It is very common for a motorist to receive a traffic violation ticket in California. The most common types of these tickets are speeding tickets, red light tickets, stop sign violations, tailgating, not stopping for a school bus, not stopping for pedestrians in a crosswalk, unsafe lane changes, passing when it is illegal to do so, not properly stopping at railroad crossings and of course tickets for cell phone use while driving.
If you have been in the situation where you have received one of the many traffic violation tickets, then you know firsthand how expensive a simple traffic violation can be! In California traffic ticket fines tend to be expensive and complex. Traffic tickets have an extreme range in price because there are many different elements that make up a traffic ticket.
A speeding ticket on average has a base fee of $35, but with the wide range of penalties and fees hits $710. However, a speeding ticket’s base fee increase as the speed increases so for example when you are speeding 16-25 mph over the speed limit then the base operating fee can be $70 instead of the $35.
As a result, it is not surprising that California makes a large amount of revenue through traffic tickets
Who benefits from that money is determined from the different elements of the traffic ticket. A traffic ticket consists of a base fine and multiple penalty fees.
Traffic Ticket Fines
The base fine for all traffic tickets is determined by a set standard that is put into place by the Judicial Council (unless there is a set mandatory base fine which is put into place by legislature). The Judicial Council is in charge of policymaking or the California courts.
The Judicial Council is under the Chief Justice and serves the purpose of ensuring the justice system runs properly and in a fair manner. They do so by ensuring it runs consistently, impartially, independently, and is accessible to everyone.
Where Does the Money Go?
Who benefits from the money received from base fines is determined by where the ticket was issued. If the traffic ticket was issued by a city police officer, then the revenue goes to that city. Similarly, if the traffic ticket was issued by county law enforcement then the base fine goes to the issuing county. The one that differs is when the ticket is issued by highway patrol. When highway patrol issues a traffic ticket the money from the fine goes to the city or county where the stop occurred. Once the city or county receives the money from the base fines it is completely up to the county/city where the money goes to. Different jurisdictions use the revenue they receive from base fines in a wide variety of ways.
Penalties and fees are added to the base fine and are distributed to many different areas. For example, there is a court operations assessment, conviction assessment, night court assessment, state court construction penalty assessment and many more. The purpose of penalty fees is to serve as additional punishment for the violation. Not only will you risk the possibility of adding points to your driving record, which can result in a large increase in your car insurance rates, but penalty fees can also be applied.
The revenue collected from penalty assessments are distributed to many different areas such as funds to conduct DNA collection, emergency medical services, criminal facilities, emergency air transportation, and maintenance for court houses and other court buildings. There are also state or local fees that are added to the base fine too. However, these fees do not serve a punitive purpose. The purpose of the state or local fees is to provide the necessary revenue to support operating the justice system of California. The state also imposes a 20% surcharge on all traffic tickets.
All the Fines can be Overbearing
How the money from traffic tickets are distributed can change based on the situation. For example, if the violation is approved to take advantage of the traffic violator school program then it may change where the majority of the money will be distributed too. Also, there are specific traffic violations that have specific statutory distributions that are completely different than the standard calculation.
As a result, the reason most traffic tickets are so expensive in California is because they have quite a bit of additional penalties and fees that are added on top of the base fee. The base fees, penalties, and state/local fees benefit a wide range of areas and is distributed in very specific ways. Who is able to benefit from the revenue associated with traffic tickets includes cities, counties, the courts, and citizens by having necessary resources funded such as emergency medical care, construction/maintenance, night court and court operations.