Court to stop suspending licenses for unpaid fines

traffic ticketUnder pressure from civil liberties groups, Contra Costa County Superior Court announced last week a moratorium on the practice of suspending driver’s licenses over unpaid fines.

In March, the ACLU of Northern California and other groups urged the California Judicial Council — the policy-making board of the California court system — for action, arguing that suspending licenses for unpaid fines disproportionately affects lower-income drivers.

The ACLU and others have been targeting individual courts as well in Bay Area counties. Contra Costa County Superior Court responded last week saying the Failure to Pay policy was under review.

“The court will suspend all FTP referrals until further notice,” Steven K. Austin, presiding judge of the Superior Court, wrote last week to the ACLU of Northern California and Bay Area Legal Aid. Austin added the moratorium had already begun.

In many instances, drivers receive an initial fine for some violation, with lots of additional fees tacked on. What was a $100 fine could be several hundred dollars and only swelling from there, sometimes escalating to thousands as payment is not made.

This often leads to a suspension, which limits the driver’s ability to get to work and perpetuates the problem, the coalition of civil liberties groups argued. And many of these citations are for minor infractions like not wearing a seat belt or not signaling on a turn.

By the end of 2015, more than 1.9 million Californians, many of who whom are unemployed, disabled or homeless, had suspended licenses for failure to appear or failure to pay on citations, according to data provided by civil liberties groups.

Data shows a strong correlation between high poverty rates and high suspension rates in the bay area

“What we’re looking for is a system that doesn’t punish people for being poor,” Micaela Davis, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, previously 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.


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  1. Leaving Soon
    Leaving Soon 23 May, 2016, 13:17

    Kalifornia has gone mad.

    Reply this comment
  2. PeaceKeeper
    PeaceKeeper 23 May, 2016, 14:56

    If you look at discipline across the board there are no real consequences for misbehavior. e.g. release of felons, vehicles not impounded for unlicensed drivers, lack of discipline in our schools because one group or another might be offended, lack of discipline in the home (let your child experience life, no matter what the cost or who gets hurt), so why not stop suspending licenses for unpaid fines. I have an idea, let the federal government pay the fine, as they are the ones making America a socialist country. Or a better solution, “if you can’t pay the fine, don’t do the crime”.

    Reply this comment
  3. Queeg
    Queeg 23 May, 2016, 20:39


    Globalists need their service workers so there-

    Reply this comment
  4. Sean
    Sean 24 May, 2016, 07:39

    When you realize that traffic citations are used to fund the local courts, the change imposed by contra costa county make sense. Consider that a $100 fine becomes $500 payment by the time all the fees are added in place and you have to pay in full before you can even contest the infraction. And then costs double and triple if you can’t pay on time, cars get impounded and people can’t work. The traffic court system is a major shake-down for low income drivers.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 May, 2016, 12:42

      Consider that a $100 fine becomes $500 payment by the time all the fees are added in place and you have to pay in full before you can even contest the infraction.
      By law today the Courts in CA must give you a trial without posting bond. And in the past the policy has been similar if you could not pay the bond, you told the court and they would set trial w/o bond.

      Reply this comment
  5. Ronald
    Ronald 24 May, 2016, 11:11

    Sounds like discrimination as being “poor” exempts them from adhering to the laws that everyone else must adhere.

    Reply this comment
  6. JimmyDeeOC
    JimmyDeeOC 24 May, 2016, 12:25

    I’d normally say this is preposterous, but Sean makes a good point. The whole system is a joke……$100 tickets morph into $400 thanks do all the “fees” and “special charges” (All of which were put in place by insane left tards, of course.)

    So I could see easing up a bit on the suspensions……But at some point the threat has to stay on the books. Else: anarchy.

    Reply this comment
  7. Sean
    Sean 24 May, 2016, 12:33

    It’s not about exempting the poor. It’s an onerous system that charges $400 in fees for a $100 fine.

    Reply this comment
  8. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 May, 2016, 12:45

    The FTP fines are not reasonable at all, usually a flat rate of $300 no matter what the original fine was. BUT people have always had the option of doing community service, at $10 an hour, in lieu of paying the fine… so if you’re making LESS than $15/hour (less than $10 after taxes) it is better to take community service, work it off on weekends. There is no excuse for not working with the judges and courts and getting it paid off over time or by community service work.

    Reply this comment
  9. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 25 May, 2016, 15:50

    Speaking of paying your obligations, have you paid those attorney’s fees ordered by the court for your frivolous lawsuits yet?

    Reply this comment

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