Alameda County Traffic Court Eliminates Harsh License Suspension Policy That Punished The Poor

Salmon — the Oakland resident featured in my story, who has legal support from the East Bay Community Law Center — has struggled with homelessness and unemployment and has been unable to pay fines tied to two minor traffic tickets over the last two years. The resulting license suspension has prevented him from getting multiple jobs, and he can’t afford to pay the more than $1,000 he now owes.

Drummond: License suspensions create hardship for poor

“People coming to our clinic want to pay but they can’t pay all at once because the fines have increased so sharply,” says Elisa Della Piana, director of programs at the East Bay Community Law Center. “They go to court and say I’ll pay you $50 a month or $100 a month but the court is saying, ‘we won’t even talk to you until you pay the full amount.’”

Is Being Poor a Crime?

A deep dive into how we have been changing our laws, our police, and our courts, to treat poverty like a crime: the return of debtors’ prisons, the privatization of probation, and the reason why four million Californians have their drivers’ licenses suspended right this minute–and their numbers are growing by nearly half a million every year.