Original article can be found in the Ukiah Daily Journal.
By Adam Randall
Mendocino County has waived over $64,000 in fines, but has collected amounts of at least $3,700, during the one-time statewide traffic amnesty program that began Oct. 1, according to the Mendocino County Treasurer-Tax Collector’s office.
The program, which will run until March 2017, aims to help people pay off outstanding court-ordered traffic and non-traffic fines that have gone into default because of nonpayment from prior infractions incurred on, or before Jan. 1, 2013.
At the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, Mendocino County had 33,600 court cases in accounts receivables with court-ordered debt of nearly $39 million due, according to Julie Forrester, assistant treasurer-tax collector for Mendocino County.
The 36 individuals in Mendocino County who have been found eligible since the amnesty program started earlier this month, some with multiple cases, combined for a total of 112 amnesty-related cases, and have had their holds released with 14 cases qualifying for a driver’s license reinstatement but not the fee reduction, Forrester said.
Three out of the 98 cases qualified for a traffic amnesty fine reduction at the 50 percent level, and the 95 other cases were eligible for the 80 percent fine reduction.
Teresa Ruano, supervising communications specialist for the California Judicial Council, said all state courts will be required to submit quarterly data reports, with the first being due at the beginning of 2016.
Ruano said the level of interest in the traffic amnesty program is high just by gauging the Judicial Council’s traffic amnesty web page hits.
She said the Judicial Council’s main web page has received over 270,000 page views since Sept. 1, with another 27,000 views for a YouTube video about the program, not including other resources that may be available on the web, such as from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
A report released earlier this year by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights showed a typical traffic ticket in the state averages around $500, after factoring in other applicable fees. The report also stated that figure could grow to as much as $800 if the fine isn’t paid on time.
Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California previously said the extensive fees have contributed to the state’s nearly 4 million driver’s license suspensions within the past eight years because people simply cannot pay their fines.
If eligible, contact the Mendocino County Amnesty Program hotline at 234-6849 for further instructions.
Those who owe victim restitution, have outstanding misdemeanor or felony arrest warrants, parking and other local ordinance violations, driving under the influence and reckless driving violations, are ineligible to participate, according to the Judicial Council.