Alvarado v. Superior Court of California

Summary of the cause of action

The Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles referred people who owed court fines and fees for traffic tickets to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) without any inquiry into the individual’s ability to pay. A referral to the DMV resulted in the suspension of the person’s driver’s license. California’s steep surcharges and fees increased a $100 traffic fine to almost $500.


Case settled. In September 2018, the judge approved a joint request for conditional dismissal with prejudice and the retention of jurisdiction for enforcement. Settlement included:

  • Los Angeles Superior Court updated its court forms and notices informing defendants of their right to an ability to pay determination.
  • The Court also agreed to update its failure to pay and failure to appear notices.
  • Training of traffic court bench officers and clerks.

Note: As a result of legislation passed in California in 2018, the DMV no longer suspends driver’s licenses for nonpayment of fines and fees.

42 U.S.C. § 1983 (alleging due process and equal protection violations)
August 2, 2016
University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Rapkin & Associates LLP, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP, and A New Way of Life Reentry Project