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Traffic ticket fines higher due to add-ons - report

September 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The cost of a traffic ticket in California has been soaring in recent years. Now, according to our partners at the Center for Investigative Reporting, pricey fines are getting tacked onto those tickets, too.

Clarence McGee of Los Angeles is one of six million California drivers who got a traffic ticket this year. But the price of using his phone behind the wheel left him reeling.

"After they done tacked on all the fees and so forth, you're going to wind up being out $200," said McGee.

The cost of traffic tickets have skyrocketed over the past decade. In 1993, running a red light would have cost you $103. Now, it's $490. The fine for rolling through a stop sign has nearly doubled in that same time period. Speeding up to 15 miles an hour over the limit now costs eight times what it cost in 1993.

"Some people are low income. They can't pay these tickets that they be ordering for people to pay, and they don't give you no type of payment arrangement. They just expect for you to pay the fine out," said Rachel Garza-Perez of Los Angeles.

According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, oddly, the base fines have remained the same over the past 20 years, but the growth is due to add-ons known as penalty assessments, which include everything from night court operations to DNA research to solve crimes to court construction.

The California Research Bureau calculates the tickets bring in more than $500 million a year for the state. State officials say as long as there is money needed in the general fund, the add-ons aren't going to stop.

But some who are now digging into their pocketbooks say the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

"I don't know how I'm going to pay this ticket," said Garza-Perez.

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