” Due to increased fines and fees and reduced access to courts, more than four million Californians have suspended driver’s licenses. Once again these suspensions, most which are hardly necessary, make it harder for people to get and keep jobs, thus sending them into forced poverty.
For longer than half of a century, traffic tickets, and especially moving violations, gradually entered into the realm of a cost prohibitive-extortionist culture accompanied with exorbitant fines and jail that were not necessarily connected to safety but to a money making machine that lined the pockets of law enforcement and budgets of city and county governments.
In my attempt to expose the truth of what I am about to share, will be focusing upon selected areas within our nation which have fallen into a most shameful condition to where a victim’s hope is lost which also includes their job as well, while at the same time, families and lives are unnecessarily and essentially ruined to the point of no return.
While even unmarked police cars roam our neighborhoods, my first endeavor here is to expose the continuing criminalization of poverty with regard to minor offenses where small towns in states such as Louisiana prey on motorists to feed their budgets. One town called Baskin collected 87 percent of its revenue from traffic tickets. This northeastern town had 188 people and five police cars.
Another town called Woodworth ended up having 7,696 tickets written in 2006 and collected $1,017,418.58. With only five police officers at the time, each officer wrote on an average of 1,539 tickets. Outrageous!
However, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is still another story where debt collection mechanisms for unpaid traffic fines rule the roost, while the municipal court in 2014 issued almost 48,000 driver’s license suspensions and what does that lead to, possibly jail and/or being laid off from one’s job. The middle and lower classes are the ones mostly affected.
In 2011,African-Americans received 69% of failure-to-pay suspensions in Milwaukee County despite making up only 19% of the county’s licensed drivers. These Milwaukee and Louisiana stories also reveal that each time policymakers have tried to change the laws, judges and law enforcement officials successfully lobbied to defeat the reforms.
Just follow the money
Most states suspend licenses for failure to pay traffic fines which is a policy that critics say creates a quicksand of debt. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has complained that suspensions should be reserved for dangerous drivers, not indebted ones!
In a study, Ferguson, Missouri, with a population of just 21,000, there were 16,000 people which had outstanding arrest warrants issued by the court as of December 2014, while many of those warrants had “nothing to do with criminal behavior”.
As for California, here’s the rest of the story
Due to increased fines and fees and reduced access to courts, more than four million Californians have suspended driver’s licenses. Once again these suspensions, most which are hardly necessary, make it harder for people to get and keep jobs, thus sending them into forced poverty.
Having a vehicle to get to and from work is a dire necessity in today’s world, not a privilege. If a persons driver’s license is suspended because of lack of child support, how can they keep a job and also make support payments when trying to cater to two households and no driver’s license?
In the U.S. there are between 21 million and 31 million drivers under suspension at all times and Jeffery Brown from Columbus, Ohio, was one such person, but he chose to appeal the court’s suspension and ruling. Brown used the following argument in his wining court appeal:
“The right of the citizen to travel upon the public highways and transport his property thereon, in the ordinary course of life and business, is a common right which he has under the right to enjoy life and liberty, to acquire and possess property, and to pursue happiness and safety. It includes the right, in so doing, to use the ordinary and usual conveyances of the day, and under the existing modes of travel, includes the right to drive a horse-drawn carriage or wagon thereon or to operate an automobile thereon, for the usual and ordinary purpose of life and business.”
His case was dismissed.
Ref: House of Lords: America in the Balance – Chapter 13;
Let Freedom Ring? pp. 91-92
It’s been a long time in coming but California amnesty is coming for those who lost licenses due to their inability to pay tickets.
“State Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys, CA. recently announced that he has introduced a bill, SB 405, that would allow some drivers grounded by tickets to get their suspended licenses activated again. More specifically, the legislation would allow drivers buried by traffic ticket debt to participate in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed Traffic Amnesty Program, which seeks to erase nearly $10 billion in outstanding court-backed fines.”
The language of the proposal also challenges the outdated notion of “driving as a privilege” as most people know first hand that driving a car or a truck is an everyday necessity and not a privilege that is “granted to us” by the state. Essentially, the freedom of mobility has always been an unalienable right but this was changed in order to create a lucrative and corrupt business venture, not by we the people, but by the states to collect even more money in order to expand their billion dollar empires.
For now, there’s appears to be a little light at the end of the tunnel.
House of Lords: America in the Balance
Charles W. Frank
Available in bookstores, amazon.com, & Tate Publishing