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Why is Your Fine So Much in Orange County?

Penalties and Assessments

When you are admitting guilt, found guilty or admitting a violation of the law in California, your paperwork will include a reference to the PA which is short for Penalty Assessment or Penalties and Assessments. The judge and the clerks and even your attorney will tell you its about 3 times the fine. Well Im here to break it all down for you. Consider it the bad news. At the least the good news is, now you know why.

What is Penalty Assessment?

It is an amount added to the base bail and base fines on infractions, misdemeanors and felony offenses. The current penalty assessment (eff. January 1, 2009), is $26 for each $10 or portion of $10 of fine or bail as set by the California State Legislature. The $26 Penalty Assessment is charged pursuant to Penal Code 1464 and Government Code 76000, 70372,076104.6, 76107.7 and 76000.5.

In addition to the penalty assessments, effective August 17, 2003, a $20 court security fee is added for each infraction, misdemeanor or felony violation resulting in a conviction pursuant to PC 1465.8. Effective January 1, 2009, an assessment in the amount of $30 for each misdemeanor or felony and $35 for each infraction will be added for each conviction (GC 70373). There is also a 20% State Surcharge, effective since September 20, 2002, imposed on the base bail or base fine amount. This 20% may not be used to calculate the Penalty Assessment per each $10 of fine.

These penalties are also included in the calculation for traffic school.

What is Night Court Assessment?

Pursuant to Vehicle Code 42006, in addition to the Penalty Assessment, one dollar ($1) is collected for violation of any section of the Vehicle Code or local ordinance adopted pursuant to the Vehicle Code.

Example of fine/fees for Vehicle Code Violations: Where the $ goes:
Base fine ($25) $25.00 Court Automation 2%
County Funds 15%
City Funds 83%
Penalty Assessment ($78)
$30.00
State penalty Fund (PC 1464)
  $21.00 County Penalty Fund (GC76000)
  $15.00 State Court Construction Fund (GC 70372)
  $6.00 DNA ID Fund (GC 76104.6 & 7)
  $6.00 County EMS (GC 76104)
State Surcharge 20% $5.00 State Gen’l Fund (PC 1465.7)
Court Security Fee $20.00  
Conviction Assessment Fee $35.00 Build/Maintain Trial Courts (GC 70373(a)(1))
Night Court Fee $1.00 VC 42006
Total Fine $164.00  


Traffic School

Traffic School calculation is based on base fine + Penalty Assessment + Security Fee + State Surcharge + Conviction Assessment + Administrative Fee + costs of traffic school instruction. Effective January 1, 2009, the Administrative Fee was increased by $25 to $49.

Proof of Correction

Effective January 1, 2009, when submitting proof of correction on a correctable offense, the fee has increased from $10 per citation to $25 for each correctable violation.

Important Conclusion

Is it ridiculous? Yes it is! I had a judge in one of the Orange County traffic courts urge me to file an appeal based on a violation of the 8th Amendment. He was talking about the fines and fees amounting to Cruel and Unusual Punishment! I agree! Im just waiting for a client who is willing to take the test case on appeal. Call me if youre interested.

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