By Lemor Abrams

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — If you’ve ever gotten a traffic violation, you know it all too well that California’s traffic fines are among the highest in the nation.

But a state Senator wants to lower fines for people who don’t make much money while making it illegal for the state to suspend your driver’s license if you can’t afford to pay.

Devon Olson is in the passenger’s seat, while mom drives her around town.

“I’m Uber mom these days,” mom said.

Devon lost her license because of $3,600 in unpaid traffic tickets. The biggest penalty is a red light camera violation. But she says she wasn’t home to receive the tickets in the mail. Then the late fees kept building and she had to give up the car.

“I had a $785 fine to get my license back and that’s the first step,” she said.

Devon applied for an amnesty program for low-income drivers that would have reduced those fines. But the program ended last month. And Devon, like millions of California drivers, is left in deep ticket debt for those tickets.

“Our objective here is justice,” said state Sen. Bob Hertzberg.

He’s is driven to change the state’s traffic citation system for low-income drivers.

“We’re not telling people you shouldn’t pay a price when you violate the law—you should pay a price when you violate the law. The price just can’t be 1,000 times your annual salary,” said Hertzberg.

Under his proposed law, people who make less money would pay less for traffic tickets. And their driver’s licenses would no longer be suspended if they can’t afford to pay.

So will people who make more, pay more? The simple answer is no, the fines will stay the same. But for someone who’s unemployed or on welfare, a court determines the fine, based on income level.

“I think it’s unfair. what’s good for one is good for all,” said Patti Smith.

Patti Smith is retired, and she’s not buying it.

“Everyone should be paying the same way,” she said.

How about the potential revenue the state collects from traffic violations each year?

The Judicial Council of California says under this proposal, the state will lose out on billions of dollars from the traffic tickets, which pay for government programs.

But a UCLA professor who studied the issue is testifying that the opposite is true. According to Beth Colgan’s research, the state may be able to collect more* money when people are charged reasonable rates.

“A properly designed system could result in greater revenues. That’s because not only did the percentage of payments go up but the dollars collected went up,” said Colgan of the UCLA School of Law.

For Devon… it’s all about saving up. She’s now living with grandma, and relying on mom.

“But nobody can come up with thousands of dollars up front especially if you’re low income,” said mom.

The senate is expected to vote on the bill next month.

Comments (9)
  1. Jerry Cason says:


    1. So, if you can afford it, obeying the law should be optional?

  2. Trafffic fines are a thieving scam! Period! Only in Taxifornia . . .

  3. ‘ “Our objective here is justice,” said state Sen. Bob Hertzberg.’ Really? Eliminating loss of a DL if you simply can’t pay the fine? That’s a freebie, but to the Bob Hertzberg’s of this world, that’s “justice”…. and a lot more money to the state for those rich folks who can pay. “Justice” is a term Hertzberg couldn’t define if his life depended on it, but then again he’s a California politician. Is anyone surprised?

  4. It’s a start, but I’d like to see the inverse happen as well. Namely, if you make so much money that you can basically ignore as many traffic laws as you want and the fines will never bother you, the fine amounts should be increased to match your income as well. If it’s a week’s pay for the kid in the hundred dollar jalopy, it oughtta be a week’s pay for the yuppie in the quarter million dollar super. IF we’re still insisting that traffic fines are to discourage dangerous driving and not just to punish the poor, at least.

    1. Ben, Would your rather be suing a rich person who while violating the law the ticket is supposed to prevent, for a $1,000,000 injury to yourself and property, or that kid who wasn’t dissuaded from making that illegal left turn because (I can afford the ticket anyway) in front of you who had the minimum 15,000 insurance. Ask your left leg which is about 50 feet away. Naw, this is a stupid bill. The law as it is dissuades those who can least afford to make things right if they do wrong. That is the way it is supposed to be.

  5. Lee Cox says:

    ““But nobody can come up with thousands of dollars up front especially if you’re low income,” said mom.”

    It SHOULD be all about NOT getting traffic citations. This bill does nothing but reward bad behavior. Why not carry this idiotic PC proposal to its ultimate conclusion: don’t fine low-income drivers a penny, then watch the increase in speeders and other moving violations that threaten the lives of everyone else—-especially those “rich” drivers whose fines will assuredly require increases to pay for those “poor” programs. Just another “equality” scam from the Commies in Sacramento.

  6. You people voted in these left wing tax and spend morons.. Time for a change..There ain’t no free lunch in life!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Traffic fines are 100% preventable just by obeying the law. Traffic fines are designed to prevent bad and unsafe driving. What this bill does is give low income (read low insurance limits, no money to pay for damage done to others, etc) a license to kill. Maybe they need to take public transportation or have a minimum insurance of say $1,000,000 for PLPD in order to get that license to kill. Until then those in our legislature voting for this bill should be 100% responsible for the damage low income people cause while driving outside the law.

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