If you want to fight your traffic ticket but you can’t afford to pay the fine upfront, you’re suddenly in luck.
Faced with mounting complaints, the state’s rule-setting Judicial Council voted unanimously today to require counties to change their policies so people can fight tickets without paying them first. The only applies to drivers who show up for their first scheduled court appearance. It goes into effect immediately.
New charges added on by the state in recent years have pushed the average cost of speeding or running a red light to nearly $500. In many California counties – including Los Angeles, Riverside and Santa Barbara – you had to pay that fine before you could contest the ticket in court.
That’s unfair, according to the ACLU and advocates for the poor, especially since many of the fees added on to tickets have nothing to do with the alleged infraction, and instead go to things like court construction and a DNA identification fund. Millions of California drivers have had their licenses suspended in recent years because they couldn’t pay their traffic fines.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tami Cantil-Sakauye endorsed the proposed rule change, but some other judges say they are concerned that it could lead to a flood of people seeking trials for traffic tickets, putting more pressure on the already overburdened courts.