“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” This expression is often used in reference to criminal cases in which someone accused of a crime wants to avoid being sent to jail. But what happens if you aren’t facing jail time? What can you do if you were cited for a driving violation and fined, but you can’t afford to pay the amount?
Will Your Driver’s License Be Suspended? (CVC 14601)
A traffic ticket involves harsher consequences than you see on your citation. If you were cited for a traffic violation, the amount you may have to pay in fines is likely much more than it may indicate on your ticket. That is because there are additional charges and fees associated with a traffic ticket. A fine of $100 could actually cost you about $500 when factoring in those additional court fees.
For this reason, you may think that ignoring your traffic ticket may be the best thing to do. “This is way too much money to pay for such a little violation,” you may think. However, ignoring your traffic ticket could lead to even more serious penalties. The DMV can suspend your driver’s license if you fail to pay your traffic fines.
This means that if you were cited for having a broken taillight or issued a ticket for having tinted windows, you could potentially lose your driving privileges in California if you don’t pay the fine.
Is this fair?
Lawsuit Claims Driver’s License Suspension for Unpaid Fines is Unlawful
It would make sense for courts to have a system in place for those who cannot afford to pay the entirety of their traffic fines. Well, that is what the Western Center on Law and Poverty and USC Gould School of Law believe.
The two organizations recently filed a joint lawsuit against the Los Angeles Superior Court regarding what they are claiming is the unlawful practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of those who cannot pay traffic fines.
Is taking away driving privileges for unpaid ticket fines unlawful? According to the lawsuit, Los Angeles County Superior Court judge does not consider the ability of each person to pay for traffic fines and that is a violation of their due process rights.
The lawsuit claims that the court is required to determine whether a defendant who fails to pay a fine has done so willfully. By definition, it is not “willful” if you failed to pay fines because you did not have the ability to do so. This has led to a system where drivers are losing their licenses for reasons other than being a bad driver.
To its credit, the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System is already considering creating ways to make it easier for low-income defendants to pay their traffic fines. Ideas include a monthly payment system, a sliding scale based on income and eliminating extra costs and fees for ticket fines.
Should It Be Illegal to Suspend Your Driver’s License for Unpaid Fines?
We at Wallin & Klarich would like to know your opinions about this matter. Which side are you on? Do you think that taking away your right to drive legally is too harsh of a penalty for not being able to pay for your traffic violation? Do you think that there should be additional options such as payment plans of financial assessments for paying your traffic fines?
Please share your thoughts on this matter in the comments section below.