Californians will now be allowed to challenge most routine traffic tickets in court without having to first pay the contested fines.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Wednesday a measure passed by the Legislature in response to widespread complaints about escalating fines and a lack of due process for those with such tickets.
“The system was broken,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who introduced the bill. “Is it reasonable or fair to require the poor to pay a huge fine before getting a hearing? I say no, and I’m grateful the governor agreed.”
The new law takes effect immediately.
More than 4 million Californians had their driver’s licenses suspended from 2006 to 2013 because they didn’t pay fines on time or missed their court dates, the senator said. That resulted in $10 billion in fines.
The Times recently reported that a traffic ticket with a base fine of $100 can rise to $500 once court fees and other costs are added. It can increase to $815 if the motorist misses the payment deadline.
If a motorist misses the deadline, many counties require that fines be paid before a court hearing is held. That policy is overturned by the new law.
“By allowing people to have their day in court without having to pay the ticket first, fewer people will get their license suspended and end up in dire straits,” said Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which asked for Hertzberg’s bill.
Also on Wednesday, the governor signed a bill aimed at helping homeless youths obtain high school diplomas by prohibiting fees for those young people to take high school proficiency or equivalency tests.
“Exam fees, which cost up to $200, can create an impossible obstacle for homeless youth who wish to further their education and enhance their job prospects,” said Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the author of the law.
His legislation takes effect Jan. 1, as does another bill signed by the governor Wednesday that extends to jail inmates serving time on felony convictions some rights they would have had in prison: to seek compassionate release for medical conditions, postpone prosecution for driving offenses and, once out of jail, petition for certificates of rehabilitation or pardon.
The governor vetoed three bills, including a measure that would have required annual inspections of licensed child-care facilities.
In his veto message, Brown wrote that the state budget already increases inspections to once every three years.
“Further increasing the frequency of these inspections may be a worthy goal, but the cost of this change should be considered in the budget process,” Brown wrote.
Times staff writer Paige St. John contributed to this report.