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Traffic tickets: Fine or driving record pts?

February 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Some California cities let you choose between paying a fine or adding points to your record for a traffic ticket, but one senator may put a stop to that. If you get caught speeding, you expect to get a ticket, but Sen. Jenny Oropeza of Long Beach was surprised to hear from somebody in Long Beach who was offered a strange choice by the officer.

"He was asked, 'Do you want the state ticket, which gives you a point on your record, or do you want the municipal fine? It's higher, though,'" said Oropeza, "but no point."

The driver chose the traditional state ticket.

In addition to Long Beach, Oropeza's office found Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda County and the Sacramento suburb of Roseville have also adopted their own fines for certain traffic violations, thus taking away revenue from the state.

Different tiers for tickets aren't just used for speeding. The city of Roseville, for instance, enforces its own laws regarding U-turn and stop sign violations.

City leaders insist their tickets are better, because they don't add points to your driving record, and the fines are about a third cheaper than the state's.

However, Oropeza just introduced a bill banning local jurisdictions from having their own fines for moving violations.

"This is really nuts. People don't even know from municipality to municipality what the rules are," said Oropeza.

Many drivers don't like the two systems either.

"One government is trying to raise funds for their city. The other government is trying to raise funds for the state. So they're in competition," said Toni Lewis, a driver.

"It should be one price, and that's all. Two things like that, it's not fair," said another driver Jon Bruscia.

"I think they're just trying to make their money. I think it's robbery either way," said Jim Stilwell, another driver.

In an age when state leaders routinely raid local budgets, cities may just be looking for other ways to make up for lost funding.