Lawyer Alleges San Diego Traffic Court Collection Agency Shakes Up Poor People

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State Senator Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, said he heard some incredible anecdotes before California launched its traffic ticket amnesty in late 2015.

Lawyer Alleges San Diego Traffic Court Collection Agency Shakes Up Poor People

Californians overwhelmed by unpaid tickets have two more months to seek an amnesty intended to offer impoverished drivers a way out of escalating fines and suspended driver’s licenses, but there are complaints about how the program works in the county.

“Someone skipped a price for $ 1.50 and as a result he ended up with thousands of dollars in fines,” Hertzberg said. “Someone had a broken tail light that didn’t fix it. They lost their license. They got caught driving without a license. They had fines in addition to fines.

And for people who are already barely successful, not having a driver’s license only intensifies their burden.

“People couldn’t get their meds,” Hertzberg said. “People couldn’t take their children to school. Extraordinary stories that we have heard throughout this process of hardship and ridiculous fines. “

In total, Hertzberg said the state had $ 10 billion in unpaid tickets. Trying to get the money back was a losing business. Since the amnesty went into effect, Hertzberg said, 176,000 Californians have had their fines reduced.

The spirit of the amnesty program was to give people a break.

But San Diego criminal defense attorney Liz Aronson says the intent is being ignored in San Diego County. So far in the county, 7,000 cases of amnesty have been granted. But Aronson said hundreds of people with tickets have complained to his office over the past two years that their amnesty requests are being dismissed as incomplete.

Lawyer Alleges San Diego Traffic Court Collection Agency Shakes Up Poor People

Aronson said the court’s collection agency, AllianceOne, was proceeding with the dismissal.

“And then when they’ve rejected them, and you start fighting with them about it, they say, ‘Well you’ve got to pass on,’” Aronson said.

Even after the filing, she said, those seeking amnesty get little resolution.

“Then they say, ‘Oh, it’s at the bottom of the pile, and you can’t check it,’ she said.

Eunika Smith said she asked for amnesty but had not received a response. Her license was suspended because she could not pay for her tickets. She has just found a new job in a hospital and has to drive to work.

“My hand didn’t come out,” Smith said. “But I need help. I won’t get my license if I don’t get it.

Aronson said she was worried because the last day to seek amnesty is March 31. Only people who have received tickets due on January 1, 2013, who have a suspended driver’s license and who pay tickets are eligible for the amnesty. They can receive up to 80% off what they owe.

Aronson believes AllianceOne is deliberately excluding people from the amnesty.

“They get 10% under the court contract of whatever they collect,” Aronson said. “If they grant the amnesty, they obviously aren’t going to collect that 10%, so what would be their motivation to allow people to benefit from an amnesty?” ”

AllianceOne declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.

San Diego lawyer says AllianceOne is deliberately excluding people from the state’s amnesty program for people with unpaid tickets on Jan.27, 2017.

Mike Roddy is the executive director of the San Diego Superior Court and oversees the operation of the county’s amnesty program. He said it’s his job to make sure AllianceOne acts appropriately.

“I haven’t heard of any of these complaints,” Roddy said. “My office hasn’t heard anything about it, so it’s difficult for me to step in and respond without looking at the facts, and right now you’re telling me things that are frankly new. I haven’t heard of any of these issues.

Aronson said she has complained on several occasions to the court commissioners of the county’s four traffic courts. She said the commissioners of Vista, Chula Vista and El Cajon were trying to help her clients. But she said Kearny Mesa’s commissioners told her she will have to face AllianceOne.

Aronson said the collection agency knows it has all the power because people can only get their driver’s licenses back if they pay off their debt.

“I’ve actually heard from AllianceOne employees telling people that they should go out and get credit cards and put the full amount on the credit card and then deal with the credit card agency,” he said. said Aronson.

San Diego Superior Court Presiding Judge Jeff Barton said AllianceOne’s advice was part of “best practices” provided by the Judicial Council, the state’s highest decision-making body.

“One of them is to allow people to use credit or debit cards, checks or other payment methods,” Barton said. “How someone takes this advice depends on the individual. “

But Senator Hertzberg called the advice biased.

“The idea is not to kick the money out,” Hertzberg said. “The idea is to have a fair process to get people into the amnesty program, a fair process to get their licenses back as soon as possible and not put pressure on them to use their credit cards, which doesn’t never was the intention of this program. “

Hertzberg recently introduced a new bill to end the automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for people unable to pay fines or fees for minor contraventions.

Part 1: Lawyer calls on traffic fines to punish the poor


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