A person convicted of a crime is required to pay a fine and/or fees within a certain deadline. Senate Bill 185 would require the court to determine whether a person is indigent and how much of any associated fine, fees, or other financial penalties that person can afford to pay.

Under the proposed law if an individual is indigent, the court must reduce all fines and fees by 80% on all pending charges. A person must prove that he or she is indigent by providing specified information under penalty of perjury. In fact, the court can restore fines and fees to the full amount if a person willfully provides fraudulent information with regard to his or her financial status.

Furthermore, SB-185 requires the court to offer payment plans to everyone charged with an infraction. For those that are not indigent payments would be no more than 5% of one’s monthly income. For those that are, a person will have a $0 monthly payment plan until the individual’s financial circumstances change. If there is no change in 48 months, the courts must discharge any outstanding balances.

The current law authorizes the court to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles.

When a person does not appear in court or does not pay a fine current law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend and prohibits from issuing a driver’s license. The proposed law would remove such requirement. In fact, this bill would also prohibit the court from issuing a bench warrant for failing to appear in court for traffic violations. SB-185, however, does not alter the law related to driver’s license suspensions for reckless driving or driving under the influence.

Another significant benefit of SB-185 is that it reduces the penalty for failure to appear and failure to pay from a misdemeanor to an infraction. It goes without saying that any misdemeanor conviction can permanently damage your reputation, your ability to get a job, and all other aspects of your life.

At the end of the day the senate bill would ease the burden of traffic tickets on the indigent. Studies have shown how damaging it is to all people, in particular the indigent, when you are unable to resolve unpaid traffic tickets. Countless amount of Californians are in significant debt with the court and lose their driver’s licenses and income as a result. This is a great step forward.