BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 2724
                                                                  Page 1

          Date of Hearing:  April 29, 2014
          Counsel:       Shaun Naidu


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

                AB 2724 (Bradford) - As Introduced:  February 21, 2014


           SUMMARY  :  Provides that the ability to pay a fine is not a  
          prerequisite to filing a request that the court vacate a civil  
          assessment, as specified, and that an agreement to pay a fine in  
          installments or perform community service in lieu of paying the  
          fine is sufficient for the court to request that the hold on the  
          defendant's driver's license be lifted.  Specifically,  this  
          bill  :

          1)Provides that the ability to post bail or to pay the civil  
            assessment imposed by the court for failure to appear in court  
            for a proceeding or failure to pay a fine or bail installment  
            is not a prerequisite to filing a request that the court  
            vacate the assessment.

          2)Provides that the imposition or collection of a civil  
            assessment does not preclude a defendant from scheduling a  
            court hearing on the underlying charge.

          3)Provides that if an agreement is signed to pay a  
            lawfully-imposed fine in installments or to perform community  
            service in lieu of the fine, as specified, the magistrate or  
            court clerk is required to issue and file with the Department  
            of Motor Vehicles (DMV) a certificate showing that an  
            agreement has been signed and request that the hold on the  
            defendant's driver's license be lifted.

          4)Provides that the court cannot require the payment of bail,  
            the fine, or a civil assessment before the person requests  
            that the court vacate a civil assessment, imposed as  
            specified.

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)Provides that any person convicted of an infraction may, upon  
            a showing that payment of the total fine would pose a hardship  








                                                                  AB 2724
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            on the defendant, be sentenced to perform community service in  
            lieu of the total fine that would be otherwise imposed.  (Pen.  
            Code,  1209.5.)

          2)Allows the court, in addition to any other penalty in an  
            infraction, misdemeanor or felony, to impose a civil  
            assessment of up to $300 against any defendant who fails to  
            appear in court for any proceeding, fails to pay any portion  
            of the fine ordered by the court, or fails to pay an  
            agreed-upon bail installment, as specified.  (Pen. Code,   
            1214.1, subd. (a).)

          3)Provides that the assessment described above will not become  
            effective until at least 10 calendar days after the court  
            mails a warning notice to the defendant, as specified.   
            Requires the court to vacate the assessment if the defendant  
            appears within the time specified in the notice and shows good  
            cause for the failure to appear or the failure to pay a fine  
            or bail installment.  (Pen. Code,  1214.1, subd. (b).)

          4)Provides that if any person has willfully failed to pay a fine  
            within the time authorized by the court to pay the fine, the  
            magistrate or clerk of the court may give notice of the  
            failure to pay to DMV for any violation.  Requires the court  
            to inform DMV if the fine is later fully paid.  (Veh. Code,   
            40509, subd. (b), and 40509.5, subd. (b).)

          5)Requires the court, upon the request of the defendant, to  
            consider the defendant's ability to pay in any adjudication of  
            a Vehicle Code violation.  Requires the court, if it  
            determines that the defendant has the ability to pay all or  
            part of the costs, to set the amount to be reimbursed and  
            order the defendant to pay that sum to the county in the  
            manner in which the court believes reasonable and compatible  
            with the defendant's financial ability, or, with the consent  
            of a defendant who is placed on probation, the court shall  
            order the probation officer to set the amount of payment, not  
            to exceed the maximum amount set by the court, and the manner  
            in which the payment is to be made to the county.  Requires  
            the court to take into account the amount of any fine imposed  
            upon the defendant and any amount the defendant has been  
            ordered to pay in restitution in making a determination of  
            whether a defendant has the ability to pay.  (Veh. Code,   
            42003, subd. (c).)









                                                                  AB 2724
                                                                  Page 3

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "Many low-income  
            individuals cannot afford the spiraling debt caused by unpaid  
            traffic violations and court assessments. Failure to pay the  
            penalties can lead to a suspended driver's license. Without a  
            driver's license, an individual may (1) lose their job because  
            they are unable to get to work; (2) find it difficult to  
            obtain a new job; and (3) be ineligible for certain employment  
            or job training programs. Without a job, an individual cannot  
            repay the fines to regain their driver's license, and thus  
            become trapped in a vicious cycle of debt that is very  
            difficult to escape. This bill helps low-income individuals  
            keep their jobs and repay assessments by two means. First, it  
            allows an individual, before penalties are paid, to appear in  
            front of a judge to contest the assessment or original  
            violation. Second, it allows a judge to ask the DMV to  
            reinstate a driver's license after the individual signs an  
            agreement to pay by installment plan or perform community  
            service. As courts have billions of dollars in uncollected  
            fines, this bill will help courts recoup some of this money by  
            providing individuals with the means to repay penalties."

           2)Background  :  According to information provided by the author's  
            office, "[f]ailure to appear in court or pay the fine [for a  
            traffic offense violation] can lead to a suspended driver's  
            license and a vicious cycle of debt that is very difficult to  
            escape. It is estimated that the driver's licenses of about  
            600,000 individuals are suspended as a result of a failure to  
            appear or failure to pay.

            "Unpaid court fines and assessments may result in individuals  
            going without driving privileges for lengthy periods. It  
            undermines their ability to keep and obtain employment that  
            would allow them to pay off the penalties.

            "Low-income individuals are easily trapped in a maze of  
            various fines and assessments. 
            Under existing law, an appearance before a judge can only be  
            scheduled once all civil assessments are fully paid. If the  
            individual cannot afford the assessments, they cannot contest  
            the assessment or original violation. Furthermore, a judge  
            cannot release a driver's license hold until fines and  








                                                                  AB 2724
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            penalties are fully paid. Even if the individual agrees to a  
            payment plan, it can be years before their driver's license is  
            reinstated."
                
            3)Argument in Support  :  As stated by the  Western Center on Law  
            and Poverty  , "[w]hen clients are unable to pay tickets or  
            assessments, courts will suspend the driver's license. The  
            Department of Motor Vehicles issues the suspension notice and  
            under state law is not allowed to reinstate driving privileges  
            until the court notifies DMV that the fines and assessments  
            have been paid. Courts, for their part, do not send such a  
            notice to DMV until the entire accumulated amount is paid off.  
            Though our clients are permitted to enter payment plans at  
            that point, the amount they can pay is limited due to their  
            limited financial resources. This means they often can go  
            years without a drivers' license.

            "The lack of a drivers' license is a major barrier for low  
            income persons. Many employers will not hire persons who do  
            not provide a valid drivers' license. The lack of a license  
            also limits which jobs a person can accept. If they must drive  
            to get to the job they are faced with a choice of driving  
            illegally (and often with required insurance) or they simply  
            cannot accept the job. The lack of a license also impedes the  
            ability of persons to get on public assistance because state  
            law requires valid identification to limit the potential for  
            public benefit fraud. Further, the lack of a drivers' license  
            can prevent a person from successfully engaging in CalWORKs  
            welfare to work activities.

            ?

            "AB 2724 is intended to reverse this trend. As written, the  
            bill does two significant things. First, it allows persons to  
            go in front of a judge to contest court imposed assessments  
            for failure to appear without first paying the assessment.  
            This preserves the right of persons to plead good cause for  
            not being subject to the assessment. Second, AB 2724  
            authorizes courts to permit payment plans or community service  
            be performed for unpaid traffic tickets after suspending the  
            driver's license. By reinstating the license, many of our  
            clients will be more able to make the required payments  
            because they will keep or find employment. Ultimately this  
            will help the courts, the counties, the state and the various  
            programs that receive funds from the payment of traffic  








                                                                  AB 2724
                                                                  Page 5

            tickets."  
                 
            4)Prior Legislation  :  SB 366 (Wright), of this Legislative  
            Session, would have clarified that a person's ability to pay a  
            fine should be taken into consideration, that a driver's  
            license should not be suspended when a person has agreed to a  
            payment plan or community service, and a person should have  
            the right to prove good cause for failure to appear when a  
            civil assessment has been imposed for that failure to appear.  
          
           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          East Bay Community Law Center (Co-Sponsor)
          Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay  
          Area (Co-Sponsor) 
          Western Center on Law & Poverty (Co-Sponsor)
          Bay Area Legal Aid
          California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
          Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
          Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
          Los Angeles Community Action Network
          National Employment Law Project
          Personal Insurance Federation of California
          Public Counsel
          Rubicon Programs
          San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi
          Western Regional Advocacy Project

           Opposition 
           
          None
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Shaun Naidu / PUB. S. / (916) 319-3744