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Measuring the impact of new rule preventing 'pay to play' in fighting traffic fines




California Highway Patrol officer Mike Robinson gives a sobriety test to a man in car at a sobriety checkpoint December 26, 2004 in San Francisco, California.
California Highway Patrol officer Mike Robinson gives a sobriety test to a man in car at a sobriety checkpoint December 26, 2004 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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For the first time ever, California drivers who get traffic tickets won’t have to pay their fine before fighting the ticket in court.

Thanks to a unanimous vote this morning from the Judicial Council, which decides on policies for the state court system, courts will now have to change their notices to the public to say that those who wish to fight a traffic ticket won’t be required to pay the fine up front in order to do so. Under the previous rule, drivers were required to pay the fine before they were able to fight the ticket in court.

Supporters of the new rule say this is a step in the right direction, and will be a relief for thousands of drivers who have had their licenses suspended or racked up huge fines because they couldn’t afford to pay. A basic traffic ticket in California now costs around $500, and spikes rapidly if not paid on time. Opponents say the new rule will further weigh down the already overburdened court systems and make it more difficult for drivers to actually get to their day in court.

Guests:

Mike Herald, legislative advocate at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. He was also a co-author on a report issued earlier this year titled “Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California.”

Jessica Levinson, professor of law at Loyola Law School