California SB 185: Crimes: infractions.

Driver’s license suspensions for nonpayment of fines and fees are problematic in California, where a simple speeding ticket of $100 comes with an additional $390 in fees. This bill would have ended the practice of suspending licenses as a sanction for nonpayment of fines and fees. It also would have mandated that judges reduce fines and fees and provided guidelines for determining a defendant’s ability to pay fines and fees.

This bill – which did not pass – followed a traffic ticket amnesty program that led to the restoration of over 200,000 suspended driver’s licenses, as well as an array of research and investigative reporting about the harms of suspending licenses for nonpayment.

The main provision of the bill – the abolition of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees – was enacted in AB 103, a budget trailer bill.

Key Provisions
  • Courts may not suspend driver’s licenses in order to enforce payment of fines and fees. The bill explicitly continues to allow license suspensions for reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • When assessing fines and fees, courts must consider a defendant’s ability to pay.
  • If the defendant is indigent, fines and fees must be reduced by 80%, and monthly payments must be reduced to $0 until the defendant can pay (or discharged entirely after four years). If defendant is not indigent, the monthly payment may not exceed 5% of the defendant’s family monthly income.
Robert Hertzberg
SB 185