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Obey traffic laws.

The latest Bush recession has put a lot of financial pressure on municipalities, here in NY and presumably in every other state.

Counties, cities and towns will be receiving less revenue from state aid, real estate transactions, and property taxes from those in or near foreclosure.

At the same time that their expenses are going up -- for employees and their health insurance, for gasoline and other energy expenses, for construction materials for roads and buildings, etc.

One way municipalities can, and will, make up for that is by having their police forces issue more traffic tickets.

As I heard secondhand recently from a town judge, and saw myself firsthand during a morning in traffic court of my city.

Forewarning details below.  

First, the secondhand bit -- a friend of mine had been in a town traffic court recently (for his son's ticket), then ran into the judge at a closing a few weeks after that.

The judge recognized him, and told him to make extra sure that he and his kids did not speed; drove vehicles that were registered, inspected and insured, and had all their lights working; signaled all their lane changes and turns; wore seat belts; etc.

Because, the judge said, town cops were looking to write as many tickets as possible.

Second, the firsthand bit -- I got a ticket on Memorial Day from a rookie cop for wearing headphones while driving.

I was unaware that that was illegal, and told the cop so. He wrote me up anyway.

I decided to fight it, so spent a couple of hours in city court earlier this month.

In watching a score or so of minor traffic miscreants -- speeding, stop signs, seat belts, etc. -- go before the judge, all but a couple had to pay at least $100, and a few had to pay $200-plus.

None had a lawyer, but everyone had accepted a plea bargain to some lesser violation, and had agreed to the fine.

I got lucky.

In my plea session with the city lawyer, I argued that the headphones prohibition was unpublicized and generally unknown, specifically in my case; that wearing headphones was less dangerous than having a light out (which I just had seen being "dismissed in the interests of justice"); that I was a city resident who had been law-abiding and paying lots of taxes for 20-plus years; etc.

The lawyer offered me a plea hat would have resulted in an unmentioned fine (from what I had seen, at least $100); I said I was disappointed by the offer.

He said the police would be annoyed if he let me off.

I looked him in the eye and repeated my arguments, and he eventually relented and gave me a "dismissed in the interests of justice" plea.

It's the first time in my life I made $50-plus an hour, even though it was in avoiding a fine for a picayune traffic offense.

The city lawyer did not have to tell me that he generally gets people to take pleas that cost them $100-$200, resulting in a few thousand a week in traffic court income that the city is counting on in tough times.

I had seen the results of those pleas in court.

So, fair warning to you all, cops everywhere are looking, more than ever in this difficult time for municipalities, for ways to generate non-tax revenue from people who disregard traffic laws.

I'm sure that others in the community have similar tales to tell.

Originally posted to devtob on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:32 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (9+ / 0-)

    The Bush recession negatively affects working people in many ways.

    This is another one.

    The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

    by devtob on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:35:47 PM PDT

  •  This doesn't surprise me at all! (4+ / 0-)

    Lots of communities known as "speed traps" have survived almost entirely on traffic tickets.
    It is sure to get worse.
    And dwi..or dui?  Boy, those fines are money makers.
    I cannot emphasize enough to fellow Texans, especially, and to all my fellow kossacks..whatever you do, do NOT drink and drive.
    Stay home.  Get a designated driver.
    Make it a habit that you will not even have a glass of wine with dinner.
    Do not do it!
    These are times such as we have not seen before!

    Cowards die many times before their deaths... Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar, II, 2

    by on the cusp on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:40:03 PM PDT

    •  Especially with ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      devtob, Cassandra Waites

      the use of CCTV at intersections, you'd better be very careful. They don't have to pull you over anymore, they can just mail you your grief.

      I wish that we could measure how much the potential of the mind to expand has been stunted by television. George Carlin

      by Laddyboy on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:52:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  DWI cases aren't (0+ / 0-)

      heard in traffic court in NY, because DWI is a crime.

      A DWI in NY, even if pleaded down to DWAI, provides thousands, not mere hundreds, to hard-pressed local governments.

      For cops looking to fill their traffic ticket quota, DWI arrests are the Holy Grail.

      Again, be forewarned.

      The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

      by devtob on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:21:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hadn't thought of this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob

    but of course it makes perfect sense. I drove without my license tonight, I'm a rebel.

    "He's patriotic in sincere ways, and not in photo-op ways." - jenontheshore

    by Ivey476 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:44:21 PM PDT

  •  Agreed (100%) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob

    Parking violations are also going to go up (meter maids get ready). Look for higher fines and for surcharges to increase tremendously as well!
    Watch also for claims that you owe money for "overpayments".

    I wish that we could measure how much the potential of the mind to expand has been stunted by television. George Carlin

    by Laddyboy on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:47:37 PM PDT

  •  They got me last year with that damned camera (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, Cassandra Waites

    THEY said I run a redlight. I think it was entrapment.

    Not really. I ran the redlight and I'm just so thankful no one was hurt. I didn't run run it...i went through on yellow and it turned red while I was lollygagging in the middle but still glad no one was hurt. I paid the ticket and now I stay away from intersections with cameras.

    Why would you think it was ok to wear headphones while driving a car? I know you could argue the case legally but truthfully?

    •  I bought a used car with (0+ / 0-)

      a lousy radio.

      Rather than spending a few hundred to fix it, I used a Walkman/radio.

      A couple of weeks ago, with the headphones on, I edged left to pass and did not see a car in the blind spot.

      He/she hit the horn, I heard it through the headphones, and moved back into my original lane.

      I have no idea why NY decided to outlaw headphones for drivers (and bicyclists), but I sense that it was less for public safety reasons than for public finance reasons.  

      The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

      by devtob on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:37:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My community desperately needs this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob

    I wish my community would let all communities that need revenue send their police here to ticket bad drivers, then let their home departments keep the revenue.

    Drivers here (in the fiefdom of Sen. Bob Menendez, cursed be his name) think a crosswalk means, "Speed up," a stop sign means, "Run over the pedestrian," and a traffic light combined with a walk/don't walk signature means, "Speed up and run over the pedestrian."

    It also would be great if someone would tell Menendez: if you want to even be mentioned as a darkhorse VP candidate even in passing, have every spare cop in the country from a town that needs revenue come to his old congressional district and extort fines form the operators of the open air drug supermarkets all over the district.

    Clearly, a lot of people have paid a lot of people off, and maybe nothing can be done about that. But then at least go after the drug supermarket operators and get them to pay fines that can be used to pay to keep community centers open, or something along those lines.

  •  Better yet.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob

    Ditch the car and take public transit.  No traffic woes, no risk of traffic tickets, just relaxation as someone else does the driving.

    Or ride a bike.

    The planet and your grandchildren will thank you.

  •  Most revenue goes to the state (0+ / 0-)

    Most of the revenue from NY traffic tickets goes to the state, and little of it goes to the municipalities. A few smart communities have the cops write the tickets for municipal code violations (the Village of Hempstead, for example, and maybe the City of Troy).

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