The Reporter-Herald, Loveland, Colo., on municipal court fines:
More Americans are learning it's not hard to get into a fine mess.
A recent New York Times story detailed the problems people can face as court fees and fines add up.
One Alabama woman was fined $179 for speeding three years ago. She failed to show up at court - she said the ticket had the wrong date - so her driver's license was revoked. Pulled over again, she was fined for driving without a license, and her bill grew to $1,500.
But the problem got worse when a private probation company became involved after she was unable to pay that tab.
She was jailed, then charged an additional fee for each day she spent behind bars. In all she has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company.
Unfortunately, her problems are not unique, as more municipalities turn over their probation systems to for-profit companies. . . .
The Conference of State Court Administrators recently cautioned that the fines, fees and surcharges associated with traffic violations should not be "simply an alternate form of taxation." The Brennan Center for Justice has warned that extra fines and fees "create new paths to prison for those unable to pay their debts and make it harder to find employment and housing as well as to meet child support obligations."
When the penalty for a simple speeding ticket can mushroom into thousands of dollars, the system needs to be changed.
Americans expect and deserve their courts, and their fines, to be fair.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.