Rubicon Programs, et al. v. Superior Court of California, County of Solano, et al.

Summary of the cause of action

Solano County Superior Court routinely informed the DMV of persons who fail to pay their court fines and fees or fail to appear to contest the fines. DMV, acting under statute, automatically suspended the driver’s licenses of such persons, regardless of indigence and inability to pay. Driver’s licenses are suspended even when people don’t pose a safety risk.

Mr. Washington received a ticket for driving an unregistered car. He was given a “fix it” ticket, which gave him the option of paying the fine or providing proof of registration and paying a reduced fine or appearing in court. Mr. Washington was unable to do any of these. He was too poor to pay the fine, he could not register the car because it could not pass a smog test, he did not appear in court because he could not afford the fees and he did not know how to reach the court without the car. His only source of income was a small county General Assistance grant. Mr. Washington’s driver’s license was suspended and no ability to pay hearing was conducted.  The suspension of his driver’s license prevented Mr. Washington from visiting family regularly and his employment options are limited.


Action dismissed with prejudice to all parties. The parties entered in a stipulation agreement. The Settlement includes:

  • Solano County Superior court will not notify the DMV of a person’s failure to pay unless notice and information on how to request a hearing is given to the defendant.
  • Traffic defendants must be informed of their right to seek an ability  to  pay  determination
  • A memorandum from the Presiding Judge would be sent to all court personnel informing them of the method to be used in ability to pay determinations.

N.B. The first provision of the settlement has been rendered moot because California no longer suspends driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees.

You can read the full text of the complaint here and the full text of the settlement agreement here.

American Civil Liberties Union
42 USC § 1983 (alleging due process and equal protection violations)
FCS047212 (Sup. Ct. Ca., Co. of San Francisco 2016)
June 2016