I saw Chuck, my homeless veteran friend, this morning on his daily rounds of picking up cans and bottles (which he calls "California Gold"). I gave him two big bags of bottles and cans and we chatted for awhile. I asked him how his court date went and he gave me a totally disgusted look as he hauled out a yellow sheet of paper.
"Look at this," he said, half-laughing.
I looked at the paper.
I saw a line that said "M 30."
"That's my fine. 30 dollars. But I owe them $249 total for all this other shit."
"WHAT?? What else is on here?" I grabbed the paper out of his hand and looked at it. (If you click on the image to the left, you can see the items, also.)
"That's what I'm trying to figure out. Hell, I had the $30. Or I coulda just done five days in jail or something. This is ridiculous."
I looked at it. $30 dollars for the fine. "$95 dollars for the court appointed lawyer? Are you serious? You have to pay $95 for the lawyer on a $30 fine? What's this other stuff?"
He said, "Turn the paper over. All the abbreviations are there."
I turned it over.
$35 installment fee (EIA).
PI is a Penalty assessment: $17 for every $10 of fine for a total of $63. Plus $6 for something and then another $20 for something else.
A grand total of $249 for a $30 fine for grabbing an empty Coke can off the wrong trash bin; one that was set up intentionally to entrap homeless people who are scavenging for food and shelter money. (Chuck does have a place to stay. It's doesn't have cooking facilities, but it does have a place for him to sleep and keep all his earthly possessions safe from other, more desperate street people.)
He grabbed the paper back and just laughed his Chuck Laugh, head tilted back. Then he opened his wallet and showed me more tickets. "Look here. I got a bunch of citations. They didn't even ask me about them at the court house."
"So what happens now?" I asked him as he stuffed everything back into his wallet and get ready to continue on his route.
"Same thing that happens every day, " said with a big grin.
And off he went down the road looking for another bin full of California Gold.