California Statewide Traffic Tickets / Infractions Amnesty Program, 2015-2017

On June 27, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the fiscal year 2015–16 Annual Budget which included an 18-month infraction and misdemeanor amnesty program set to run from October 1, 2015 to April 3, 2017. The program was intended to (1) provide relief to people who faced significant cost barriers to paying fines and fees, (2) reinstate driver’s licenses, (3) generate revenue for the State Penalty Fund, and (4) decrease outstanding court-ordered debt.

This report summarizes the results of the amnesty program and provides some implementation analysis from the Judicial Council of California.

The creation of this statewide traffic ticket amnesty program can be attributed, in part, to excellent research and investigative reporting about the collateral consequences of fines and fees from civil rights advocates, KCRA 3, and John Oliver.

You can read the full report here.

Key Findings
  • More than 246,000 driver’s licenses were reinstated as a result of this program. At the beginning of the program, 612,831 Californians had suspended licenses.
  • California collected $45,111,315 in fines and fees that would not have been collected otherwise and resolved 255,306 infraction and misdemeanor accounts. The report notes that actual numbers could be higher than what was reported.
  • The total operating costs for the amnesty program were $13,549,179 (about a quarter of the gross revenue collected; net revenue was $31,562,136).
  • One out of every three people who signed up for an amnesty payment plan stopped paying during the amnesty program (default rate 34.4%).
  • The law that established this program permitted courts to charge a “participation fee of no more than $50.” About 40% of all participants were charged this fee, for a total of $5,158,730.
  • Although the 45.1 million dollars collected during this program is an impressive sum, that represents just 1.7% of the 2.62 billion dollars in fines and fees owed by Californians. “Future amnesty collection efforts would do little to change the overall landscape of outstanding court-ordered debt.”
Judicial Council of California