Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Traffic Court

I had to go to traffic court yesterday. It was a trivial matter. I had sent my money to the DMV and did not receive any stickers to put on the license. Then, I forgot about it.

The interesting thing for me was to observe the action of the judge and the way that the effect played out on different people. In general, the judge was administering the court in such a manner as to encourage an immediate settlement: minimum fines, easy arrangements, for those who plead guilty or "no contest." This was especially the case when there was a problem that had been rectified: a repair order, driving without proof of insurance, etc. In these cases, all fines were suspended as long as there was some proof that it had been fixed.

This was a similar case for those who had a moving violation. They were encouraged to say "I want school". The judge gave extra time to pay the school fees and allowed a lot of flexibility as to where they could go to driving school, even out of state for the one speeder who was in the military.

However, for those who were charged with an offense and did not have the proof that it was taken care of, the fines escalated rapidly. The one group of people most affected were Mexican citizens, often needing the help of the court tranlsator, who were caught driving without a license and then had to face the stiffest penalties.

So, did this have a racists, anti-immigrant motivation? I don't think so. The motivation and the talk that the judge gave seemed to be driven more by the effecient operation of the court. But the outcome was definitely punative against illeagal workers from Latin American.

This is a reminder of the problem with driver's licenses for guest workers that needs to be fixed, has been fixed and then messed up again. Camejo made it part of his campaign before. It is an area where we have common interests with organizations like the UFW. Fixing the licensing process is the real way to cut down on court costs.

BTW: I walked out with no fine what so ever and did not even have to show the cancelled check proving the date on which I had originally paid the registration fee.

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