A new plan to generate revenue by offering amnesty on unpaid traffic violations won’t generate much revenue for local trial courts.
The amnesty program announced yesterday by the Administrative Office of the Courts gives those with old traffic tickets a chance to pay them off at a 50 percent discount during a six-month window that opens Jan. 1.
Donna Hershkowitz, assistant director of the office of governmental affairs at the AOC, says the agency can’t predict exactly how much money the program will generate, but state finance officials estimate the take at around $46 million. Hershkowitz said only 4 percent, or $1.8 million, of that will make its way into the trial court trust fund, to be distributed to the 58 county courts according to the AOC’s funding algorithm. The rest will go to the state general fund and funds for cities and counties. That's the same formula used to divvy up other court-collected fines and fees, Hershkowitz said.
In 2010, the state legislature passed a bill co-sponsored by the Judicial Council and the California State Association of Counties making such an amnesty program mandatory for traffic infractions, like running a red light, due to be paid before Jan 1., 2009. This year, legislators passed Assembly Bill 1358, sponsored by the California Public Defenders Association, which gives counties the option of offering amnesty on unpaid traffic misdemeanors, like driving without a license. According to an AOC press release, up to 6 million tickets are eligible for amnesty.
The Judicial Council decided to sponsor the legislation after a “working group of court and county collections people” weighed in, said Hershkowitz.