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Traffic fine amnesty window opened

A new statewide program will help eligible citizens pay off old traffic fines and reinstate their driver’s licenses.

State Senate Bill 405 took effect Oct. 1 and keeps the window open until March 31, 2017. Under its conditions, certain outstanding traffic debts can be resolved with the payment of 50 or 80 percent of their original cost.

The program will also empower community development and rehabilitation, said Del Norte County Superior Court Judge William Follett. “Our whole idea is to rehabilitate people. Say someone wants to get a job and support the kids if they have them. But a lot of them are having real trouble, because they owe these fines and they have trouble getting to work because they can’t drive.”

“At its heart, this is an anti-poverty measure and a driver’s license reinstatement program,” said Bob Fleshman, a finance supervisor for the administrative division of the Judicial Council of California.

Organizations such as the ACLU and the Western Center on Law and Poverty point out that suspended licenses tend to exacerbate problems such as unemployment and poverty.

In a 2015 report, The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights documented more than $10 billion in uncollected court-ordered debt and 4 million suspended licenses (one in six) in the state. In many cases, they said, these issues are closely related and fall disproportionately on the poor.

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