Charges are discounted with Operation Green Light, and driver’s license are reinstated, too.
Many small and local governments couldn’t operate without the fines that its residents pay, sometimes for inconsequential infractions.
The Ferguson, Mo., unrest – sparked by the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown – brought this to light when a separate civil rights investigation revealed how heavily the city’s residents were forced to pay excessive fines and fees. In fact, Ferguson entered into a consent decree with the federal Department of Justice in which the city was forced to conduct an amnesty program to eliminate pending charges, fines, fees and warrants related to failure to appear in court violations, among other things. The city also had to provide the option of allowing community service instead of fines and fees.
Localities learned something from this debacle and now many offer amnesty periods that allow residents to pay traffic fines and court fees at substantially reduced costs for the return of their driver’s licenses. Remember …
No driver’s license equals no driving, which equals no work, which equals no pay. All ending in financial hardship for families who often are the working poor. Some drivers still choose to drive with suspended licenses in order to earn a living. This is even more dangerous because drivers without licenses also cannot get auto insurance.
Help is on the way. Operation Green Light is taking place in Florida next week in all 67 counties with the help of the organization of Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers. Floridians can pay overdue court-ordered obligations at a steep discount and get their driver’s licenses restored. In some cases, county clerks are offering payment plans. If you or someone you know have outstanding traffic tickets or court-related fines, run don’t walk to your county clerk of the courts.
“Resources will be dedicated to serve all those that can attend this event,” states Osceola County Clerk of the Courts Armando Ramírez. “I strongly encourage all members of our community that can benefit from this event to attend and share this information with others that may benefit as well.”
Some counties are holding Green Light events for a day, while others have weeklong activities. Here’s a break down for Central Florida counties.
Lake: Monday, October 14 – Friday, October 18
Orange: Monday, October 14 – Friday, October 18. No payment of 25% of collection charge.
Osceola: Saturday, October 12; Monday, October 14 – Wednesday, October 16. Save 40% off outstanding fees, including traffic tickets.
Seminole: Saturday, October 12. Save up to 25% on fees.
For specific hours, visit https://www.flclerks.com/page/greenlight.
Fines are a critical source of funding for hundreds of small towns, according to Governing magazine. High fine-revenue states include Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma and Texas, according to an article published August.
Florida has seven local governments where fine revenue exceeds 10% of total general revenue. In one locality, the figure is over 50%. Haines City, for instance, generates 6% of its revenue from fines and forfeitures. That’s equal to $101 per resident, according to Governing magazine.
Fines and fees have become more common as elected officials have come under mounting pressure to maintain low tax rates. A fee by any other name is a tax that voters have not approved.
But counties and cities must consider that excessive fines and fees have an adverse impact on the working poor and their families by taking away their livelihood, ultimately impoverishing the very residents for whom they work.
˜˜María Padilla, Editor