Report documents racial disparities in number suspended licenses in California
A report published recently by a consortium of California civil rights groups has documents hidden racial disparities in the number of blacks and whites whose driver’s licenses were suspended due to unpaid tickets.
According to the report, titled “Stopped, Fined, Arrested – Racial Bias in Policing & Traffic Courts in California,” California’s traffic courts hit blacks, Latinos and the poor much harder than the whites.
Prepared by the Western Center on Law & Poverty, the report alleged that members of the minority groups and the poor are disproportionately affected by driver’s license suspensions and arrests in case of non-payment of fines.
Refuting the report’s conclusion, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) said in a statement, “The department doesn’t tolerate bias-based policing. It is the policy of the San Diego Police Department that the enforcement of all traffic laws shall be administered equally and fairly, regardless of the persons involved, and based solely on the nature of the offense.”
But, the report argues that blacks, Latinos and low-income people are also more likely than the whites to end up jailed for driving on a suspended license. It also noted that a base fine can swell to $490 because of additional penalties and fees. Failure to appear in court can further swell the fine to $815.
The report’s conclusion that license suspension rates in some predominantly African American and Latino neighborhoods are disproportionately higher than the state average is based on U.S. Census & California Department of Motor Vehicle data.
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