Alameda County Superior Court to change qualification standards for reduced traffic violation fines

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The East Bay Community Law Center, or EBCLC, announced Monday that the Alameda County Superior Court will use the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “extremely low-income” standard to determine eligibility for applicants seeking reduced traffic infraction fines under the court’s Ability to Pay, or ATP, program.

ATP allows citizens who receive public benefits, qualify as extremely low-income and have a monthly disposable income of less than $400 to receive reduced fines for traffic violations, according to the court’s website.

Programs such as ATP and these changes provide a more accurate estimate of how expensive it is to live in Alameda County, according to EBCLC attorney and clinical instructor Brandon Greene. For example, the median price of a home in the Bay Area is more than $800,000.

“Rents are continuing to increase, and salaries are not keeping up,” Greene said. “I don’t see it going down.”

Under the new guidelines, ATP will give individuals six months to submit income documentation, require individuals to submit only one month of pay stubs and require individuals to have a disposable income that does not exceed $400, according to a press release from the EBCLC.

Previously, the press release said, applicants were required to submit their income documentation within 60 days after the filing of the application, submit three months of pay stubs and have a gross income that did not exceed $250.

The EBCLC has been working with the Alameda County Superior Court for more than a year and helped pass the ATP petition in early 2017, according to Rupa Subramaniam, a New York University law student and former copy editor at The Daily Californian.

“We want to make sure people don’t have difficulty getting public benefits,” Subramaniam said. “This process can just be expedited. (We are) examining how we can make this process easier; it shouldn’t have to be like this.”

Many people in the low-income bracket are not able to receive public benefits because they are not able to take time off work or travel to social services agencies, Subramaniam said.

Additionally, applicants must wait in long lines at these agencies just to provide a single letter that proves they qualify for the service, according to Subramaniam.

“Hopefully these changes save people time,” Greene said. “Because these times don’t happen that often — we hope that this makes it easier for people to turn in their documentation and get financial help.”

Greene also said traffic stops are racially biased and that they are a means to extract wealth from marginalized communities.

Policies such as ATP consider external factors that affect people with lower incomes, Greene added, which is part of an ongoing advocacy effort for the “decriminalization of poverty.”

“In the broader context, our end goal is to upend the system,” Greene said. “We will continue to refine this process and make it equitable.”

Contact Nathan Chin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @NathanChin9.