-{Oakfield}-

People that live in the City of East Oak have a sticker on the back of their cars with the letter “CEO” on it. The primary reason for these stickers are in the case of a flood, only cars with this sticker are allowed in the city and back into their homes. They serve a dual purpose, though, because it lets the Oakfield Police Department, which covers both East Oak and West Oak, know who is and is not a resident of the town. You’re considerably more likely to get pulled over if you don’t have the sticker than if you do, and if you are pulled over the sticker will sometimes help you get out of the ticket.

-{Phillippi}-

Some friends and I used to eat at an IHOP in Phillippi late at night on a regular basis. One of the games we would play would be calling “First!” whenever a cop would be pulling someone over on Tannon Road outside. On “Step Nights” it would happen 3-4 times an hour. I was dating Julie at the time and her father was a firefighter that knew a lot of cops. He would sometimes give me a heads up when it was Step Night, which was the term the PPD used when they’d put an extra emphasis on traffic enforcement. The PPD was legally prohibited from having traffic quotas, so what they would do was offer their officers overtime working traffic enforcements on certain weekend nights. They didn’t have to write any tickets, but if they didn’t they wouldn’t get to do the overtime the next Step Night because their overtime was being paid for, more-or-less, by the revenue from speeding tickets.

I’ve gotten maybe a dozen tickets in my life. Nine were while I was dating Julie and seven or so of those were on Tannon Road on a Step Night.

-{Delosa}-

My Webmaster and I are having a conversation on the ins and outs of traffic law and traffic court on my post about wrongly convicted innocents.

Web takes great issue with the current system of traffic courts. I agree with him that it is very problematic (though we disagree as to the prosecutor’s culpability). The main problem is that traffic tickets are as often as not seem to be revenue-generators rather than attempts at keeping the roads safe.

Delosa has a great law on the books that prevents municipalities from getting too much of their revenue from traffic tickets by capping the city’s traffic revenue at 35% of the city’s entire revenue. This prevents cases where towns get to dodge tax and revenue issues by taxing passers-through by way of traffic tickets. The problem with the law is that it has loopholes the size of Alaska.

Delosa allows its residence to take Defensive Driving once a year to get out of a traffic ticket. The accused pays a $75 administrative fee and then $35-50 for defensive driving class. By the end you’re not paying much less than you would be for the ticket, but the advantage is that it doesn’t go on your driving record, so in that sense it’s a bargain. Some industrious municipalities also created something called Deferred Adjudication. If you get DA you pay an “administrative fee”, which is usually the cost of the ticket, and if you don’t get another ticket within 90 days it is dropped from your record (so again, the insurance company never hears about it).

The problem with DD and DA are that since they are “administrative fees” they don’t count towards the 35% revenue cap. Both programs are extremely popular because they are such a bargain compared to the alternative. In effect, though, they actually hurt drivers because it undoes the revenue cap and the ticket that they got off with DD or DA for they quite likely wouldn’t have gotten if the city wasn’t making money from it.

The other big loophole is that only municipalities are subject to the revenue cap. Delosa has several layers of law enforcement. There are city cops, constables, sheriffs, and state patrols. Only the cities are subject to the cap, and only cities have deferred adjudication because they’re the only ones that need it. So while the cities are limited, county constables (whose primary purpose are court bailiffs and court security) make no secret of the fact that their primary source if income is traffic tickets (they also are paid to police municipalities that don’t have their own police departments and enforce toll roads).

I recognize the unfairness that Web and others point out. I used to get really worked up about it, but I don’t as much as I used to. I’ve come to view traffic tickets as road fees of a sort that are weighted towards those that break the law. That being said, I’m very much in favor of closing the Deferred Adjudication loophole that help provide so much motivation for cops doing nothing but waiting for people to go a reasonable speed in a section of road with an unreasonable speed limit. People think that they’re getting away with something with DA, but in the end they’re pulled over more often than they otherwise might be and because it’s so infrequent that tickets appear on someone’s record the insurance companies act ferociously because they know that if you got caught and couldn’t DD or DA your way out of it, you’ve probably been pulled over several times without their knowing about it. In Deseret, where there weren’t nearly so many ways to get out of a ticket, insurance response to tickets was much more mild.

Because of the popularity, though, I don’t expect anything to be done about it. As much as the argument makes sense, it’s hard to convey the abstract truth that telling their insurance companies about their automotive misdeeds and raising taxes (which these jurisdictions would have to do to make up for the lost revenue) is a good idea.


Category: Courthouse

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2 Responses to The Badged Highwaymen

  1. Peter says:

    I’ve heard horror stories from older people about driving from the Northeast to Florida in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Interstate 95 hadn’t been completed, so much of the trip had to be made on non-limited-access roads patrolled by local cops rather than state highway patrols. Certain smaller towns along the way, mainly in the Carolinas, were notorious for running speed traps aimed at tourists. A typical scheme might be to drop the speed limit from 50 mph to 20 mph at the town limits, announced solely by a small, easy-to-miss sign; a local cop would be waiting behind a wall or billboard just beyond. Fines were high and often had to be paid right on the spot, the alternative being a night in the town jail. Local residents knew of the speed traps and in any event would be let off with warnings if caught. It was not uncommon for some of these towns to fund a high percentage of their budgets off of speeding fines.

  2. trumwill says:

    One state along that trip had a speed trap so bad that the state threatened to put a large sign saying “Town of _______ is a known speed trap!” right outside the city limits. It wouldn’t have made much of a difference because there wasn’t any way to avoid going through, but it was bad enough publicity that the town raised the speed limits. That was a long time ago, though.

    Delosa’s state legislature has in recent years begun putting restrictions on how quickly speed limits can change and the state highway department has been granted the ability to set speed limits on interstates and state highways. These are positive developments, in my opinion.

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