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State to accept partial payment for overdue traffic fines

California courts will give drivers with unpaid traffic tickets a financial break under a limited state amnesty program launched this week.

Motorists with outstanding tickets originally due on or before Jan. 1, 2013 will be allowed to pay them off at a reduced amount, either 50 percent or 80 percent of the citation amount, depending on the driver’s income, state officials said.

All assessed penalties will be waived, and payments can be made in installments.

And on Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Billl 405 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, to guarantee motorists can fight their tickets in court before being required to pay their fines.

The program, authorized by Senate Bill 85 and promoted by the Brown administration, goes into effect Thursday. It contains provisions that will allow license reinstatement for drivers who lost their license because they failed to pay the fine or appear in court.

Mike Herald, legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law & Poverty, applauded the program, saying it is a solid step toward resolving a problem that many didn’t realize existed until recently.

“We think it is going to have a significant impact for folks who have been pushed to the curb,” he said. “They can get out from under this cloud, get their driver’s license back immediately. They’ll be able to buy auto insurance again. Employers will hire people who don’t have a suspended license.”

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