California Adopts Traffic Court Reform, But Fails to Address Major Obstacle for Low-Income Drivers

Story about how new rules instituted in California's traffic courts and how a major part was overlooked.
News Story (California)

Sam Levin
East Bay Express (Oakland, CA)
June 9, 2015
Full story

Tags: Driver's license suspension

Organizations mentioned/involved: East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) (Berkeley, CA)


In the face of widespread criticism that California traffic courts are plagued by unnecessarily harsh practices, court officials yesterday adopted an emergency rule aimed at granting people access to trials regardless of their ability to pay steep fines. Advocates said that, though this policy change is a step in the right direction, the new rule fails to address a major obstacle to justice for many low-income traffic court defendants — that they are routinely denied access to hearings when they miss a court deadline for a citation.

Traffic courts across the state have faced intense scrutiny in recent months in the face of reports from civil rights advocates, who have argued that the system traps people in poverty with massive fines for minor infractions — see our recent cover story, “The High Cost of Driving While Poor.”