Mayor London Breed, San Francisco Superior Court, and Treasurer José Cisneros Announce Online Tool for People Struggling with Traffic Court Debt
People with financial hardships may use MyCitations to request 80% discount or more for traffic citations
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed, the San Francisco Superior Court, and Treasurer José Cisneros today announced the launch of MyCitations—a new online tool for people struggling with traffic court debt. The launch of the tool is part of a citywide effort to alleviate the disproportionate adverse impact of fines and fees on people with low incomes and communities of color.
Traffic citations in California can exceed $400. If people cannot pay, a civil assessment of $300 can be added to people’s citations. Research from the Federal Reserve shows that about half of Americans are unable to pay an unexpected emergency expense of $400. The MyCitations tool allows people to look up their traffic citations online, answer a series of simple questions, and submit a request for a possible reduction on the amount owed based on their financial need. In addition to requesting a fine reduction, people can also use MyCitations to request a payment plan, more time to pay, or community service. Using MyCitations can also save people an in-person trip to San Francisco Traffic Court.
“No one should have to choose between paying their traffic ticket and paying their rent,” said Mayor Breed. “Traffic tickets in California are the most expensive in the country and our citations should not put people in financial distress. With so many people struggling to make ends meet right now due to COVID-19, we need this tool more than ever.”
The discounts that people receive from MyCitations will be based on their financial need and their ability to pay. When people use the tool, they can provide information about their financial circumstances by showing proof that they receive public benefits—such as Medi-Cal or CalFresh (food stamps)—and answer a few questions about their monthly income and expenses. Approximately 250,000 San Franciscans receive these public benefits. People can also explain a financial hardship they are experiencing. After someone submits their request, they can expect to hear back from the court within 30 days. MyCitations is also available in Spanish. A video demonstration of the tool is here.
“The court is proud to be part of this pilot project that gives expanded access to justice 24/7 to our court users,'” said Mark Culkins, Chief Operations Officer of the Criminal and Traffic divisions of the San Francisco Superior Court. “It is an especially useful tool to have available during the current pandemic as a person does not need to come to court to physically to address their citation. The court encourages folks to take advantage of this new, online program.”
The Financial Justice Project, led by the Office of San Francisco Treasurer Cisneros, works with City departments and the courts to assess and reforms fines and fees that have an adverse and disproportionate impact on people with low incomes and communities of color. For example, The Financial Justice Project helped lead the City’s efforts to eliminate administrative fees in the criminal justice system, stop the suspensions of driver’s licenses for people who missed traffic court dates, and was a partner in the City’s recent work to eliminate overdue library fines.
“A $300 or $400 traffic tickets hits a daycare worker harder than it hits a dentist,” said San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros. “Fines deter people from speeding or running a stop sign, but they should not put people in financial distress. MyCitations moves us toward that goal.”
MyCitations is being offered in five courts throughout California. In addition to San Francisco, MyCitations is available in Santa Clara, Shasta, Tulare, and Ventura Counties. The California Judicial Council worked with county courts to develop and pilot the tool. The San Francisco MyCitations tool offers the most extensive services—allowing people to request reductions for nonmoving or moving violations, as well as for current or past due citations.
For people who are unable to pay their traffic tickets, they can also visit the San Francisco Superior Court’s Can’t Afford to Pay webpage. Here is a guide from the San Francisco Financial Justice Project of fine, fee, and ticket discounts available for San Franciscans with low incomes.