Charlotte's DWI check points found only a handful of intoxicated motorists and while that is good news, what isn't good news is that there are a shocking number of people driving with expired, or revoked licenses and many without any license or insurance at all.
In two nights CMPD officers issued 200 citations only 7 were for DWI but a shocking 97 drivers didn't have a valid license.
Here is what I'm suspecting:
The cost of getting even a minor traffic ticket can reach nearly $150.00. The fine, and cost of court is close to a 1/2 of a week's pay for someone who earns only slightly more than the $7.25 minum wage. That doesn't include the cost of being out of work, parking in the court house parking lot or in the nearby rip off lots and the cost of points, both license and insurance.
Take the case of Selvin Antonio Rodriquez arrested Sunday morning around 1 AM, for driving on a revoked license and a "funny plate" during the East Charlotte DWI crack down.
I'd guess that Antonio's story goes something like this; he had a valid license at one time, insurance and proper tags and a current vehicle inspection.
A speeding ticket two years ago and then another ticket for not wearing his seat belt, earned him a few points, cost him $250.00. His boss was not happy when he missed work to show up in court. , a month later he got another ticket, and missed his court date. Then his insurance increased. Then he was charged with failure to appear and his license was revoked. Then his insurance was canceled because he lost his job and couldn't afford to make the montly payments plus the "service" fees for paying on the installment plan.
He found a new job working the second shift, and hoped to make enough to get his bills caught up. But when he tried to get insurance again he was turned down by 3 carriers and found coverage at a high risk insurance company at loan shark rates. But could not get his plates renewed because his inspection had expired . His old truck wouldn't pass inspection, so he spent an additional $300.00 dollars on repaires to the trucks emmision system. Then he discovered that even though he could pass the inspection since he didn't pay his property tax he still couldn't get a valid plate, so he doctored up the plate just a little.
On his way home from work he was snagged by the CMPD DWI check point. The costs and fines for his two violations will set him back another $250.00 assuming he can make the $1,300.00 bail and not miss work tonight and find himself out of a job again.
I drive a nice SUV, I've been stopped for speeding twice in the last month because of a crack down on aggressive drivers along I-26. Each time I was stopped for going less than 10 miles over the speed limit and was given a warning ticket. Had I been given a ticket, I would have called a friend in Columbia who would give me the name of a friend and it would all be worked out, I'd not miss work, I'd receive no points and my insurance would not explode to something outrageous.
I'm not bragging, but the truth is I'm treated differently and while a fact of life that is simply wrong. In October the North Carolina courts will again increase the costs of court that are required in addition to any fine paid for a traffic ticket. The costs to many of our citizens has become insanely disproportional to their income level.
This has a snowball effect, because the increased fees mean fewer low income drivers will be able to afford the fines and costs of court. Which means more uninsured drivers and less people actually able to afford to obey the laws.
While I understand the ever increasing costs of running our court system and our state government it seems to me that the poor unfairly shoulder the burden of this cost and these costs are so un-proportionally high that many would rather risk jail than do without the basic necessities.
I'm not saying give Antonio a free pass, rather make the system affordable so that all North Carolina drivers can afford insurance, and maintain a properly permitted car or truck and hold a valid North Carolina driver's licence.