Cash-strapped courts offer traffic-ticket amnesty

How hard up for cash are California’s courts? So much that they’re granting partial amnesty to traffic scofflaws.

The state’s Administrative Office of the Courts announced Thursday that Superior Courts in all 58 counties are offering a 50-percent-off discount on some old unpaid traffic tickets – a limited-time amnesty program” for certain outstanding court debt.

Only traffic tickets that were due to be paid in full before Jan. 1, 2009 are eligible, and parking tickets, driving under the influence (DUI), and reckless driving cases are not eligible. To qualify, you have to have either failed to appear in court or failed to pay in full; you can’t owe restitution to a victim on any case within the county where the traffic case was filed, and you can’t have any outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants in that county.

The courts estimate more than six million cases statewide could qualify.

“This is a win-win,” Ronald Overholt, the interim administrative director of the courts, said in a news release. “People have an opportunity to clear their traffic tickets at a reduced cost, and the courts and the counties will get an injection of much-needed funds to help maintain critical services for the public.”

The program will begin Jan. 1 and end June 30, 2012; contact your county’s court during that time for further details.

The amnesty program was authorized by AB 1358 by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Sylmar, which the state Senate approved unanimously and the Assembly approved 77-1; Gov Jerry Brown signed it into law Sunday.

California’s courts are facing an unprecedented financial crisis.

“This year, the judicial branch budget is only 2.4 percent of the state budget and we also unwillingly contributed $1.1 billion back to the General Fund,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told the State Bar of California at its annual meeting last month in Long Beach. “That’s 2.4 percent of the state budget to protect the constitutional rights of 38 million Californians, to provide a place for the resolution of civil disputes, to protect public rights, and to protect the rule of law.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Publius

    Let’s spend more money on Solar Projects!

  • Ruthann S. Haro

    Hi my name is Ruthann S. Haro
    I just had my drivers licence suspended on July 10,2012 for failure to pay off 3 traffic tickets FOR NO SEAT BELT AND 1 FOR CELL PHONE. that i recevied in 2009 and 2010 my CDL # is U6003605/expiration date of 2/13/2013.I have been paying on these tickets through the revenue and recovery collections department in stockton ca since ive continued to make my payments as promised to do so, the sanjoaquin county courts still wont reinstate my drivers license, untill these tickets are paid off.How can continue to pay these traffic tickets if i cant get to work so i can pay these fines off. I want to know why the local courts didnt mention the amensty program to me when i was in the court house when the program was still in effective in june 2012.I also want to know why someone like me with a clean record and clear back ground cant have my license reinstated because of none payments but people with DUI can a restricted drivers licence and have a felony on their record.THIS IS NOT FAIR THE JUSTICE SYSTEM IS NOT FAIR TO PEOPLE LIKE ME THIS SHOULD BE A LAW THAT DUI PEOPLE OR FELONYS RECORDS CANT HAVE A DRIVERS LICENCE I BET THEYWOULD KEEP DRUGS AND DUIS OFF THE STREETS MORE IF THIS WAS A CALIFORNIA STATE LAW AGAINSTS THESE KINDS OF DRIVERS IN OUR STATE OF CALIFORNIA TODAY.PLEASE LET GET BACK TO ME IF YOU CAN HELP ME OR TELL ME ABOUT SOME OTHERS COMPLIANCE RESOURSE I CAN GET HELP FROM ID REALLY APPRECIATED VERY MUCH THANK YOU
    Ruthann S. Haro