Are traffic ticket fines too much money now?

Traffic tickets here in California have become very expensive. The cities and counties have become starved of funds from this never-ending recession, and they are going after people’s money in the traffic court now it appears.

Last March I got a ticket for an illegal right hand turn at a red light. My offense? I wasn’t properly positioned prior to making the right hand turn. I turned from the right hand lane, but I didn’t pull completely into the bicycle lane first. Hey, I came to a complete stop at the red light, made the turn slowly and safely, and it was 12:30 AM, and there were no pedestrians, no bicycles, and only one other car in sight, about 200 yards behind me. Of course that was the police car.

I understand the turn wasn’t perfect; ideally I should have pulled all the way over, and I wouldn’t have turned that way if it had been at 5 pm rush hour traffic as that kind of turn can indeed confuse other drivers. But it was completely safe with no traffic at the time and location I did it. Even the cop said he hadn’t decided whether it was worth writing a ticket. But he wrote one anyway. He said I didn’t appear contrite enough.

The worse part was the amount of the fine. With court costs and driving school, $475! Yikes! This is pretty much an entire week’s take home pay for me. Does that seem like a fair amount for a fine for this offense? I paid the fine by avoiding restaurants, movies, and other discretionary spending. The local merchants actually paid the fine actually. It took $475 out of the local economy and gave it to the state of California is all it accomplished.

Anyway, what do you think? Is $475 too much for this traffic offense? Is the same thing happening in your state? Do these unusually high fines simply make drivers fear the police and consider the traffic court simply a revenue stream for the state rather than what it should be, not something that takes a week’s pay away from a family, but just a big enough sting in the wallet to make you think twice about repeating the offense?

I have complained that fines in my area are excessive and citations are often petty but your experience is way over the top. That really is outrageous. I keep harping on the letter of the law vs the intent of the law but it gets me no where here. Many jurisdictions practice GOTCHA NOW SUCKER traffic enforcement.

I keep wondering when the point will come where people will stand up and say, I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

What will they do in California when the only people left in the state are Government Employees?? Even if they tax themselves 100% it won’t work…

yes they are

Yes, that is too much money for a very minor infraction at a time of low traffic. Cops certainly do have leeway but California needs money. If it’s not too late, go to traffic court and explain the circumstances; you might get a break from the judge unless he has been instructed to not be lenient if CA needs the money. I’d call it cruel and unusual punishment to take a week’s pay for that. The cop could have given you a warning for being a little confused in your interpretation of the bicycle lane users rights. Aren’t you supposed to stay out of the bicycle lane as much as possible with your car?

A few years ago I was out for a long walk and came across a couple of cops who were monitoring speeds in a 35 zone and were letting people by at 15 over. I asked why; was told that traffic was light and so 15 over was safe enough. Cops have discretion and so traffic laws are not absolute.

Not too many years back a lady in Oklahoma got a ticket for littering which cost her a couple or three hundred dollars.
Her crime? She threw a sunflower seed out the window of her car after being handed one by her kids whom she had just picked up from school. Not a handful, not the package, just a single cracked sunflower seed; something that grows naturally all over the place here.

Seemed a bit heavy handed to me.

George, just be glad you don’t live in MA. That infraction would be on your record for 6 years and with regulated insurance, the initial fine is peanuts. You’d pay that and more, every year for 6 years, in increases due to your SDIP rating taking a hit.

Are there any details you’re leaving out? What’s the purpose of bike lanes if cars are REQUIRED to use them? Is it possible there was a “no right turn on red” sign at the intersection? For $475, I think you’re leaving something out.

Court costs and driving school? Looking forward to hearing the full story. So far, not buying it.

That’s a bit insane if you are describing what you did correctly. I would fight the ticket. The worst you could do is lose and have to pay a little more in court costs. Best-case, you win and pay practically nothing, or make a deal with the prosecutor and get the fine reduced, plus no points on your license. It’s in your interest to delay the case as much as possible. Often if you do this, the ticketing officer won’t show up and you will nearly always win. I would take Wha Who?'s advice on what to say.

Often if you do this, the ticketing officer won’t show up and you will nearly always win.

There’s a chat board for MA LEOs where they give advice to people. This question comes up fairly often. Here, they get paid overtime to go to traffic court. Consequently they always show up and they LOVE postponements. Just pointing out that tactic may not work everywhere.

There’s a small city south of me where I’ve been ticketed twice for speeding; and was not speeding in both incidents. Matter of fact, I made it a point to drive under the limit with the last one being 8 MPH under. Got stopped anyway.

When I showed up for court the officer did not even appear and the judge found me guilty anyway. This led to words and a lecture from the judge about my “bad attitude”.
The judge even sat there behind the bench and flat out stated that he thought the officer had no reason to even pull me over and that I was stopped simply because he did not know me and did not like my looks. (Long hair and beard) The judge even stated that he did not like my looks and he has the gall to lecture me about attitude?

In another incident while passing through one night they stopped me for DUI. The problem with that is that I was not driving erratically and was under the influence of nothing; not one beer, glass of wire, drugs, or anything else. They kept me on the side of the road for almost an hour (3 cops) and gave me every test in the book and which I passed but they claimed I failed.
At that point I was firmly demanding to be given a breath test and taken to the local hospital for a blood test. When finally pushed into the hospital scenario they handed me my license back and apologized for “any inconvenience”. Law enforcement at its finest.

Like I stated in my posting on the red light camera thread, some cops are no better than amoebae on the undeside of a whale turd at the bottom of the sea. Seems like I keep hearing more and more about rotten jerks like these who are a total DISGRACE to police officers everywhere. I’d go ahead and fight the ticket, and if I didn’t win the first time I’d appeal it, until either I won or ran out of appeals. But then, I’m a very hard-headed person, and if I could even irritate the person I disagreed with, like a burr on the backside, I’d make damn sure I got SOME satisfaction. And if it was and out-of-state ticket, maybe I wouldn’t even pay; depends on the amount of the ticket, if the punishment truly fits the infraction, and/or whether or not the issuing officer was polite or a rude jerk. I have doubts about, say, a state on the West Coast really wanting to expend the resources to arrest a scofflaw on the East Coast over non-payment of a simple traffic citation; I think that would be a huge waste of money, and I’m sure they have “much bigger fish to fry” than an out-of-stater who refuses to pay on a minor traffic violation. If enough people were to say, “Screw you, I’m not paying this ticket!”, then maybe it could change things; the only problem is getting people organized, and that’s difficult. Also, regarding postponements, I’d think that the longer you can keep a traffic ticket in contention, you’d also be postponing any insurance rate increases; as long as there is a dispute over a ticket, that should prevent any points from getting on your record too. In my own experience, I once got out of a ticket by default because the officer didn’t show up in court; another time I got out of a ticket because I agreed to pay the court cost($30) AND take a Defensive Driving Course, and mail a copy of the results to the court; that judge made me “an offer I couldn’t refuse”. :slight_smile:

FYI, unless california has changed their laws since I last got a ticket, you have to pay court costs if you don’t fight the ticket or fight it and lose. That way, court costs are not a deterrent to fighting the ticket. The process of fighting one can be though, but that is a different story.

As to the being more to the story, its like once in my youth, I got a ticket for an “unsafe lane change”. The cop was going to write it for “illegal” lane change until I pointed out that I did give a signal. He just felt that I made the lane change too quickly. Now for page 4, the rest of the story. He had observed me street racing another car, he hadn’t been able to clock me (85 in a 30).

Yes…the fines for traffic offenses are too high. The other problem is that every state has their own set of rules and there is no way one person can even begin to know them all. For example: In Kansas there is a law that says if a speed limit sign is wrong then the public still has to obey the sign.

In a small town outside of Wichita there was such a sign and citizens and people who drove through the area were getting a large amount of speeding tickets. The law said that the sign had to stay in place until the traffic department removed it. The highway speed limit was 55 and the bogus sign said 15MPH about halfway between the two 55MPH signs. If you did not know about the sign they got you for speeding before you could slow down. The sign was there for almost 2 years before a local in a 4WD pickup attached a chain to it and did the traffic department’s job. Sometimes a person just has to take the law into his/her own hands.

“For example: In Kansas there is a law that says if a speed limit sign is wrong then the public still has to obey the sign.”

A speed limit sign is right by definition.

Are fines too high, in many cases - yes. $475 in the case cited by the OP is too high. But, folks with tea party and conservatives pushing back on high taxes, where do you expect the money to come from?

You can expect higher fines. You can also expect rates for utilities supplied by government to go up big time as well. If your town or city provides water, sewer, garbage collection, or electricity those rates are just flat out going to increase. You can also expect roads in poorer condition, plowed and sanded less frequently, less police coverage, fewer fire men etc. Most taxes provide services. This money doesn’t just disappear into thin air, wages make up a large part of tax receipts. So, less taxes means less workers (as in jobs) and less services, and higher fees such as traffic fines. Its great to want lower taxes, but there is a consequence; just suck it up and get ready to pay higher fees and fines.

“A speed limit sign is right by definition.” True…unless it was installed by mistake which this one was. If you saw a right curve sign on a road with a left turn would you turn right or left? Using your logic you would have to turn right with disastrous results.


Assuming you left nothing out of your story, then yes, I would say the fine is excessive in your case.

However, are fines too steep in general now? I’d argue no, based on the driving behavior I see everyday. Clearly people aren’t being deterred by the fines.

Here in Ohio, the fines are much more reasonable from what I hear (I have never received any tickets other than $13 in parking tickets over the few decades I’ve been driving, and $3 of that $13 was overturned because the officer failed to see that I was driving a commercial vehicle and parked in a legal loading zone where I didn’t have to feed the meter). I think fines should be reasonably low (and warnings given first) unless a pattern of violations emerges… Of course when I look at our points system here, it is WAY too lenient. You need 12 points to get your license suspended. On your first offense, you can be doing over 90 in a 55 and still get just 2 points. Do that a second time within the same year and you still only get 6 points. In fact, here are the ONLY violations that will get you at least half-way to a suspended license:

  1. multiple offenses within one year, typically requiring speeds in excess of 35 mph over the limit
  2. operating a vehicle in commission of a felony
  3. operating under a suspended license (ummm… what’s the use of points here?)
  4. operating a vehicle without consent of the owner
  5. drag racing
  6. fleeing a police officer
  7. hit and run
  8. DUI
  9. vehicular homicide.

And sadly, DUI and vehicular homicide only get you half-way to a suspended license. With punishments like these and most speeding tickets falling under $150, I’d say Ohio is far too lenient.

I hate to say that the police have become the new tax collector in many, if not most places. Almost 20 years ago a seat belt ticket in Seattle was over $350. I’m sure it much more now.

Basically fines are the new tax, with the police as the collectors, and the police wonder why nobody respects them anymore? Right before I left Seattle the police were screaming that they didn’t have a quota system. They were screaming this because an officer had been passed up for promotion because he didn’t write enough tickets. He was given two book of tickets and he hadn’t use them all up by the end of the month. He brought it up to the press and the screaming started.

But there was no quota, according to the police. So lets see, if I don’t write this many tickets I don’t get promoted and this isn’t a quota? Its not a quota because we’re not tell you, you have to write this many, but if you don’t you won’t get promoted, see no quota. Yea right