KCRW (Which Way, L.A.?): Traffic Court and the Poverty Trap

Original reporting from KCRW

By Warren Olney

After investigating the notorious police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, the federal Department of Justice reported that local courts were systematically taking money from poor people to provide revenue for the city. Now a coalition of legal aid groups has found something similar going on in California — where traffic courts are pushing low-income people deeper into poverty. More than four million people have had their drivers’ licenses suspended after traffic fines they couldn’t afford were increased by escalating fees and penalties. It took one man five years to get his license restored—after his car was impounded, making it harder to look for work. Senator Bob Hertzberg, Democrat from the San Fernando Valley, says it’s time for a change. We hear about proposals to prevent cities — and the state — from creating what civil rights groups call modern-day debtors’ prisons.
Hertzberg’s legislation to cut license suspensions, aid economic security for working poor
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights report on how traffic courts drive inequality in California