San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar is boldly going where no California DA has gone before.
She wants the court system to stop penalizing people financially caught by police officers for wanton disregard for public safety by the misuse of lethal weapons.
Verber Salazar essentially wants to make San Joaquin County a fine free zone for speeders, red light runners, those texting while driving, stop sign runners, and various other moving violations.
She says it is placing an undue burden on families during the pandemic and is making some people homeless because they can’t pay the fines.
Now in fairness to the DA who apparently believes speeding is a non-serious infraction, in her letter designed to put tire tracks on the back of every pedestrian in San Joaquin County does not make it clear that she wants the fees the state piles on to tickets that are what really jacks the cost up to be waived. Those fees underwrite much of the court system. Why doesn’t she have the guts to simply say she will refuse to process any tickets or low level misdemeanors instead of trying to lure the court system that is supposed to be worried about justice into her grandstanding?
Let’s back up to the “tire tracks on the back of every pedestrian” remark. Verber Salazar will tell you she never said she would not prosecute those guilty of reckless driving or piloting vehicles in a manner that it qualifies for manslaughter.
But if there is no consequence for the day-to-day acts that can lead to pedestrians being mowed down or vehicle accidents that can be prevented, it’s the equivalent or saying you’re not going to penalize people for drive by shootings unless someone gets killed or hit.
That is not a stretch.
During a 10-year period year period ending on Dec. 31, 2019, there were 40 people killed on the streets of Manteca including the 120 Bypass in vehicle accidents and 23 killed in homicides.
Many of those killed in homicides knew the killer and more often than not were engaged in illegal activity. No one deserves to be murdered or killed by reckless or inattentive driving. Yet we are keeping all of the crimes such as misdemeanor gun charges intact and giving those that blow through red lights and turn the streets in front of schools into drag strips immunity.
Most people who die in automobile accidents are killed by strangers. And there are certainly more of Verber Salazar’s constituents that are maimed and crippled in vehicle accidents than there are by a gun or a knife.
Verber Salazar has done a lot of good things including making the justice and law enforcement systems come to grips with the fact you can fine the homeless all you want but it is not doing any good. Not only can’t they afford to pay the fines while taxpayers spend in excess of $2,000 arresting and prosecuting the homeless for one infraction such as illegal camping, but the homeless issues are never resolved.
At least in the instance of the homeless the DA’s office came up with an alternate plan that included not just getting at the root of the problem but to also target the most problematic homeless with aggressive prosecution to get the off the streets.
Her latest pitch is to throw out fees and fines for things such as speeding tickets, infractions and misdemeanors without a game plan to put something else in place is simply because we are in a COVID-pandemic.
She is right in wanting justice to be even handed but she is wrong to do so in a manner that renders the criminal justice system ineffective at securing law and order. Until such time she comes up with an alternative punishment for breaking traffic laws adopted to keep our street safe all Verber Salazar is doing is passing out the equivalent of get out of jail free cards.
By the way, the Board of Supervisors might want to ask county counsel if it will violate state orders if the DA goes through with her plan which means a business that violates pandemic rules or people who don’t quarantine that are subject to misdemeanors won’t be fined. To put it more bluntly, if the DA refuses to prosecute misdemeanors — that one assumes would include violations of COVID-19 rules — by not attaching fees or fines to them would that constitute a refusal to enforce health regulations and therefore cost San Joaquin County millions in pandemic reimbursements from the state?
Verber Salazar has a valid point about the financially ability of some families to pay fees and fines associated with moving infractions that are the primary cause of fatal and injury accidents as well as a major source of financial losses in terms of damage, lost work, and higher insurance premiums for most households in the county. The odds are greater for you and your family to be the victim of reckless and negligent driving than for all other crimes handled by San Joaquin County law enforcement.
Yet the DA wants to neuter efforts to reduce accidents and carnage on the streets by declawing law enforcement efforts. It’s a brilliant way to defund the police and turn San Joaquin County into the driving equivalent of the OK Corral.
Yes, it is defunding the police, pure and simple, when it comes to traffic law enforcement. It fits into the narrative that fines and penalties can be replaced with social work. Except in this case Verber Salazar has not even said how she plans to replace the traffic ticket system and still work on improving road safety.
Since we’re tossing out ludicrous ideas, here’s a great way to save families being crushed financially by the pandemic a lot of money. Let’s lower their taxes by eliminating the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office.
This, after all, is the county where you don’t need a “get of jail free” card because the DA isn’t going to prosecute you and you won’t get jailed unless you’re convicted of ignoring a judge’s order to appear in court.
Verber Salazar is upping the insanity stakes moving San Joaquin County into the twilight zone of the criminal justice system.
By defanging the traffic infraction penalty system in the name of social justice with no effective alternative being advanced, those driving 3,000-pound lethal weapons in San Joaquin County will have been issued licenses to kill and maim by the California Department of Vehicles.