For many Americans, one traffic ticket could be all it takes to derail their financial security — and perhaps even their livelihood.
Loathe to raise taxes, many states and cities are increasingly relying on fines and fees — whether for traffic offenses, court costs or misdemeanors such as littering — to fill their coffers. The amounts demanded are often exorbitant, and fall disproportionately on low-and moderate-income Americans who can least afford to pay. In California, for instance, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights found that a $100 traffic ticket can ultimately cost a motorist as much as $815 after various surcharges, “administrative” fees and late penalties are factored in — a cripplingly large figure even for someone who is relatively wealthy.
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