More than 400 drivers who had unpaid tickets in Sonoma County will get their licenses back under a state amnesty program aimed at relieving millions statewide from snowballing ticket debt.
The program that started Oct. 1 applies to tickets that were delinquent before Jan. 1, 2013. It cuts outstanding fines by at least half and drops civil assessments that jack up the cost of some tickets to nearly $500.
One goal is to allow drivers who suffered suspensions from past-due fines to get their licenses reinstated.
Among them is Erin, a 45-year-old Petaluma woman who did not want her last name used. She said she fell behind on paying a ticket for speeding and other infractions a few years ago and lost her license. The situation left her unable to go to work and jeopardized her finances.
“It prevented me from getting a job,” the woman said as she stood in line Tuesday at the courthouse to file amnesty paperwork. “I can’t get to where I’m supposed to be.”
Now, she said, she’ll get back on the road and become fully employed again.
Her situation is not unusual. Advocates at the Western Center on Law and Poverty estimated 4 million Californians lost their licenses because they couldn’t pay their tickets.
They said the state’s practice of tacking on fees for things such as building new courthouses has driven the cost of tickets to unreasonable levels.