BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó




                   Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary
                            Senator Kevin de León, Chair


          AB 2724 (Bradford) - Failure to appear in court: fines.
          
          Amended: As Introduced          Policy Vote: Public Safety 7-0
          Urgency: No                     Mandate: No
          Hearing Date: August 4, 2014                            
          Consultant: Jolie Onodera       
          
          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File.
          
          
          Bill Summary: AB 2724 would require a court to issue and file a  
          certificate with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and  
          request that a hold on a defendant's driver's license be lifted  
          if an agreement has been signed to pay a fine in installments,  
          or an agreement has been signed to perform community service in  
          lieu of paying the fine. This bill would provide that the  
          ability to pay a fine is not a prerequisite to filing a request  
          with the court to vacate a civil assessment, as specified.

          Fiscal Impact: 
              Potentially major ongoing net reduction in fine, fee, and  
              surcharge revenue to the courts (General Fund*) and various  
              other local and state funds (General Fund, Special**) in the  
              millions of dollars to the extent a portion of court-ordered  
              debt takes longer to collect or is not ultimately collected,  
              either through non-payment or satisfaction of debt through  
              community service. One percent of annual revenues from  
              delinquent court-ordered debt collections would equate to  
              $6.7 million. 
              Potentially significant ongoing loss of civil assessment  
              revenue to the courts (General Fund*) and counties through  
              increased requests to vacate assessments and/or underlying  
              charges without payment. One percent of annual assessment  
              revenues would equate to $1.4 million. 
              Net increase in ongoing court workload and costs (General  
              Fund*) to issue certificates for signed agreements, collect  
              installment payments, and request removal of drivers'  
              license holds. DMV data indicates over 520,000 licenses were  
              suspended in 2013, with about 11,000 licenses reinstated due  
              to fines being paid in full.  As the likelihood of  
              collection on delinquent court-ordered debt declines as the  
              account ages, there could be some degree of offsetting  








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              administrative cost savings for those accounts that would  
              not have been collected upon. 
              Minor ongoing costs (Special***) to DMV to process  
              additional requests to lift license suspensions. 
              To the extent the provisions of this bill enable persons to  
              retain employment and remain in compliance with various  
              program requirements (such as CalWORKs), potential near-term  
              increase in program costs due to fewer sanctions, with  
              potential future cost savings to the extent extended  
              dependence on public assistance is reduced. 
          *Trial Court Trust Fund
          **DNA Identification Fund, State Penalty Fund, Victim Witness  
          Assistance Fund, Corrections Training Fund, among others.
          ***Motor Vehicle Account

          Background: Under existing law, when a person fails, after  
          notice and without good cause, to appear in court for any  
          proceeding, or fails to pay any portion of a fine for an  
          infraction, misdemeanor, or felony, or fails to pay a bail  
          installment, the court may impose an additional civil assessment  
          of up to $300. (Penal Code (PC) § 1214.1(a).)

          Existing law provides that the assessment will not become  
          effective until at least 10 calendar days after the court mails  
          a warning notice to the defendant, as specified. Under existing,  
          law, the court is required to vacate the assessment if the  
          defendant appears within the time specified in the notice and  
          shows good cause for the failure to appear, or the failure to  
          pay a fine or bail installment. (PC § 1214.1(b).)

          While not specifically stated in statue, it has been said that  
          in practice, some courts prohibit a person from appearing before  
          a judge to request the waiver of an assessment that was imposed  
          because a person failed to appear until he or she has paid the  
          full assessment, even if the failure to appear was because he or  
          she did not receive the initial notice. Under such a  
          circumstance, to the extent a person cannot afford to pay the  
          assessment, he or she cannot contest any additional assessment  
          or the original fine.

          Under existing law, willful failure to pay a fine in full within  
          the time authorized by the court may lead to suspension of an  
          individual's driver's license until the fine is repaid, which  
          can last for an extended period of time. This bill establishes  








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          processes for a person to appear before the court to challenge  
          the fines and assessments, and provides for a process to remove  
          a hold on a defendant's driver's license upon specified  
          agreements being signed.

          Proposed Law: This bill does the following:
                 Provides that the ability to post bail or pay the civil  
               assessment shall not be a prerequisite to filing a request  
               that the court vacate the assessment. Imposition or  
               collection of a civil assessment shall not preclude a  
               defendant from scheduling a court hearing on the underlying  
               charge.
                 Provides that if an agreement is signed to pay an  
               outstanding fine in installments, or an agreement is signed  
               to perform community service in lieu of the fine, as  
               specified, the court shall issue and file with the DMV a  
               certificate showing that the fine has been satisfied or  
               that an agreement has been signed, and request that the  
               license hold be lifted. 
                 For fines that are paid in full, in addition to issuing  
               and filing a certificate of full payment with DMV, requires  
               the court to request that the license hold be lifted  
               (current law only requires the court to issue a  
               certificate). 
                 Provides that the court shall not require the payment of  
               bail, the fine, or a civil assessment before the person  
               requests that the court vacate a civil assessment, as  
               specified.

          Prior Legislation: SB 366 (Wright) 2013 would make numerous  
          changes in the Vehicle Code and Penal Code regarding provisions  
          the court must take into consideration when considering a  
          person's ability to pay a fine or civil assessment. This bill  
          was held on the Suspense File of this Committee.
          
          Staff Comments: This bill requires the court to issue a  
          certificate and request to DMV that a driver's license  
          suspension be lifted upon an agreement being signed indicating a  
          fine will be paid in installments, or that an agreement has been  
          signed to perform community service in lieu of the fine. Under  
          existing law courts are only required to notify the DMV when the  
          fine has been paid in full. This provision will require the  
          courts to adopt new procedures and undertake additional  
          notifications to the DMV, coordinate signed agreements, and  








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          increase collection and administrative activities associated  
          with payment installment and community service plans. 

          DMV data indicates over 520,000 licenses were suspended in 2013,  
          with about 11,000 licenses reinstated due to fines being paid in  
          full. To the extent even 10 percent of annual suspensions sign  
          agreements and request removal of the license suspension, the  
          courts would be required to issue over 52,000 certificates and  
          requests to DMV to lift suspensions, as well as work with  
          defendants to facilitate agreements.

          The ability to request a driver's license suspension to be  
          lifted at the inception of a signed agreement will likely result  
          in a significantly greater number of individuals petitioning the  
          courts in order to secured signed agreements for payment  
          installment plans or the performance of community service in  
          lieu of payment of the fine. To the extent some portion of the  
          11,000 persons annually who would have otherwise paid their  
          fines in full opt to initiate installment plans, there would be  
          an ongoing delay and reduction in fine revenues collected over  
          time. Additionally, for some portion of the 520,000 persons who  
          would have otherwise paid their fines gradually but opt to  
          secure an agreement to perform community service, would also  
          result in a reduction in debt collection revenues. To the extent  
          the ability to secure a payment installment plan results in a  
          greater number of people paying their fines than otherwise would  
          have occurred under existing law would offset in part the  
          reduction in overall debt collection revenues.

          The DMV has indicated its automation systems do not have the  
          capability to re-impose a license suspension for the non-payment  
          of a fine once it has been lifted. As a result, should some  
          percentage of the plans for installment payments or community  
          service fail to meet the terms of their agreements, the DMV has  
          no means of re-imposing the license suspensions. This could  
          result in significant challenges, delays, and additional  
          workload for the courts to seek collection of these outstanding  
          court-ordered debts.

          The overall impact on the level of court-ordered debt collected  
          due to the provisions of this bill is dependent on various  
          factors. According to the Judicial Council Report to the  
          Legislature on the Statewide Collection of Court-Ordered Debt:  
          FY 2012-13, nearly $669 million in delinquent court-ordered debt  








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          was collected statewide. To the extent once percent of annual  
          collections are impacted by the provisions of this bill would  
          result in a reduction of $6.7 million, distributed between  
          various state and local funds including but not limited to the  
          General Fund, Trial Court Trust Fund, DNA Identification Fund,  
          State Penalty Fund, Victim Witness Assistance Fund, and the  
          Corrections Training Fund.

          To the extent the provisions of this bill enable individuals to  
          successfully secure and retain employment and remain in  
          compliance with various program requirements, there could be  
          near-term increases in public assistance program costs due to  
          fewer sanctions, with potential future cost savings to the  
          extent extended dependence on public assistance programs is  
          reduced.