Caring neighborhoods do not let traffic tickets spiral into bankruptcy

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Steve Marcus Las Vegas Municipal Court Traffic Commissioner Ann Elworth, right, speaks with a lady who had an impressive bench warrant throughout Project Homeless Link, an annual service and resource fair for at-risk and homeless individuals, at Cashman Field Center Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Court specialist Karen Sandle is at left.

Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018|2 a.m.

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This month, Chicago ended up being the second city to launch a task force targeted at reforming what’s referred to as cash-register justice– police and court practices that unfairly affect low-income Americans.

Las Vegas should pursue ending up being No. 3 on that list.

The root problem they’re trying to deal with in Chicago happens here too. It’s a down spiral that occurs when locals who are having a hard time economically get a ticket for a motor vehicle infraction or some other low-level offense, then can’t pay it. They might face prison time or a license suspension as a result, which in turn makes it harder for them to get a job or preserve work. Subsequently, their circumstance ends up being much more alarming.

The outcome can be harmful not just to the people involved but to the entire neighborhood. Not just does it increase pressure on social services, however it can add to crime, homelessness and generational cycles of poverty.

Granted, individuals who break the law must face consequences, however the penalty for something so minor as speeding or double parking should not be the loss of a job or the need to declare personal bankruptcy.

In Las Vegas, there is some relief for residents who are having problem with court fines. This previous August, for instance, the UNLV Boyd School of Law started a “warrant quashing” occasion targeted at resolving impressive cases in local municipal and justice courts. During the event, comparable to one staged annually for veterans, the focus was on dismissing cases by offering offenders credit for time served, putting them on payment plans, permitting them to perform social work in lieu of fines, and so on. UNLV law students were on hand to offer representation for the culprits.

Nevertheless, those special events just occur after the reality.

However thinking about that about 2,600 cases were heard in 2 courts alone during the UNLV occasion– Las Vegas Justice Court and Las Vegas Municipal Court– it’s clear that the root issue is still a daily problem for lots of local homeowners.

That being the case, the community needs to explore the task force method, which Chicago introduced after it was designed in San Francisco.

Chicago’s group includes authorities, city officials, representatives from neighborhood companies, independent scientists and elected leaders. Judges and attorneys are visibly missing, nevertheless– it would be vital to get them in the mix in Las Vegas.

One key problem to address are “user-funded” systems, in which the courts charge costs on top of fines to fund their operations and supplement their city budgets. That method is swarming with abuse, leading to inflated fines and costs being imposed not in the name of justice however to pad courts’ budget plans.

The problems with cash-register justice concerned the forefront in the consequences of rioting in Ferguson, Mo., where the Justice Department would later on expose that African-Americans were unfairly targeted for citations and officials were associated with plans to make as much money as possible from fines and court costs. In addition, the department ruled that officers were motivated to write as lots of tickets as they could.

We’re not recommending that the situation is as dire in Las Vegas as it remained in Ferguson.

However Christine Miller, director of community initiatives and outreach for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, stated individuals served by the center continue to struggle daily with high fines and costs for minor violations.

Justice reforms are being discussed at the state level, where legislators passed a number of steps on the issue during the 2017 legislative session and where Gov. Brian Sandoval initiated a detailed review of the criminal justice system in August.

The same must take place at the local level, and the task force method is an appealing way to do it.

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