California may eliminate late fees for traffic tickets

California is poised this year to make changes to what some call “hidden” court fees, hundreds of dollars often tacked onto traffic tickets and minor violations that can increase their cost nearly tenfold. But so far, state officials disagree on how far to go.

Known as a civil assessment, the fee is imposed on hundreds of thousands of Californians as a penalty for failing to pay a ticket by a deadline or failing to appear in court on a charge. 

The vast majority of the fees are issued in traffic or infraction cases. A fine can be imposed each time a deadline is missed.

A $300 maximum fine can be added for violations as minor as jaywalking and on tickets that originally cost as little as $35, according to the Debt Free Justice California, a coalition of organizations, policy experts and legal advocates opposing “unfair ways the criminal legal system drains wealth from vulnerable communities.”

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