- The cost of a fix-it ticket - and others - just got quite a bit steeper http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_11575358?nclick_check=1 By Gary Richards MercuryMessage 1 of 1 , Jan 29, 2009View Source
The cost of a fix-it ticket — and others — just got quite a bit steeper
Got a broken blinker? You'd better get it fixed.
Under a little-noted law that took effect Jan. 1, the cost of a fix-it ticket has nearly tripled, and drivers who are tardy taking care of a burned-out headlight or another mechanical problem could pay as much as $100 for an offense that a few years ago didn't cost a penny.
Lacking the funds to renovate nearly 400 court buildings across California , the state Legislature approved a boost in fix-it fines from $10 to $25 under a bill written by state Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland.
The bill also raised surcharges on regular traffic tickets by $35, parking tickets by $3 and the court cost to attend traffic school by $25.
The increase in the fine for fix-it tickets — citations issued for a vehicular problem in need of repair — might not seem like much, but other changes in state law have made it potentially much more expensive. Where one such ticket used to cover several violations, the new regulations make each separate violation a $25 fine. So if a cop cites a driver for having a burned-out brake light and broken mirror, the penalty jumps to $50.
Tack on other fees that can be assessed for prior tickets, night court, security and other reasons, and the total bill can easily exceed $100. And if a driver is late in taking care of the problem, you're talking a bill approaching $200.
"This may be a pretty hot topic as soon as people realize how much fees have increased," said Sgt. Don Morrissey of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department.
"I'm shocked, to say the least," said Caroline Chang of Hayward, who has received fix-it tickets for a broken mirror and a brake light that was out because of a faulty fuse.
"I can understand a $10 fee for paperwork, but I'd be really upset, mad and ticked if I had to pay $50 to $100," she said. "That's a lot for a fuse being out."
A fix-it ticket is issued when an officer spots a driver with a problem that needs fixing, such as a broken mirror, faulty seat belt or a horn that won't honk. A ticket is issued requiring the driver to get it fixed within 60 days.
The driver takes care of the problem and goes back to police, who sign a form saying the problem has been fixed. The driver then sends in the notice to the courts and the ticket is dismissed.
There was no fine attached to a fix-it ticket until about a decade ago, when a $10 fee was assessed to cover court costs. But as California 's economy worsens, state officials are searching for ways to pay for its growing needs.
"This will go for critical needs at courthouses that need to be renovated or rebuilt quickly," said Philip Carrizosa of the Judicial Council of California, saying it will cover the costs at 41 of about 400 courthouses in need of repairs.
"It's a solution to the state budget problems, by having court users pay these fees," he said. "It's not dependent on the General Fund."
The higher fees are expected to generate nearly $300 million a year, which will pay for preconstruction costs and debt service payments for 41 renovation or construction project approved by the Judicial Council in October. The stiffer fines will also provide $40 million annually for security and safety improvements and building code compliance.
Drivers are not the only ones caught off guard by the new fees. Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Armando Botello and Highway Patrol spokeswoman Fran Clader both said Wednesday they weren't aware of the new fees.
"My guess is that the initial reaction will be outrage, if they have had to pay only $10 in the past," said Palo Alto Police Sgt. Steve Herrera. "If they have never gotten a fix-it ticket, they might not know the difference. As time goes on, if there was any outrage, it will be forgotten.
"Tough economic times call for these type of increases. If people want the same level of service, we all have to tighten our belts and pay for it."
Contact Gary Richards at grichards@... or (408) 920-5335.
* * *
Comment by Ron Branson
Here are the constitutional flaws in the adoption of the above “laws.”
Number one - there can be no hint of revenue-raising when it comes to traffic fines. A fine is not a tax, but a punishment for a forbidden criminal act. Taxes, on the other hand must be constitutionally apportioned. Fines are not apportioned and therefore cannot be a measure to raise revenue for anything!
Number two - a fine, being a punishment for a criminal act, must be by jury. Art. III, Sec. 2, clause 3 clearly states, “The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury!” Government could not afford to have a jury trial for every ticket they write!
Number three - in every criminal trial, intent to violate such law must be proven to a jury. Therefore the burden is on the government to prove the offender was fully aware that he was violating the law by willfully driving, say, with a burned out taillight bulb. The defendant does not have to testify to, or prove anything on his own behalf. This burden on government would be near impossible to prove!
Therefore, here are three ways established that such a law as above is constitutionally infirm. If J.A.I.L. were passed and in force, all the judges under it who sought to enforce such law could very well face a lawsuit for damages without the protection of judicial immunity, loose their judgeship, and lose one-half of their future retirement. The cost to judges would be too risky for any judge to enforce, so they would instantly dismiss every such case, and so the police would just not waste any of their time citing anyone just to have it dismissed in court.
- Ron Branson