How A Traffic Fine Can Lead To Jail Time In California

According to a new report from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, traffic fines in California have an outsize effect on low-income drivers and people of color.

News Story (California)

Leah Donnella
National Public Radio (NPR)
May 4, 2017

Tags: Court Debt, Driver's license suspension, Traffic Tickets

Organizations mentioned/involved: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR)


And those consequences are not just monetary. Unpaid tickets can result in additional fines. Failure to pay those fines can lead to suspension or loss of license, and even jail time for some if they continue to drive without a license.

Elisa Della-Piana, the legal director for the LCCR, said the organization, which provides civil legal aid for low-income residents and people of color, started digging into these data after clients said they had lost their licenses because they couldn’t pay a ticket. Since almost 80 percent of Californians drive to work, the inability to pay a traffic fine is a threat to many people’s livelihoods. “And there was no pathway in California to get that license back unless people could pay the full fine amount,” Della-Piana said. “So we started working for statewide change.”