John Oliver’s latest takedown on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight was something most people can relate to—municipal violations like traffic tickets or loitering.
“We have all committed municipal violations,” Oliver said. “And if you’ve never gotten a ticket for one, congratulations on not getting caught.”
But while a municipal violation is just an annoyance to the wealthy, Oliver said, “if you don’t have enough money to pay a fine immediately, tickets can wreck your life.”
Oliver targeted the often exorbitant surcharges, processing and court fees tacked onto relatively minor municipal violations, which can be crippling to impoverished communities. Minimum wage workers can’t always immediately pay off a marked-up $225 ticket, which Oliver noted can take 35 hours to pay off. This only leads to additional fees. If those aren’t paid, the result can be jail time.
“We cannot have a system where committing a minor violation can end up putting you in—and I’m going to use a legal term of art here—the f–k barrel,” Oliver said. “We can’t have that. And it might be time that we all stood up and said so.”
Watch the full clip below: