The Police State’s Criminalization of Poverty

USA By: Tad Lumpkin 10:25 am

(Washington Post)- A few months ago I got a speeding ticket while driving through a southern state. (I’ll just leave it at that for now.) I was definitely speeding, so the stop didn’t bother me. Neither did the specific fine for speeding — $62. What I found appalling were the add-ons. There was a court fee, a processing fee, some sort of vague “assessment,” and a few others charges I don’t recall. In the end, the ticket cost me over $250. The extras amounted to several times the cost of the initial infraction. I hadn’t had a speeding ticket in over five years. But the last time I got one, I was only asked to pay the cost of the fine for the infraction itself. So this is a new thing.

I also didn’t have my insurance card with me. I have insurance, but I had just leased a new car, and had forgotten to transfer the card into the glove compartment. I was able to avoid the fine for driving without proof of insurance by faxing a copy of my card a few day later. But if I hadn’t had insurance, my fine would have topped $500. This is happening everywhere. In California, running a red light will cost you $549 — $100 for the fraction, plus $449 in added fines, fees, and assessments unrelated to the infraction itself.

I don’t bring this up to portray myself as the victim of some grave injustice. I was speeding, and I can handle the fine. But it occurred to me at the time that $250 would have been enough to put a lot of people in dire financial straits, particularly in the fairly low-income area through which I was driving. If lawmakers want to get people to slow down by jacking up the fines for speeding, that’s one thing. Go ahead, take a vote, and make yourself accountable to your constituents. But these extra fines, fees, and assessments are being added on the sly. And they have nothing to do with highway safety.

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SOURCE: The Police State’s Criminalization of Poverty

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