San Joaquin District Attorney Requests Reduction in Misdemeanor Fines

July 31, 2020 at 8:34 pm

San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar asked the San Joaquin Superior Court on Thursday to reduce or abolish fines for some misdemeanors and infractions, arguing that they are “an undue burden” due to the coronavirus pandemic. In her email to Presiding Judge Xapuri B. Villapadua, Salazar cited that 40% of San Joaquin County residents cannot afford an emergency $400 expense. Fines for standard misdemeanors can reach up to $1,000 dollars, with additional penalties incurred for late payment or towing costs.

San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar

San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar

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Salazar also noted in her email that people of color and lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by fines. Those demographics are also more likely to be susceptible to the coronavirus. For example, Latinx people make up 39% of California’s population, but account for 57% of cases and 46% of deaths. Local officials have estimated that the proportion of cases could be as high as 70%, per the California Governor’s Office.

However, not all infractions and misdemeanors would be subject to change. Salazar requested in her email that offenses related to driving under the influence, as well as those with a fine mandated by statute, retain the same cost. If approved by the San Joaquin Superior Court, the change in fines would go into effect on August 1. Salazar’s email did not specify how long the new policy would be in place.

Not everyone was on board with the proposal. Many of the comments on the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s corresponding Facebook announcement claimed that reducing fines would just encourage criminal behavior. Salazar has also come under criticism recently by the Stockton Police Officers Association after a Facebook video surfaced of her leading people protesting the police killing of George Floyd in a chant commonly associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.