Politics

Yes, you can get a discount on those old traffic fines in California

An LAPD motorcycle officer writes a traffic ticket. Those with unpaid ticket fines due before January 1, 2013 can apply for a discount under a traffic ticket amnesty program.
An LAPD motorcycle officer writes a traffic ticket. Those with unpaid ticket fines due before January 1, 2013 can apply for a discount under a traffic ticket amnesty program.
Chris Yarzab via Flickr

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In less than two months since it launched, Los Angeles Superior Court reports has received more than 18,000 applications for the California traffic ticket amnesty program. Created by state lawmakers to help wipe out suspensions for millions of drivers, it offers some people reductions on unpaid traffic fines.

"The effect of losing the license meant often people lost their job or they couldn't get a job," said Michael Herald, a legislative advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty who helped draft the legislation. About $10 billion in unpaid fines contributed to about 4 million Californians having their driver's licenses suspended.

"They got on this hamster wheel where they couldn't get a job because their license was suspended and they couldn't get their license un-suspended until they got a job," he said.

The amnesty program provides relief in two situations: it offers an income-based discount of either 50 or 80 percent for those with unpaid tickets that were due before January 1, 2013. It also allows anyone to restore a suspended license if they are on some sort of payment plan, even if they have not fully paid off the fees.

The amnesty programĀ  began last month and extends to 2017.

Prior to the program, it was impossible to restore a license without first paying off all the fees and fines owed, even if someone went on a payment plan.

It doesn't cover tickets issued for parking, reckless driving or driving under the influence.

Herald said he has heard from several people in Southern California who have already had their licenses restored. The debt collection company working with L.A. Superior Court has collected $1.3 million in delinquent fines.

"By all accounts the response has been very robust," Herald said.

But with the high demand, there have been what Herald calls "hiccups" in the process. He said some people have complained of delays in processing their applications and license reinstatements.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a consumer alert warning that some of the debt collectors counties hired were giving incorrect information about eligibility requirements or failing to tell people about the program.

Herald suggest those interested in applying to look up the information on their county's website and get a record from the DMV with all of their past tickets before they initiate the application process.

To find out if you qualify, find the eligibility requirements at California's official website for the program or the L.A. Superior Court.