Legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to encourage transit agencies to set up their own administrative processes for citing and fining juveniles who ride without paying fare was passed Monday by the Senate.
SB 614 was approved by the Senate on a 38-0 vote and goes next to the Assembly for consideration.
“Fare evasion is wrong, and there should be consequences to violations,” Hertzberg said. “While a criminal charge is too harsh a punishment for youths, transit agencies can and should issue their own citations and fines to violators. This bill makes that easier by clarifying that the fines collected should go to the transit agency issuing the citations.”
The Legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, SB 882 last year. It decriminalized public transit fare evasion for minors by eliminating transit agencies’ ability to cite for this offense under the penal code.
Criminal charges for transit fare evasions can force youths to miss school for court appearances, saddle a youth with a criminal record and, sometimes, result in a youth ending up in juvenile hall. The measure is part of Hertzberg’s ongoing efforts to roll back overly harsh penalties for minor offenses that hit the poor and the working poor especially hard.
SB 882 reduces the likelihood a youth will enter the criminal justice system or drop out of school. Research shows that when a youth makes even one court appearance during school, it quadruples his or her odds of being pushed out of school altogether.
As an alternative, SB 882 encouraged the use of an administrative process to assess penalties. The administrative enforcement is similar to a court procedure with a hearing and appeals process, except the possibility of a criminal record or jail time is eliminated.
Existing law requires that revenue from public transit citations issued under the administrative process be deposited in the county’s general fund. By changing that portion of the law and directing fare evasion citation fines and fees to go to the transit agency that issues them, it creates an incentive for agencies to set up their own administrative processes.
The legislation is sponsored by the California Transit Association and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.