In April 2013, when California resident Derick Neal rolled through a red light, it was no surprise that he received a ticket. What did surprise Neal was how much his mistake would cost him. While the base rate for his infraction was $100, he ultimately was on the hook for nearly $500 by the time state assessment fees ($100), county assessment fees ($70), court construction fees ($50), emergency medical-services fees ($20), and more got tacked on.
Neal’s ticket was no isolated incident. Local governments increasingly are using tickets, fines, and fees to generate income, rather than to deter crime or enhance public safety. The funds derived from these sources are treated as part of the annual revenue base, and sometimes even built into governments’ budget baselines. This phenomenon, which has been dubbed “taxation by citation,” has troubling implications. While most citizens understand that penalties and fines are key components of effective law enforcement and public-safety protocols, few are likely aware that governments use citations as a means to enact stealth tax increases.
Examples abound of communities generating immense revenues from tickets and other fines. In Colorado, numerous towns generate anywhere from 30 percent to 90 percent of their yearly revenue from tickets and court fees. Similarly, multiple towns in South Carolina rely on traffic fines for more than 60 percent of their annual budget. Washington, D.C. collects more than $200 per-capita in annual law-enforcement-related fees and has floated proposals to increase certain traffic penalties to $1,000.
Source: for MORE