29 March 2012

Cash can make a speeding ticket "disappear" (legally)

From the StarTribune in Minnesota, but it probably occurs in other states as well:
Motorists with no recent driving infractions are taking advantage of little-known court deals in which they pay a sometimes-hefty fee and keep their records clean as long as they don't get caught disobeying traffic laws too quickly again. In some cities in Hennepin County, for instance, the drivers can end up paying more than double the price of the ticket.

 "It's a loophole," said Jeff Hochstein, a 43-year-old self-described habitual speeder, who said he has sought and received the deal several times throughout his driving career in an attempt to keep his insurance rates lower. "There's ways to buy your way out of it."

Besides added revenue, the deals help keep court calendars from getting clogged with traffic cases, some prosecutors say. Still, some critics worry they give a pass to speeders -- one of the nation's deadliest road hazards -- even as legislators consider a bill to keep more speeding tickets off driving records. The deals, allowed in some cities but not others, raise questions of fairness and governmental policy.

"To me, that's bribery," said Sharon Gehrman-Driscoll, director of Minnesotans for Safe Driving. "What message are we sending our kids? Daddy's going to pay this ticket but he's gonna pay a little more so then no one knows about it? ... I think as a society we need to always be as fair as we possibly can."..

In Hennepin County, most cities allow qualified drivers to get a deal, called a continuance for dismissal, simply by going to the courthouse and getting the OK from a hearing officer. The ticket's fines and fees are dismissed and replaced by "prosecution costs" which go entirely to the city, along with a state surcharge. The total bill can run as high as $325 in some cities, far above the $145 or so that the speeding ticket would have cost...

Tallen said he and other prosecutors are careful to make sure the benefit isn't just for the wealthy, though. He allows people the option to work off the tab through community service.

Tallen said he wasn't in favor of offering continuances at first, but judges urged him to cut down the number of cases going to trial. "We got tremendous pressure from the bench to get rid of cases," he said. "That's the only reason I did it."..
More on the details of the law and its ethical ramifications at the StarTribune.


  1. UPS does a similar thing where it pays the tickets without contesting and in exchange the tickets don't "accrue" to the point where a normal vehicle would be booted. Link

  2. The big problem I have with this is quite simple. What is to prevent me from speeding in one jurisdiction and paying for the ticket in that locality, and then going into another jurisdiction and doing the same thing again. You Speed? It goes onto your record, period.


  3. But isn't the entire point of the ticket system to increase state revenue anyway? No one thinks of the speeding laws as being as "serious" as "real laws." Even the officers who pull you over don't treat you as if you've done something wrong. They check your insurance, write you your fine, and you go on your way without any sense of wrongdoing, just an irritation that you got caught while dozens of people around you sped by. The same goes for the vehicle registration laws - they have a nominal legal/moral purpose, but their practical purpose is to keep you paying.

    The system detailed in the post is actually a way to maximize revenue from chronic speeders. The state can bill them double for normal tickets, not have to revoke their license for multiple violations (keeping them on the road speeding), and then bill them double again the next time.

  4. I got my first ever ticket this last year - for not coming to a full and complete stop at the three-way stop sign in my quiet residential area. Now, I had no clue why the officer pulled me over because I DID come to a complete stop, but he went ahead and gave me a ticket for $125 anyway, saying "you can contest this ticket in court if you want."

    What was I to do? I took a half-day off from work to go to the Hennepin County court, only to find 90-100 people or so are given the same court time with the same designated court room. There were 6 other court rooms, each with 100 people in them, and there's just ONE judge to preside over ALL of them. The lawyer for our court room came out and gave a speech that was basically, "you can either pay $200 right now -which is a deal I made with the judge for you guys, it's normally $250- and have this ticket removed from your record so long as you don't get another ticket in the next year, or you can try to schedule another court date to defend yourself if you feel you were ticketed unjustly. Know that if you reschedule, it will probably take a couple of court dates before you get any verdict because the system is overloaded, and for each court date you will be charged $70 in processing fees whether you win or lose."

    Even though I feel like I was wrongly ticketed and the lawyer was obviously discouraging us from clogging an already worn out system, I paid my $200 then and there because I couldn't take more days off of work to contest a ticket in court. Plus, I don't plan to get another ticket anytime soon. There was an ease factor in taking care of it then and there that I opted for. I agree with Nate - often these types of tickets are given just so the state can make easy money and cops can meet their quotas- it has nothing to do with actual safety. I don't feel like I took advantage of the system - quite the opposite. I feel like the system took advantage of me.

    1. Interesting. Thank you, Lisa.

      Stan (former Hennepin County resident)

  5. Not sure about this tactic, but I have met with prosecutors before and had the charged modified to a non-moving violation. They get their money, but nothing goes on your state driving record and your insurance premiums stay the same.

    And on the topic of non-warranted tickets, one time the prosecutor sought me out and told me that 'I already talked to the officer and we are willing to offer a modified charge, this is a good day for you.' Maybe he mistook me for a blonde, but they had no case and he wanted to make it go away. I took the offer, because if you run into a crooked (or hungry...) judge you can get screwed.

  6. Not sure if it's the same outside of PA, but here you just show up to the court date. Generally the officer or trooper doesn't show and they reduce it to 5 miles over the limit and you get a refund for part of the ticket cost a few weeks later. The points only stay if you were going WAY over the limit or don't show for the court date.


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