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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Consumer Alert on Debt Collectors Misleading Consumers about Traffic Tickets and Infractions Amnesty Program

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued a consumer alert to warn Californians about debt collectors giving consumers inaccurate information about the amnesty program for unpaid traffic and non-traffic infraction tickets.  The amnesty program offers eligible Californians who have unpaid infraction tickets the opportunity to have their debt reduced by half or more and to have their driver’s license reinstated.  Each county has its own rules related to the amnesty program, so you must contact the county that issued your ticket to see if you qualify.  The program, which started October 1, 2015, continues through March 31, 2017.

This consumer alert is being issued because of complaints made against debt collectors managing the amnesty program for some counties, claiming that they are not telling eligible consumers about the program or are providing misleading information.  The Attorney General’s Office has received complaints about:

  • Debt collectors incorrectly telling eligible consumers that they don’t qualify for amnesty;
  • Debt collectors not telling eligible consumers about the program;
  • Debt collectors pressuring consumers to make “good faith” payments but not telling them that such payments will make them ineligible for debt reduction; and
  • Debt collectors failing to ensure that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) receives notice that consumers have completed their payments under the amnesty program.  

Here is what you should know about the amnesty program:

When will the amnesty program be available?

The program started October 1, 2015, and ends March 31, 2017.

What tickets are eligible for amnesty?

  • Unpaid tickets and related “failure to appear” violations with an initial payment due date on or before January 1, 2013 are eligible.
  • Some misdemeanors may qualify.  Contact the Superior Court in the county that issued the ticket to see if your misdemeanor qualifies.  You can find a list of superior courts with phone numbers and links to their amnesty program website here: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/home/amnestyproginfo

What tickets are not eligible for amnesty?

  • Parking tickets
  • Citations for reckless driving
  • Citations for driving under the influence (DUI)

Who cannot participate in the debt reduction portion of the amnesty program?

  • People whose ticket had an initial due date of January 2, 2013 or later.
  • People who owe victim restitution on any case in the county where the ticket was issued.
  • People with certain outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants in the county where the ticket was issued.
  • People whose ticket had an initial due date of January 1, 2013 or earlier, but who made a payment on the ticket after September 30, 2015.  You may, however, still be able to have your driver’s license reinstated under the amnesty program even if you do not qualify for debt reduction.

How much will I have to pay?

Under the amnesty program, eligible participants will not have to pay any civil assessments.  Once the civil assessments are deducted, the remaining balance owed will be reduced by 50% or 80%, depending on income or whether you receive public assistance.

  • The discount will be 80% for those who receive public assistance or certify that they make 125 percent or less than the federal poverty level.  This number is currently $14,712 for individuals, $19,912 for a family of two, $25,112 for a family of three, and $30,312 for a family of four.
  • The discount will be 50% for all other eligible participants.

How do I participate in the amnesty program?

Contact the Superior Court in the county where you received the ticket to see if you qualify for the amnesty program.  If you have more than one ticket in more than one county, you will have to contact the Superior Court in multiple counties.

Will there be a fee to participate?

A $50 fee may be charged by the Superior Court, county, or third party collection agency.

The DMV will also charge a $55 fee for reinstatement of your driver’s license, as it does for any license reinstatement.

Will there be an installment payment option?

Yes, a payment plan option will be available through the Superior Court, county, or third party collection agency.  Payments will be based on the ability to pay.

To File a Complaint and for More Information:

If you have information about a debt collector giving people misleading information about the program, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online here (https://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company), or by sending a letter to:

Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550 

The Judicial Council has also posted information about the amnesty program, available at: http://www.courts.ca.gov/trafficamnesty.htm.

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