New laws

Most of the bills that were passed and signed into law during the most recent secession of the Arizona Legislature are effective beginning on Sept. 29. 

House Bill 2110 concerned community service. It amended A.R.S. §§ 8-341, 13-824, 28-1603 and added 28-1604. People performing community service to pay off their fines in criminal, civil and juvenile cases will now receive credit at a rate equal to the state minimum wage but rounded up. 

For example, Arizona’s minimum wage is currently $12.15 per hour. Consequently, defendants performing community service will receive a credit of $13 per hour toward their fines. (Community service is also called community restitution.) Another bill has the potential to impact anyone with a driver’s license.

Under current law, if someone fails either to appear in court for their civil traffic ticket or pay the fine, the court with jurisdiction over the ticket notifies the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and that person’s license is suspended, at least temporarily. Senate Bill 1551 prohibits ADOT from either suspending or restricting someone’s driver’s license for failure to pay a civil penalty. It amended A.R.S. §§ 13-825, 28-1601, 28-1603, 28-3480 and 28-3482. This new law even applies to individuals holding a commercial driver’s license.

The state senator who sponsored Senate Bill 1551 did so in part because approximately 30,000 Arizona driver licenses are currently suspended because the drivers failed to pay their fines. 

Even though the new law will remove the main incentive for people to pay their traffic tickets, the legislation had overwhelming support. A variety of legal reform organizations supported the bill, as well as groups as diverse as the ACLU and the Americans for Prosperity. The bill passed in the Senate 30-0 and in House of Representatives 58-0 with two not voting. 

Senate Bill 1551 also allows a judge to reduce any fine (with the exception of DUI fines) if the defendant can demonstrate that the fine causes a financial hardship. While this new provision is significant, judges arguably already had the authority to reduce fines and to waive surcharges under existing law.      

If you have any questions or need any additional information, your best bet is to either call or email the court where the ticket was filed. Anyone may contact the North Valley Justice Court by calling 602-372-2000 x4.   

Judge Gerald Williams is the justice of the peace for the North Valley Justice Court. The court’s jurisdiction includes parts of Anthem, Desert Hills, Glendale and Phoenix.