LOS ANGELES -- Drivers with old unpaid traffic tickets in California could be eligible for a half-off discount that starts next year.

The one-time discount has been authorized by state law in hopes of generating cash for the state and local governments.

Officials also hope it will help local courts clear their backlogs of unpaid tickets.

The program runs from Jan. 1 until June 30, 2012, and will apply to tickets that were due by Jan. 1, 2009, except drunken or reckless driving.

Parking tickets are also not eligible for the discount.

Additionally, people with outstanding warrants in the county where the ticket was issued cannot receive a discount.

The discounts apply to fines that were due before the start of 2009 for any traffic violation except drunken or reckless driving. They do not cover parking tickets.

Sanora said counties will have the option of limiting the discounts to traffic infractions, like running a red light or speeding, and excluding more serious violations punishable as misdemeanors, like driving with a suspended license.

Traffic tickets are expensive in California because of a plethora of fees and surcharges added by the state and the counties over the years. The biggest is a civil assessment of up to $300 for drivers who fail to pay their fine when it is due or fail to show up in court. That money goes to a statewide fund to support Superior Court operations.


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Drivers with unpaid tickets are subject to the government's usual debt-collection practices, including confiscation of state tax refunds.

California offered similar discounts in 1992 and 1996, Sanora said. She said the state collected $15.5 million in 1992 and has no figures available for 1996.