Santa Clara Co. offers deal on traffic tickets

December 28, 2011 8:09:12 PM PST
There's a New Year's deal available to folks with unpaid traffic tickets in Santa Clara County. They have a rare chance to get the authorities off their back and save a lot of money on what they owe.

If you're feeling the heavy burden of an unpaid traffic ticket from years ago, the state is willing to make a deal -- up to 50 percent off what you owe.

Hon. Richard J. Loftus, Jr., the presiding judge in Santa Clara County Superior Court, says the state has mandated counties take part in a traffic amnesty program.

"It's a program with some real restrictions on it, but at the same time those that meet the requirement, it's a real opportunity to get those fees and fines paid and their record cleared," Loftus said.

The amnesty only applies to traffic tickets received before Jan. 1, 2009. The program covers numerous traffic violations, including moving violations, speeding, and running through stop signs. The discount does not apply to parking tickets, reckless driving, or DUIs.

Some people paying their fines at traffic court Wednesday say the program rewards the wrong people.

"That's not fair that they forgot and took too long to take care of it; then everyone's going to do that wait two years and four years and hope the next time that's what they do," Shevaleau Upson said.

Amnesty comes with a lot of fine print though. People won't qualify if they owe victim restitution in the county or if they have an outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrant. The payoff must also be in one lump sum.

"I totally agree; if people don't pay their fee before 2009, just give them discount and bring in revenue and it's good for everyone," Eugene Tan said.

The courts say the program is a win for delinquent offenders and cash strapped counties.

"It's an opportunity for the courts to collect some revenue at a time when revenue is short and for the court and county to gain some of that revenue to focus on more the recent cases we need to work on," Loftus said.

A similar amnesty in 1992 netted more than $15 million in previously unpaid fines.

The one-time amnesty begins on Jan.1 and runs through June 2012.

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