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Immigrants in California More Likely to be Jailed for Unpaid Traffic Tickets Than Whites: Study

First Posted: Apr 12, 2016 06:12 PM EDT
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A new report by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights finds that Latinos in the heavily Hispanic populated state of California are more likely than others to lose their driver's licenses and ultimately be jailed for unpaid traffic tickets.

Researchers for the "Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California" entitled study based their findings on U.S. Census Bureau information, records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and information from 15 police and sheriff's departments across the state.

In some areas of the state, Latino drivers accounted for more than six in 10 of all suspended licenses, a ratio far greater than whites and even other minorities.

Communities of Color More Impacted

"Individuals who cannot afford to pay an infraction citation are being arrested, jailed and prosecuted, and are losing their licenses and their livelihoods," the report concluded. "The communities impacted by these policies are disproportionately communities of color."

Over one two year period beginning in September of 2013, researchers found 85 percent of the 20,000 people arrested for driving with a suspended license in Los Angeles County were either Latino of African-American.

The L.A. Times previously reported, based on 2015 figures released by the California Legislative Analyst's Office, uncollected court-ordered debt that year topped $10 billion across the state.

Driving With a Suspended License a Misdemeanor in State

Driving with a suspended license is a misdemeanor in California, and judges are authorized to issue arrest warrants for those who either fail to pay tickets or appear for scheduled court appearances.

The report's release comes on the eve of a state senate hearing on a bill aimed at preventing the DMV from suspending the licenses of drivers for unpaid tickets.

The report also uncovered that black drivers face many of the same impediments as Latino drivers, namely being much more likely to be jailed for unpaid tickets than whites.

In L.A. County, blacks compose just over 9 percent of the total population, but accounted for one in three of every arrest for driving with a suspended license over a two year period commencing in September of 2013.

By comparisons, whites comprised nearly 27 percent of the population, but only 15 percent of all such arrests over that same time.

 

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