—
    The term “motor vehicle” means every description of carriage or other contrivance propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used for commercial purposes on the highways in the transportation of passengers, passengers and property, or property or cargo.

    Reply this comment
  10. pcrussell50
    pcrussell50 23 March, 2016, 07:16

    Fines should reflect the severity of the crime. There should be no possible way that a ticket for failing to use your turn signal when turning into your driveway from the residential street you live on, could EVER escalate to thousands of dollars even if you go for years without paying it. That it can and does escal so severely is the point of the article. It is government waaay overstepping and waaay out of control.

    Reply this comment
  11. Sean
    Sean 23 March, 2016, 07:40

    I think pcrussell50 has the crux of the real problem. A $100 fine for an infraction becomes a bill for $490 by the time all the fees are added on. And if you contest the infraction, you have to pay the bill in full and then you can arrange a court date. The legal system in California has turned traffic court into a toll collection agency. If people miss a date because they have to work or can’t pay in full the costs can double. If you drive an old car or truck, it doesn’t take long before the fine exceeds the value of vehicle which will be impounded. This puts people out of work. Run afowl of the law in California, even in a very minor way, and you’ll quickly find just how onerous the state government can be.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 23 March, 2016, 08:09

      And if you contest the infraction, you have to pay the bill in full and then you can arrange a court date.
      That has never been the case, ever. Back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s all you did was go to the court clerk, before your initial appearance date, and ask or a trial date, and you got it. Then loser judges in certain courts wanted you to pay your bond BEFORE trial, but if you did not have it you did not have to pay it, and again, you received a court date. Today, under new legislation passed last year, NO COURT can require you post bond prior to getting a court date, just like the old days you go to the clerk and ask for a court date. I know because I go to traffic court in 2 days on a speeding ticket, and I did this and the clerk gave me the most recent law changes allowing this.

      Reply this comment
      • Standing Fast
        Standing Fast 24 March, 2016, 15:44

        Thank you again, Rex.
        That’s what I thought I remembered about the way the system works.
        I don’t think I’ve ever heard of these added-on fees for moving violations, never seen any on the tickets I’ve had to pay for failing to obey the rules of the road.
        Is this something local governments do?

        Reply this comment
  12. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 23 March, 2016, 08:07

    How about suspening the drivers liscens of hollywood wanks on drugs and booze and the illegal aliens running down pedestirians

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 23 March, 2016, 08:11

      Now, if we did that how would Teddy Steals get around town 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • ted
        ted 28 March, 2016, 15:05

        probably with you as my Ubber ™ driver— of course that’s if you still had a license….which……is doubtful


        Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 26 March, 2016, 14:58

      Superwing: That would not be fair. Celebrities have a sacred right to drive a vehicle while inebriated or stoned and if pedestrians don’t want to get run over by illegal aliens they should stay home.
      Rex: I tried to edit one of my comments above but couldn’t so I want to clarify to everyone that I agree with Rex that the truth is never old school, but I did not mean to say that I agree with the comment about GED cops.
      To All:
      Why is California law and government so insane?????

      Reply this comment
  13. desmond
    desmond 23 March, 2016, 17:54

    Why not have a white privilege infraction markup?
    In the same way, lower infractions for firejerkoffs to $1.00.
    Call that the asshole infraction discount.

    Reply this comment

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