Senior citizen working off a ticket
June 20, 2012 8:18 PM   Subscribe

How can a person work off a traffic fine in Los Angeles? Is there a program for those on Social Security?

My 75-year-old dad was assessed a $932 fine for driving without insurance. He got insurance within the week of the ticket's issuance, and has since stopped driving more than once a week, but he's still liable. He lives on a small Social Security check and can't afford to pay the fine.

He's willing to work it off in any way possible. How do I find a way for him to do that?
posted by goofyfoot to Grab Bag (18 answers total)
I don't know about LA specifically, but normally if you talk to them they'll work out a payment plan.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:38 PM on June 20, 2012

Have you checked with the relevant body to see if your dad can pay the fine in installments?
posted by Defying Gravity at 8:39 PM on June 20, 2012

Is there a court date? I'd bring the new insurance card and tell the court the situation (I am not a lawyer).
posted by desjardins at 8:40 PM on June 20, 2012

Response by poster: I wasn't with my dad at his court date last week, and don't have a clue who "them" or "relevant body" could be.
posted by goofyfoot at 8:46 PM on June 20, 2012

Find some of the paperwork from his court date and call the listed numbers. There's definitely a way to do this - someone I know (in LA) did this a few years back, though I don't know how it was initially arranged.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:51 PM on June 20, 2012

IAAL, but I am not at all familiar with your jurisdiction. I would call the court's customer service number and ask about a payment plan.
posted by Defying Gravity at 8:58 PM on June 20, 2012

The relevant body is Los Angeles Superior Court Traffic Court.

Here is their FAQ.
posted by carsonb at 10:27 PM on June 20, 2012

Response by poster: That's helpful. But my dad's already been found guilty. He's not appealing. What he needs to do now is find off a way to work off his fine.

"Some courts will let you pay the fine in installments." What he needs to do is work it off.
posted by goofyfoot at 10:56 PM on June 20, 2012

What do you mean by "work it off"?

If you mean exchange labor worth $932, there's no facility for this. Court fines don't work that way.
posted by dfriedman at 11:30 PM on June 20, 2012

The courts don't really have an equivalent to washing dishes when you can't pay your restaurant bill. Your father will be better off looking for odd jobs to earn extra money to take care of the fine.
posted by asciident at 11:41 PM on June 20, 2012

Response by poster: My dad's 75 and shaky, which is another reason he stopped driving more than once a week. He can't earn money.

What does the state do with people who can't pay their fines? My father thinks he'll have to go to jail, and I'm assuring him that he won't. But I have no idea what will happen.
posted by goofyfoot at 11:55 PM on June 20, 2012

Response by poster: Can't he pick up trash on the side of the street?
posted by goofyfoot at 11:56 PM on June 20, 2012

He needs to get back in front of the judge. Tell him to go to the court and try and get a new date. If he goes early before court, he may be able to see the judge that day. Tell the judge the situation and hopefully they have some program or deal.

I am in Chicago and we have the work it off program, but no one tells you and it can only be decided by the judge.

Even if he hasn't seen a judge and plead guilty by mail, he can still go back before the judge.
posted by lee at 12:04 AM on June 21, 2012

I seem to be in traffic court on an annual basis, give or take. There is a process, but you do need to see the judge.

First, extend the ticket 60 days online - you always get that for free. Prior to the end of the 60 day period go online and schedule an arraignment. Day or night, it doesn't matter. LA County courts schedule arraignments about six to nine months out nowadays - during that time, you pay nothing. At arraignment you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty. When you plead, either plead not guilty and go to trial, explaining your case at trial, or plead guilty and ask for hardship up front.

The judge does give community service - I see that happen all the time. There is an organized community service program, and you work off your debt at slightly below minimum wage. You pay a $70-ish fee to be eligible for the program (which cannot be worked off). You have 30 days to pay the fee. Otherwise there are arrangements to pay the fine within 60 days for no interest, and payment plans for longer can be arranged by GC Services, the collection firm (for a fee).

The best thing to do is take your dad to arraignment and see how other people are handled by the judge. (And note that most of the time it will not be a "real" judge, but an appointed commissioner or judge pro tem (attorney sitting in for the day).)

Here's a not half bad explanation on how arraignment works.
posted by calwatch at 12:50 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That's helpful.

His court date was last Friday, which is when he was assessed the $932 fine by a judge. Can he see a judge again without a date?
posted by goofyfoot at 2:00 AM on June 21, 2012

CALL. THE. COURT. This is a question they're going to be familiar with, and they're going to be able to help you.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:53 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Calwatch's advice sounds excellent, but I agree with folks above who are saying that you need to get in touch with the authorities to help figure this out. You or your dad needs to call the court, or possibly show up in person and wait around and bug some people a bit if the calling doesn't work, and figure out what your options are. You're looking for a fairly unusual option here, and it's likely something that few people on MetaFilter will have encountered and possibly not something that will be posted on any official websites or even necessarily something that has any official existence at all. You need to figure out what you need to do to get your dad in front of a judge in a context where it is possible to come up with a way for your dad to pay his debt with an absolute minimum of financial hardship. There are going to be procedures to go through, appointments to schedule, court fees to pay. Calwatch sounds like he basically knows what's up, but I would still talk to somebody at the courthouse (figuring out who to talk to is the first step of the process) and see what your dad is going to have to go through here.
posted by Scientist at 8:57 AM on June 21, 2012

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