Traffic ticket amnesty programs cropping up

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Free parking

Maybe not free, but some chronic parking ticket violators can have their tab cut in half -- if they act soon. Image: Alan Cleaver/Flickr/CC BY

There may be hope yet for parking ticket procrastinators to get out from under that pile of unpaid citations. Much like the IRS and its forgiveness program for some tax cheats, traffic ticket amnesty programs have been popping up in regions across the nation. The programs allow longtime-abusers to pay off that burden at a reduced rate, often with no penalties.

California ticket hoarder relief

California’s Amnesty Program for Traffic Tickets seems aimed at getting something out of long-term receivables that otherwise might be considered write-offs. That program will slice old bills in half as long as (1) no court appearance was made, (2) no victim’s restitution is owed, (3) the violator has no outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants, (4) the citation was issued before the January 1, 2009 and (5) no money has been paid on it since that date.

The amnesty pretty much only applies to every-day parking tickets. It can not be applied to speeding, reckless driving or driving under the influence citations. California parking ticket hoarders, though, had better act fast. It ends at the end of June.

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Those who take advantage of the program are able to take a breath of relief after years of motoring with the burden hanging over them. Garrett Noell of Fresno took the plunge. He told the Fresno Bee that “it’s a lot less stress” driving legally.

Low turnout for programs

The state hoped to recoup an estimated $46 million before the end of the program. While the full report on the program won’t be revealed until September, at this time it looks as if those projections were unrealistically optimistic. To date, Fresno county has recouped only $92,000 in the program. Other counties are reporting similarly disappointing returns.

The disappointing show echoed a program in New York’s Nassau County last year. It was extended when just over 2,500 violators applied for the amnesty. Officials estimated that 355,000 violations were potentially covered in the program. A program in Cincinnati, Ohio last year suffered a similar low-turnout and subsequent extension.

Some consumers have taken exception to the programs. Time’s Brad Tuttle cited a post on GasBuddy:

“Is it fair to law-abiding people who never get ticketed, or, even to those who pay on time to avoid the penalties? Some of them may have endured hardship in order to pay their tickets, while others who ignored them, perhaps for months or years, are now rewarded for their indifference.”

Some return better than none

Strictly speaking, the commenter makes sense. However, those responsible bill payers are not paying more because of the programs. In fact, if successful, they may actually help cut taxes that would otherwise have been used to make up for the lost revenue. The alternative is that the debt is written off, the region loses income and the violators get off scot free because it is likely not cost-effective to go after each one individually.


Merced Sun-Star 

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