Congratulations to BayLegal Senior Staff Attorney Andrea Crider and her client, who just secured $48,000 in traffic debt relief through BayLegal’s representation in Contra Costa County Homeless Court. Andrea reports that over the course of extensive advocacy in homeless court and traffic court, this is the largest amount of debt she has seen relieved for a single client. Our client, like many others in similar situations (albeit with smaller debts) did not even realize they had such a large outstanding debt in ticket fines and fees. This is often the case for unhoused individuals, who in some cases never receive notices of tickets and fines, allowing late fees and penalties to accrue and debts to build up uncontested.
BayLegal’s Reentry Unit regularly refers our clients to homeless courts throughout the Bay Area to address traffic related debt. The Reentry Unit has been specifically working with Contra Costa Homeless Court for over a year now. Government debt—notably including traffic court debt—is one of the many barriers holding formerly incarcerated persons back, contributing to recidivism, and putting newly returning citizens at risk of homelessness.
For those clients who do not qualify for homeless court, BayLegal also works with our reentry clients and others to address the debt through traffic court. Many of our clients come to us for the first time because they are recently released from incarceration, have their first job, and discover their traffic debt when their paychecks are garnished. Preserving employment income at this critical period of transition from incarceration back into communities is a key step toward preventing long-term homelessness, financial instability that can negatively impact healthcare and family security, and re-incarceration.