Assembly Bill AB 412, which applies only to Santa Barbara County, re-enacts an expired $5 penalty assessment for every $10 in base fines for drunken driving or other offenses that involve driving while intoxicated.
Gov. Jerry Brown used his strongest language on the issue in a message he attached to the bill by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, which he allowed to go into law this week without his signature.
Brown made clear his view that fines for traffic violations have become too high, to the point where they could soon force “people of modest means to choose jail time over paying sums they cannot afford.”
“Penalty assessments” are at issue, not the base fines for violations where total fines have risen to levels that now stretch the ability of working-class people to pay.
The Ventura County Star reports; “In Ventura County, for instance, the base fine for driving from 15 mph to 25 mph over the speed limit is $70. But the penalty assessment is $210, bringing the total amount a violator must pay to $280.” For every $10 in base fines, a number of assessments are added, including a $10 state penalty, a $7 county penalty, a county-optional $5 penalty for court construction, a $2 penalty to support emergency medical services and a $1 penalty to fund the DNA databank. In addition, the state levies a $20 flat fee on each criminal conviction to pay for court security costs. Finally, since 2002 the state has been levying a 20 percent surcharge on base fines. Noozhawk reports; “Without the governor’s signature, the legislation becomes law with the contingent that an alternative funding source be established by 2014. Identifying that funding source will be up to the community.”
If you have been arrested for a Santa Barbara DUI the stakes are getting higher, contact the Law Office of Kenneth M. Hallum for a free consultation. Know your rights, options, and defenses.