Traffic Tickets: Everyone Gets A Piece

The Daily Breeze put out a story earlier this week that demonstrates how a $100 traffic ticket can turn into $480 burden.

When motorists in Los Angeles County get a ticket with a base fine of $100, they’re hit with 15 additional penalties and assessments that add an addtional $380 to their bill. Unfortunately, there’s not much hope that these penalties are going away or that the government won’t add even more penalties on top:

To help ease the state’s budget troubles, legislators have added several new assessments to traffic fines since 2009, including a $35 “state conviction fee” and penalties that raise money for new courthouse construction.

Among other increases, state security fees doubled to $40 in recent years, and legislators tacked on a $4 penalty to traffic tickets to fund emergency air transport services due to increased Medi-Cal funding of that service. […]

Other traffic violation fine penalties have been proposed in the Legislature. They include a $3 fee to go to spinal cord injury research, and an increase to the existing DNA identification fines on all criminal offenses including traffic violations.

It has finally gotten to the point that motorists are fed up:

Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the organization has had an increase in calls from people frustrated by costly traffic tickets, even though they are not considered a tax.

“They’re definitely becoming abusive,” Vosburgh said. “Rather than a deterrent, government has come to look at this as an opportunity to expand revenue. Revenue is the first priority, and public safety is a far second.” […]

Existing traffic fee penalties are up significantly from 10 years ago, as Ken Breding of Gardena noticed when he was ticketed recently for rolling through a stop sign.

“I’m a self-employed, single father and, right now with the economy, I’m living paycheck to paycheck. So that (ticket) was a hard chunk to swallow,” said Breding, 48. “It’s like sticker shock when you see (the ticket cost). That’s two months of groceries for me.”

“I broke the law but it seems these days that the traffic ticket is not about enforcing the law,” he said. “It’s more about increasing revenue. It’s become more of a business than law enforcement.”

Politicians are careful to leave the base ticket fines alone because it’s easier politically to hide ticket increases in a group of tacked on fees that are generally only noticed by the ticket recipients themselves.

It’s hard to work up much outrage when they’re adding $5 fees one at a time, but as we’ve found out, those small fines add up quickly. That means it’s important for motorists to keep on top of their local government and speak up against adding additonal fees, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time.

If we don’t break their addiction to tacked-on fees, we may look back years from now and think that adding 15 additional penalties to a minor traffic ticket seems reasonable.

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