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Extra charges on tickets do benefit Porterville
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part look at the cost of traffic tickets.
While the Porterville courthouse takes in approximately half a million dollars a month in traffic ticket fines, little of that money makes it into the coffers of local governments.
However, that does not mean that the city of Porterville is not benefitting from those traffic fines.
The new $90 million South County Justice Center under construction on East Olive Avenue is being funded by those traffic and misdemeanor fines — add-ons to basic fines that can more than quadruple that basic and cost upwards of thousands of dollars.
Porterville’s new courthouse, along with several others, are all being funded by the special charges. However, those charges go to a myriad of other things and some have charged it is a form of taxation that was never approved by voters.
Those unfortunate enough to get a ticket know how expensive they have become and that is because of the dozen or so add-on charges, most of which were put there by the Legislature.
On a basic $20 illegal use of a cell phone ticket, there are charges added to that fine totaling $179. Of those, a few benefit Tulare County and were placed there by the county.
All others vary in their purpose, but a few do deal with courthouse facilities or construction. Officials said the money generated by the add-ons is divided in more than 20 ways. Designed to benefit from the add-ons is emergency medical services, air transport for persons injured, DNA data banks, and several more that go to the courts, many designed to pay for the new construction.
On the cell phone fine, there is a the Criminal Justice Facilities Fund charge of $13.23; the Dinuba Courthouse Construction charge of $2.94; State Court Facility charge of $5.88; and a Courthouse Construction Fund charge of $2.94. A $35 addition is designated as going to the Conviction Assessment fund.
While there is a $14.50 Porterville General Fund charge, city officials said they do not receive that money.
The County shows a County General Fund charge of $1.27; a County Realignment Fund charge of $3.82 and a County Penalty Assessment of $8.82 charge.
Thirty counties in the state have the authority to add more to the ticket charge than other counties.
According to county spokesman Jed Chernabaeff, revenue from fines and fees is dictated by a number of Government and Penal Code sections, set by the State Legislature, and the amounts/types vary by infraction.
“The revenue from these fines is designated for special programs. Sometimes a local entity is given the discretion to add an item for a special program, this could be a city, county, or other local entity. The County, on occasion, does have that discretionary authority and has added four “County Penalty Assessments.” These assessments include: Emergency Medical Services, Criminal Justice Facilities, Dinuba Courthouse Construction and Courthouse Construction.”
According to Chernabaeff, the county received about $1.7 million in revenue each of the past three years.
“The State collects the revenues and distributes to the County. The County acts as a pass-through for all local jurisdictions, such as cities. The CAO has allocated these funds to Criminal Justice Facility Construction and Courthouse Construction funds,” added Chernabaeff.
Porterville City Manager John Lollis said the city has budgeted income from traffic fines of $53,000 this year. Of traffic tickets written in the city of Porterville, the city receives 26% of the basic fine — for a cell phone infraction that is $5.20 a ticket. The county gets the other 74%.
Porterville officers wrote slightly more than 6,000 citations in 2011, about 1,700 more than they wrote in 2010.
Contrary to a popular misconception, police do not get a portion of the revenue generated, but eventually see some of the money since public safety is paid for out of the general fund.
A person with the Court Administration, said the addition of the penalty assessment fees goes back to the 1990s and has steadily grown. He said the basic fines have not increased.
Here is a breakdown on the cost of a cell phone ticket, which is on top of the basic $20 fine.
AB3000 - 20% Surcharge $6
County General Fund $1.27
Porterville Bail Enhancement $9.80
Emergency Medical Services $1.47
Crim Justice Facilities Fund $13.23
Dinuba Courthouse Construction $2.94
SB1732 Penalties GC70372 $ 8.82
State Court Facility-ICNA $5.88
Porterville General Fund $14.50
County Realignment Fund $3.82
State Automation Fund $2.37
EMATP $4 - AB2173 $3.92
DNA Additional GC76104.7 $5.88
EMS - SB1773 (01/01/2007) $5.88
DNA Funding GC76104.7 $2.94
DNA Funding GC76104.6 $2.94
State Penalty Fund $20.58
County Penalty Assessment $8.82
Courthouse Construction Fund $2.94
CCA $35 ICNA-GC70373 $35
Court Operations $10 - SB857 $10
Court Operations $10-PC1465.8 $10