The Ferguson, MO, traffic ticket scam is alive and well here in Marin. The smallest infraction can wind up costing hundreds of dollars when state and local “fees” are tacked on. If you miss paying on time your bill can become thousands of dollars with the threat of jail time and a suspended license. Of course, this highway robbery disproportionately hits the poor the hardest as when their car is towed and “stored” at a cost approaching a hundred dollars a day. This is paying over 10 times per square-foot more for your car to sit in some dusty back lot than the cost of prime office space in the finest location. If you can’t bail it out quickly, you may lose the car entirely.
This out of control levying of ever increasing fines has created a present-day debtors’ prison for those who can least afford it. More than 4.2 million drivers’ licenses have been suspended in California since 2006 but only 72,000 have been reinstated. This leaves millions of people unable to drive legally to work or school and leaves all of us uninsured in case they get in an accident. This is costing our social welfare system hundreds of millions of dollars and un-measurable lost opportunities for these people to improve their lives.
In Marin, these abusive fines, seizures and suspensions are the direct fault of our county supervisors who use the courts to squeeze more money out of the citizenry to waste on their pet projects. Instead of continuing to enable this thievery, Sacramento should legislate strict, realistic limits on traffic ticket and court fines.
Alex Easton-Brown, Lagunitas