Bail in traffic cases has long been a bone of contention between defense attorneys and superior courts. Here’s how it works. A motorist gets a speeding ticket and wants to fight it. She goes down to the courthouse to request a trial, and the clerk tells her she must pay $370 “bail” in order to secure a trial date. This practice is flatly unconstitutional, but has been imposed by almost every court in California for years. They call it “bail,” but what they’re really doing is collecting your anticipated fine in advance. (It can’t legally be bail in traffic cases, because bail is authorized only for crimes that carry a jail sentence.) Following last May’s stern rebuke by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court, the California Legislature last week passed a law (and Governor Brown approved) banning the practice statewide. A judge can still require bail in limited circumstances such as when a motorist refuses to sign a promise to appear or if the judge believes the motorist will not appear for trial.
Much has been written (and here and here) about the amnesty bill kicking around the California Legislature that would reduce the amount California motorist have to pay to reinstate their driver’s licenses following an unpaid traffic ticket. Apparently the amnesty provisions have been incorporated into the budget bill that Governor Brown is expected to sign in the coming days. If passed, it will go into effect October 1, 2015.
Kevin C Desouza posted an interesting piece on Salon yesterday, positing a surprising financial consequence to cities and counties when driverless cars go mainstream. Desouza, an associate dean for research and professor at Arizona State University’s College of Public Service & Community Solutions, suggests a staggering decrease in revenue from traffic tickets, parking tickets, DUIs and gasoline taxes as the increased use of autonomous vehicles reduces these traditional sources of local government income.
Demanding bail for traffic trials happens all across California. Let’s say you get a ticket for running a stop sign, but you know you didn’t to it. You go to court and ask the clerk or judge for a trial so you can put the officer to their proof. In most California courts, you will be asked to post “bail” before they will give you your day in court. Though flatly unconstitutional, courts from San Diego to Del Norte routinely force motorists to “pre-pay” the amount of the violation’s fine in order to set their traffic case for trial. We have always considered bail for traffic trials illegal and unconstitutional, and DMV lawyers usually advise their clients to refuse. Sadly, many motorists are unaware that charging bail for traffic trials is illegal, and they allow themselves to plead guilty to violations they may have beaten. The outrageous fines that can accumulate–coupled with the driver’s license suspension that often may accompany them–make this an access to justice issue. No less than the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court agrees. On Monday, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye asked the Judicial Council to expedite the creation of a statewide rule that make it clear that Californians do not have to pay for a traffic infraction before being able to appear in court.
In what might be a case of first impression in California, a San Diego woman was ticketed Tuesday for driving while wearing Google Glass, supposedly a violation of VC 27602. The section prohibits TVs and monitors from being turned on and facing a driver. She posted her ticket on Google+.
Kurtis Ming‘s Call Kurtis piece on Sacramento’s CBS affiliate reports a Carmichael man’s nightmare after the City of San Jose lost the payments he sent for a traffic ticket. Apparently #DMV was no help even though he showed proof of payment by certified check. Eventually the tab exceeded $800, and he had his tax refund seized and his wage, garnished.