New California Law Wants to Tie Traffic Fines to Income

California lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow the state to base traffic fines on your income. The more you earn, the higher the fine and the less you make, the less you pay. State Senator Robert. M. Herzberg's bill would give poor drivers a break while "wealthy drivers" would still pay the full fine for the same traffic infraction. While the details of exactly how this plan will work are unclear, it's main focus is on reducing fines for low-income motorists.

California, not surprisingly, has some of the highest traffic fines in the country and nearly 10 billion dollars in unpaid fines are currently on the books. Hertzberg, who represents the San Fernando Valley, thinks fines are too high and it is unfair to low-income families and minorities. SB-185 would also allow drivers with unpaid fines to keep their license, regardless of unpaid traffic violations.

Community advocacy groups point out that the problem comes not with the base fine, but from the additional charges. In recent years California has added fees, surcharges, and penalty assessments to traffic fines, meaning a $35 traffic ticket can actually cost nearly $150, a red light camera ticket can set you back upwards of $500 after all the fees and surcharges. This bill would require that courts assess fines based on a person's ability to pay.

Opponents of the bill say fees, taxes, and surcharges are too high across the board, and that this bill simply gives a pass to people who aren't paying their fines anyways. In addition, they fear that determining each defendant's income will tie up the courts unnecessarily and it will allow potentially unsafe drivers to keep their licenses and remain on the road.

It should be noted that the most dangerous offenses such as reckless driving and driving under the influence would not be affected by SB-185. Read the full text of the bill HERE