1/28/2007Iowa: Courts Make Millions from Tickets
Courts in Iowa are using motorists to raise $86 million a year in revenue.
Soaring court fines and fees for traffic offenses are generating millions of dollars for Iowa's court system. In the past decade, motorists have been hit with a 154 percent increase in the amount of fines collected -- $79 million annually, plus $6.9 million in civil fines, compared to the $31 million taken in 1997. The state motoring population only increased 3 percent in that time.
Last year, the state increase various charges between 25 and 100 percent to raise another $11 million annually.
Over the last decade, 78,000 fines worth a total of $438.7 million went unpaid. The Des Moines Register analysis shows those responsible for this amount are, on average, under the age of 35. Experts suggest these low-income young motorists cannot afford the multiple fees, fines and surcharges that quickly add up to several thousand dollars. Failure to pay often brings imprisonment.
"There's a constitutional doctrine that says you can't put an indigent in jail simply because of an inability to pay, and yet that's exactly what we're doing," Drake University law professor Bob Rigg told the Register. "What you have essentially is debtor's prisons."