African Americans and Latinos in California are more likely than others to lose their driver’s licenses because of unpaid tickets and then to be arrested for driving with suspended licenses, according to a report released Monday.
“Individuals who cannot afford to pay an infraction citation are being arrested, jailed and prosecuted, and are losing their licenses and their livelihoods,” the report said. “The communities impacted by these policies are disproportionately communities of color.”
Black drivers were found to be arrested at higher rates than whites for driving with licenses suspended because of unpaid tickets, the report said. The highest suspension rates in 2014 were found in poor neighborhoods with large percentages of black and Latino residents.
Monday’s report, based on data gathered in the last year, follows an earlier study by the group that found more than 4 million Californians had their licenses suspended for unpaid tickets since 2006. The cost of tickets soared during the state’s budget crisis because a variety of fees were added to the fines to pay for state programs.
In response to the earlier report, the state created a traffic ticket amnesty program to make it easier for drivers to get their traffic fines reduced and licenses reinstated. Court leaders also ended requirements that required drivers to pay the tickets before they could contest them.
“While these actions represent significant progress, they fail to adequately address the underlying racial and economic injustices of California’s debt collection and license suspensions policies and traffic court practices,” the new report said.
A New Way of Life, the East Bay Community Law Center and the Western Center on Law & Poverty contributed to Monday’s report. It called for an end to license suspensions that result from an inability to pay a fine and to stop police arrests for warrants based on such suspensions.