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Traffic and Criminal Procedure: Infraction Procedures Regarding Bail, Fines, Fees, and Assessments; Mandatory Courtesy Notices; and Ability-to-Pay Determinations

In response to the Judicial Council of California’s directives, the Traffic and Criminal Law Advisory Committees authored this report which includes a proposal for three new rules, a rule amendment, and related commentary from stakeholders regarding their proposal. The recommended rules concern procedures for bail, fines, fees, and assessments imposed for infraction offenses; mandatory courtesy notices; and ability to pay determinations.

Rivera v. Orange County Probation

Orange County Probation Department sent a bill of $16,372 to a juvenile’s mother for reimbursement of reasonable costs of support while her son was in detention. The County sought $23.90 for each day of detention and $2199 in legal expenses. Doing her best to pay the debt, Rivera sold her house and paid $9508. Unable to pay the rest, she was served, and a default judgment of $9905 was issued against her for failure to appear. Ms. Rivera eventually filed for bankruptcy.

Alvarado v. Superior Court of California

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.

Personal Narrative: Maria

Maria was recently terminated from a job in her field of training, green construction, because her license was suspended for unpaid tickets, and she could not drive between job sites. With two kids and no job or savings, she is unable to pay the debt. Because the debt has been referred to a collections agency, she is also prevented from performing community service in lieu of payment. Her previous employer would hire her if her license was reinstated, but without a job or income to pay her debt, she has no way of getting her license back.
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