Across the nation, an epidemic of injustice has been exposed – the practice of saddling low income people with traffic fines, fees and penalties so steep they are driven deeper into poverty. Making things worse are the arrests and jail time that often follow, leaving people vulnerable to losing their homes and their jobs.
Now, adding insult to injury, the findings of a new groundbreaking report Stopped, Fined, Arrested – Racial Bias in Policing and Traffic Courts in California released today by Back on the Road California (BOTRCA), a consortium of civil legal aid organizations, reveals dramatic racial and socioeconomic disparities in driver’ license suspensions and arrests related to unpaid traffic fines and fees.
The volume of data supporting this study is available to the public for the first time. Public records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and U.S. Census data demonstrate that in primarily Black and Latino communities, driver’s license suspension rates range as high as five times the state average. Moreover, data collected from 15 police and sheriff’s departments across California show that Black motorists are far more likely to be arrested for driving with a suspended license for failure to pay an infraction citation than White motorists.
This new data and this interactive map show the correlation between rates of driver’s license suspensions due to a failure to appear or pay a ticket to poverty indicators and race, supporting the assertion that Black and Latino motorists are disproportionately arrested for driving with a suspended license and for warrants for failure to appear or pay on an infraction citation.
This coalition includes: Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project (ANWOL), The East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), and the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP).
Click here to read the full report.