Debra Saunders on California vehicle ticketing

The closer to sheer revenue maximization, the farther from justice: “California is filled with people who are one traffic ticket away from losing their means of independent transportation. They get a ticket for a busted tail light or a small-change moving violation. On paper, the fine is $100, but with surcharges, it’s more like $490. …In 2013, more people — 510,811 — had their licenses suspended for not paying fines than the 150,366 who lost their licenses for drunken driving.” [San Francisco Chronicle]


  • On the one hand, the argument- and i agree with it- is that driving is a privilege, not a right. The state may regulate it any way they want. Seat belts, helmets, drunk driving, licensing, all of it. On the other hand, this state has found yet another way to criminalize mistakes, and make it pay big. Driving is one of the most common activities in this state, with I don’t know how many hundreds of millions of miles driven each year, with some law, regulation or rule to cover it. That’s a lot of opportunity for legalized extortion.

    You gotta pay for the socialism somehow.

    • “and i agree with it- is that driving is a privilege, not a right.”

      In the modern world transportation is a necessity and few areas outside the largest metro areas have even half enough public transit. If you lose your car, you lose your job.

      People won’t stop driving just because you revoke their license. In my state, Wisconsin, nearly half the cases in the traffic courts are driving on a suspended/revoked license.

  • Bill,
    I disagree with driving being a privilege. I have no problem with licensing to prove competence. Our Governments are supposed to work for the people, so who are they to grant us privileges? My main problem with “privileges” is that they can be revoked at any time for no reason. Once revoked there is no “due process” to regain them.
    I lived in Florida from 1983 to 1989 and then moved back home to Pennsylvania. I have a fairly common name. I had my Florida driver’s licence changed to a Pennsylvania license in 1990. In 1995 I received a notice from PennDOT that my license was being suspended because of a 1994 violation in Florida. I had not been to Florida since 1989. I contacted Florida DMV and was told that I wasn’t the violator, it was just a person who had the same name. I contacted PennDOT and was told that they didn’t care, my license was going to be suspended. It took two years to get my license re-instated.
    If you think that this was just a paperwork problem, ask the guy who had his licence suspended after he told his doctor that he drank a six pack of beer a day. Even the Governor cannot order PennDOT to re-instate a driver’s licence.

  • NO, driving is not a “privilege.”

    It may not be a “right”, either. But it’s closer to a right than a privilege.

    It’s a practical necessity in the modern world. Especially in states like CA and PA. And nobody really takes suspended driving privileges seriously, either, something the DMV seems oblivious to. People want to drive and they’re going to drive.

  • If the ability to drive and move freely is not a privilege, then certainly the ability to make a living in a business is not a privilege either.

    Perhaps the arguments are the same in that the government is really not telling you that you can’t travel from one place to another, but rather you can’t travel by certain means without their express consent and permission.

    Likewise, the government doesn’t say “you can’t go out and make a living to provide for your family,” but rather “if you go to provide for your family, you are going to do it under our rules and regulations.”

    The sad thing is that the more power these people in government get, the more money they can demand from us peons and the more they can increase fees to travel and to make a living.

    Next up: fees for the volume of air one breathes.

  • So I see three people say that driving is not a privilege, but a right.

    By what rule? Even if you think it a figleaf, the government maintains that it is a privilege. It’s how a state can charge and collect the fees, fines, taxes and apportionments that would otherwise be impossible to get passed. It’s how driving and the attached vehicle code can be maintained. It’s the wayy vehicle inspections and rules governing modifications can be written.You can say that driving a right in your opinion however much you want- that doesn’t change the state’s view. Until driving becomes a right, every point all three of you mentioned is peripheral at best.

    • “So I see three people say that driving is not a privilege, but a right.”

      Really, where, who.

      I didn’t say it was a right, I said it was a necessity. There’s a difference.

      jimc5499 said it wasn’t a “privilege”, but he never called it a right.

      Anonymous Attorney said “It may not be a “right”, either. But it’s closer to a right than a privilege.”

      Sorry, but this is not a binary condition where everything that is not a right is a privilege and everything that is not a privilege is a right.

  • Matt, if it isn’t a privilege, and it isn’t a right, then just what is it? You can call it a necessity all you want. Yes- I live in SoCal. Driving is a necessity. The state can revoke my access to that necessity any time they want for virtually any reason they want. the state may control it with any rule or regulation they want. The state may impose any fee or fine they wish.

    Look, I will stipulate that the privilege of driving is granted almost as loosely as buying candy. It’s as common as sunshine. Many people who have it are of questionable skill at best. Some use that grant for criminal gain. The state of California STILL considers it a privilege. The state wants that control and they need that income. No amount of foot-stomping is going to change that. .