Too costly? Bill would allow poor people to pay less for traffic tickets

May 2017

By the time all the fees are tacked on to a Californian's traffic ticket, the price tag can top nearly $500. For low-income people, such an expense can pose a major financial burden. That's why State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-San Fernando, is proposing a bill that would have poor people pay less for traffic violations.

Such a system should be closely examined, though, says Emily Owens, associate professor of criminology, law and society. It could spur people to try to disguise their income -- and possibly even work less to avoid crossing the threshold to a more serious fine.

"If you have a good tax accountant, you can reduce your (adjusted gross income) that's very low or even negative, based on you treat business income," Owens told KPCC's Air Talk host Larry Mantle. In other parts of society, she added, "we have those same problems of trying to figure out who is poor enough to qualify for these programs. And we're introducing that into traffic court."

Listen to the show.