True ticket costs hidden from violators

July 20, 2009 7:35:47 PM PDT
In California, the true cost of a traffic citation is hidden from the consumer. People are told it will cost one thing when it actually costs much, much more.

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Most people have seen it, maybe even done it; talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving. Tim Cannon did that too.

"I looked to my left and saw the motorcycle cop sitting there and I was on my phone. I said to the person I was talking to, 'I have got to get off.' And, as soon as I got off I see the red lights," he recalled.

Bummer.

At least the ticket was not going to cost him much. The officer said the first offense was $20. But, when the ticket arrived in the mail, that $20 had grown to be $132.00

"It showed up $112 more than I was expecting and I was in shock," Cannon said.

He was shocked enough to call 7 On Your Side. It turned out, the price tag had grown because of add-on fees, a bunch of them.

They included a $20 base fine, a $4 security fee, a $20 court construction fee, a $ 35 infraction fee, a $52 state penalty assessment and a $1 night court fee.

Consumer advocate, Joe Ridout says, "What is really infuriating is that it is not in the public's interest to disguise the true cost of these penalties. You would have a much better deterrent if the true cost of these tickets were revealed to the person who is the violators."

Cannon agrees.

"It doesn't show up anywhere. If you are thinking, 'OK, what can I get away with?' or 'What do I not want to get away with?' and it is only a $20 fine, I might try to get away with that. But if you know it is a $132 fine then you will be more careful," he said.

The fees are not listed on the DMV website because they can change county by county. Some counties have the figures online. Some do not.

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