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December 28, 2010 > Traffic infractions decriminalized

Traffic infractions decriminalized

Driving with suspended license charges reduced to infractions

Submitted By Steve Blomquist

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved reducing certain driving-with-suspended-license offenses from misdemeanors to infractions. This is the first major proposal arising out of Supervisor Dave Cortese's initiative to increase pre-trial diversion rates to ease the strain on the court system and ensure equitable application of laws.

"Many people in the criminal justice system are not repeat offenders or hardened criminals," says Cortese. "I'm pleased the Board of Supervisors supported this important step."

Supervisor George Shirakawa, Chair of the county's Public Safety and Justice Committee also endorsed the proposal which was requested by a coalition of civil rights groups. Additionally, District Attorney (DA) Dolores Carr has committed to supporting these efforts and brought it to the Board for approval. Under state law, the DA has final authority to make the change.

The majority of driving-with-suspended-license offenses are already reduced to infractions by court commissioners. Offenders, who are on felony probation or parole, cited for other misdemeanor charges or have three or more convictions for driving on a suspended license within the previous five years, will not be able to take advantage of this new program. Other California counties have taken similar steps towards decriminalizing certain misdemeanors, including Sacramento County. Santa Clara County's program will be administered as a partnership between the DA's Office and local law enforcement.

For more information, contact Steve Blomquist at (408) 299-5030.

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