If unpaid traffic tickets have you in a bind, now is the time to act. Yesterday the LA Times reported that 58,000 Californians have had traffic fines slashed as part of an amnesty program that began October 1.
The program cuts the cost of traffic tickets by 50 or 80 percent, depending on driver income, and also offers those who have had their licenses revoked due to non-payment the opportunity to have those licenses reinstated.
58,000 may sound like a pretty big number, but it actually accounts for less than 2 percent of the 3.3 million tickets that qualify. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 600,000 driver's licenses are currently suspended due to outstanding fines.
The program was first proposed in April after a report from the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area suggested that high traffic fines help to perpetuate a cycle of poverty for many low-income residents of California. Because unpaid tickets result in late fees and eventual license suspension, the cost of a ticket can increase greatly for those who cannot afford to pay it from the get-go. Rising costs force many into debt and suspended licenses often cost people their jobs.
The program runs until March 31 of next year, so there is still a lot of time for more people to take advantage of the opportunity to reduce their payments. One reason the program hasn't been more popular thus far might be that, in a fitting bit of irony, the amnesty doesn't come free. According to the California Courts, fine collectors are permitted to collect a $50 amnesty fee, while the DMV will continue to issue a standard $55 charge for license reinstatement.