By Miriam Raftery
Currently, California drivers who want to challenge a ticket in court have to pay a fine or fee first, in many jurisdictions. But Senate Bill 405, now awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s approval, would give motorists the right to fight tickets without paying a fine or fee unless they are found guilty.
The U.S. justice system is supposed to presume innocence until someone is found guilty. But traffic fines and add-on fees amount to hundreds of dollars in some cases. The American Civil Liberties Union has argued that those fees block access to the justice system for the poor.
That has caused over 4 million California residents to lose their drivers licenses because they couldn’t afford to pay fines for traffic violations, or didn’t appear in court—often because they lacked the money to pay.
Senate Bill 405 passed the Legislature almost unanimously, with only a single “no” vote cast. The Governor has until October 11 to sign or veto the measure, after already signing a second measure that grants partial amnesty to Californians with overdue traffic fines.