John Oliver's most recent segment on Last Week Tonight was generally about the 'fuck barrel' of draconic municipal fines in this country. It should come as no surprise that a great deal of these fees start with speeding tickets and traffic infractions. It should come as even less of a surprise that the system is a total nightmare.

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What starts as a speeding ticket can turn into a series of fines on a payment plan from a private collection company, which turns into a suspended license, which turns into another ticket for driving on a suspended license because you have to get to work to pay the ticket for the suspended license, which turns into a title loan, which turns into a seized car, which turns into a knock on the door from the cops because you have nothing left to give to the private collection company and hey you're in debtor's prison.

This is only aggravated by towns where fines like this pay the majority of the municipal budget. You can only go like that for so long before you have cops giggling about who's collected the most tickets and how long people have to wait in line to pay their fines at the local courthouse.

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Take a look at Ferguson and you'll see what I mean. There's a line in the video above from Attorney General Eric Holder about a woman in Ferguson who had to pay $152 for two parking tickets in 2007. She has paid over $500 for those tickets to date, and she still owes more than $500 more.

John Oliver calls it a 'fuck barrel.' I call it a broken system.

I can't say I know the best way for the American government to keep people safe on our roads. We certainly do need ways to keep people from driving drunk, from driving without their seatbelts, from driving at night without headlights or running red lights.

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But it sure as hell isn't this.


Contact the author at raphael@jalopnik.com.