Report details how CA Black and Latinos arrested more often for unpaid tickets
This past Monday a comprehensive report shows that low-income Latinos and African-Americans residents of California are inordinately arrested and having their driver’s license suspended.
The not being able to pay the initial fines imposed by the courts have lead to extra penalties and court assessments, that have put the person who gets the ticket deeper into poverty, and in many cases landing some have been sent to jail for not paying a traffic ticket. This has resulted in penalties beyond jail time such as keep their jobs or their homes for lower income residents.
A typical ticket of $100 can easily reach almost $500 with penalties and court cost. Missing a court date could drive the cost up to $815 for failure to appear.
The report, titled “Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California” and distributed Monday by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, depended on Census Bureau information from 2014, records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and data from 15 police and sheriff’s areas of expertise in the state.
“For a person who’s very low income, who may be unemployed, who may be living on public assistance, on SSI because of a disability or because they are elderly, they can’t afford these payments,” said Antionette Dozier, senior attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty and a co-author of the report.
Read about the: California Traffic Tickets & Infractions Amnesty Program
If fines don’t work, the court can issue an arrest warrant or tell the DMV to suspend the person’s license, and it will likely do so without asking whether the person didn’t pay because they were unable or because they were unwilling, Dozier said.
From September 2013 to September 2015, 85 percent of the 20,000 individuals captured for driving with suspended licenses in Los Angeles County were African-American and Latino.
Overall, L.A. County’s black residents represented more than 33 percent of the arrests for driving on a suspended license, despite making up only about 9 percent of the county’s population.
For Latinos, the disparity was not quite as stark, but it was still troubling, Dozier said. Latinos make up about 48 percent of the population but account for 55.2 percent of such arrests.
Dozier said the group found that racial profiling and over-policing in part helped to explain why black and brown communities are hit hardest.
In addition, she said, the cost of the traffic ticketing system in California has skyrocketed in recent years in order to help fund the court through fines and fees.