For drivers, ticket amnesty programs can ease the financial burden

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“[I] can’t get a job because of these tickets. I have to pay my bills or I would be on the street, so I would rather pay my bills than tickets. For Angela Dabney, a 40-year-old single mom who lives in Alabama, it all started with a ticket she couldn’t afford. Now she has a suspended driver’s license, which she says has made it difficult to get a job.

Jahmani Kinch, a 28-year-old student from Long Island, says he was fined more than 10 years ago while driving the car of a parent who was arrested for failing to stop at a sign stop, have a tail light off and not have insurance. Unable to pay the initial fine at the age of 17, he says his license was suspended, resulting in further tickets. He suspects he owes $ 3,000 in fines and costs.

And the Washington post reported the story of 68-year-old Washington, DC resident Garry Scott, who says one ticket for not having a residential parking permit resulted in six tickets and additional fees. A decade later, he says he owes the district $ 5,000.

“There are many people who simply cannot afford to pay their unpaid debts,” said Lucinda M. Babers, Washington, DC’s deputy mayor for operations and infrastructure. Washington post earlier this summer, when the district announced an amnesty program that allows holders of motor vehicle tickets – from speeding to parking – to pay the initial fine without additional late fees. In DC, unpaid tickets double after 30 days of non-payment.

The DC mayor’s office announced earlier this week an extension of the amnesty program that began in June. The program, which was scheduled to end on September 30, has been extended until December 31. For those who do not make a payment by December 31, late penalties will return.

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Since the start of the pandemic, many cities have launched similar programs that allow a driver to pay only the initial fine for an offense and not the additional late fees. The National League of CitiesThe Institute for Youth, Education and Families says cities large and small have been looking for ways to ease the burden on taxpayers, especially during the pandemic, while generating the necessary income. Boston has a one-year amnesty program for healthcare workers who were ticketed while working during the height of the pandemic. This program ended in April. Wilmington, Delaware, received a one-month amnesty program for tickets issued between 2017 and 2019 that allowed drivers to pay only the original ticket fine. Buffalo, New York, launched an amnesty program that ended on December 31, 2020, and waived late fees for parking tickets older than a year, as well as an amnesty for low-income residents with minor movement violations. In San José, California, where the Spotlight on San José reported that residents collectively owed $ 25 million in parking fees, the city granted an amnesty for overdue fees for parking tickets that ended on December 31, 2020. And the Poughkeepsie’s Journal reported that the city implemented a 90-day amnesty program that ended last month for drivers with unpaid parking tickets; the program waived any added late fees.

While Babers calls DC’s amnesty program a “clearance sale” for drivers, Priya Sarathy Jones of the Fines and Costs Justice Center (FFJC) says amnesty programs are just a first step. The FFJC monitors how states coerce and impose fines on citizens and seeks to end abusive collection practices. Jones, who is the national director of policy and campaigns for the FFJC, said more cities should think outside the box by creating programs like the one that rolled out in Phoenix earlier this year and is slated to launch in Chicago. this autumn.

In Phoenix, a new law clears traffic debts that are 10 years or more old and clears license renewal and label suspensions attached to those debts. And, for those whose fines date back more than a decade, individuals had until May 1 to pay 50% of their outstanding amount. “This is a real forgiveness program. Our political position is that all debts must be forgiven… penalize.

Jones says the FFJC is also monitoring two pilot programs offered in Chicago. One would halve the cost of quotes issued and the other would offer debt relief. “We know that sometimes what we need is just an opportunity to correct the mistake,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a budget speech in September, according to ProPublica, which reported on the disproportionate ticketing of low-income black residents of the city. Reforms proposed by Lightfoot, which have yet to receive the green light from city council, focus on compliance tickets such as city-required parking stickers or license plate renewals. “Everyone will have an opportunity to fix their violation by simply buying the sticker they need and being forgiven for their ticket,” Lightfoot said, according to ProPublica. published report.

In the FFJC “Hall of fame“is the bill recently passed by the state of Oregon that will end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for drivers with unpaid fines and fees. And, in Ohio, the Office of Motor Vehicles (BMV) in December launched the Driver’s License Reinstatement Debt Reduction and Fee Amnesty Program, which will reduce or eliminate reinstatement fees for certain suspensions.

Conversely, in the FFJC’s “Hall of Shame” is New York City, where the NYPD is increasing the size of its law enforcement division to draft tickets in an attempt to “counteract the fiscal effects of the coronavirus crisis, ”writes the FFJC.

Jones believes that most of the traditional ticketing amnesty programs are actually an effort to raise money, including the DC extension. “I think it’s a mechanism for the DC government to find a way to get more money,” Jones said. “I think this is a tactic to increase their collections.” According to reports, the current ticket amnesty program, DC’s third in the past 15 years, has been the most successful. Over 32,000 people paid their overdue tickets, amassing an estimated $ 44 million in fines paid.

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