I am an attorney at the Detroit Justice Center, I represents low-income drivers in municipal traffic courts. Every day, I witness a system where, if you are poor, minor traffic tickets can quickly spiral into a cycle of ever-increasing debt, jail, and destitution. The human costs of this system cannot be underestimated.
In this system, a woman’s cervical cancer lead to jail time, because she could not work while undergoing treatment, could not afford to pay a speeding ticket while unemployed, had her license suspended for the unpaid ticket, continued to drive to her doctor because she did not have access to reliable public transportation, and was eventually arrested on a warrant for the unpaid ticket and driving on a suspended license.
In this system, someone can get beaten up, call the police to report his assault, and instead of getting help, end up getting arrested and held in jail for a week because there were warrants out for his arrest for unpaid traffic tickets, and he could not afford to post bond on those warrants.