Sunday, March 6, 2011

Penalty Assessment Scam

You might have noticed that if you have committed an offense, traffic infraction or otherwise, which has a mandatory maximum fine of, say, $100.00, the amount ultimately imposed by the court might be in the neighborhood of 4x that amount - a rich neighborhood indeed.  That is due to a corrupt device in the statutes allowing "penalty assessments" to be tagged onto the base fine.

What seems not to be fully understood and appreciated is that the penalty assessment system which is being used to jack up fines to grotesque and confiscatory amounts is really a local, and sometimes state, device to detour the limitations on raising taxes installed by the voters decades ago in Proposition 13. The voters made raising taxes difficult precisely so government would cut back on its bloated programs and operations, and instead of heeding the command of the voters, local and state legislators increasingly thumb their noses at the voters by using and then increasing penalty assessments to make up for lost tax revenue. That is, instead of cutting back on government programs and salaries as intended, legislators have sneaked around the barricade and charged full-steam ahead with various, and costly, programs, but the funding for them does not get debated, nor authorized by voters, nor voted upon by the requisite super-majorities.

The penalty assessment authorizations and enactments in the codes should be repealed immediately, because they are to taxation what Bernie Madoff is to stock investment advice, and those who have authorized that sneaky form of surreptitious taxation against the voters’ mandate should live with Bernie.

In Riverside County, things are even more outrageous.  In that county, there is a booking fee that is over $425.00: if you are arrested by other than the sheriff and hauled off to "his" jail [that you and I paid for], you have to pay through the nose for that "service."  Other counties charge $50-80, but Riverside County, always looking to screw over its citizens, has imposed 5x the upper amount found virtually anywhere else.

We have to stop this outrageous practice of imposing hidden taxes on the backs of those brought into the criminal justice system, because in addition to the fact that it is a scumduggerish disregard of the intent of the voters, such a practice could readily be an incentive for local cops to arrest and jail more people than the merits support.  If the system, and the cops' bosses, make handsome sums off of assessments on fines and for bookings, then there is a strong incentive for people to shade things to create the impression that arrests and convictions are merited.  And if you don't believe that the system has an agenda other than neutral and above-board service to the constituents and the citizenry, and then does not act on that ulterior agenda regularly, climb out from under your rock and come into the light.

1 comment:

Be civil, intelligent, and non-confrontational.