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Commentary: Traffic Ticket Tug-of-War

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, February 19, 2010
A half dozen cities in California are taking advantage of a state law that allows them to enforce minor traffic violations - things like failure to yield or rolling through stop signs. Those cities - Roseville is one of them - have interpreted the law to mean that they can issue their own city tickets and collect the fines. That means the state doesn't get its cut, as it would if Roseville police issued regular tickets. It also means drivers get a break.

Roseville sets its fines at $100. A regular state ticket would cost the driver more than twice that amount, of which the city would get just $31.50. The rest would be siphoned off by the state, the county, the courts and other government funds. The violation would also go on the drivers DMV record and probably lead to higher insurance rates.

The squabble over who collects fines raises a separate and I think more important issue. State fines are too high. 200 dollars for rolling through a stop sign is excessive.

State fines have become wildly disconnected from the actual violation involved and more about raising revenue. For someone struggling to pay the rent a minor traffic violation can be devastating.
Until state traffic fines are scaled back in a fair way that reasonably matches offense to penalty, most drivers would prefer to get their ticket in Roseville.

Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.
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