Transportation Policy

Indianapolis Tacks on Steep Fines for Challenging Traffic Tickets

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An Indianapolis attorney has filed a class action lawsuit against the city, claiming that traffic court judges are penalizing motorists who challenge traffic tickets by slapping them with additional fines ranging from $500 to $2,500. The fines are meant to discourage people who try to game the system by winning default judgments on legitimate tickets when the police officer who wrote it can't make it into court. But it's also a pretty strong incentive for people with legitimate complaints not to bother.

The fines are part of a broader campaign by the city to bring in more revenue from traffic fines, particularly parking tickets.

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  1. “The fines are meant to discourage people who try to game the system by winning default judgments on legitimate tickets when the police officer who wrote it can’t make it into court.”

    Next up. Those aquitted of crimes now face long sentences in order to prevent guilty people from gaming the system and getting aquitals after the witnesses of their crimes fail to appear in court. WTF?

    1. You’re always innocent until proven guilty… or accused of something.

      1. Hey, if you weren’t guilty the police wouldn’t suspect you. Right?

        1. D’oh, i always forget that!

  2. An Indianapolis attorney has filed a class action lawsuit against the city, claiming that traffic court judges are penalizing motorists who challenge traffic tickets by slapping them with additional fines ranging from $500 to $2,500.

    A “Don’t bother me!” tax… what a great idea! I mean, who said the Courts (and the overall government) were there to serve the People, if clearly they are here to serve themselves?

  3. We’re getting close, people. The revolution can’t be that far away.

    What if you try to challenge a red light camera? AFAIK they’ll never show up to court.

    1. At some point someone is going to lose their drivers license, and thus job and livelyhood over one of these bullshit things and just says fuck it and blows that damned traffic judge away. What a fucking worthless shitbag.

    2. Don’t know about other states but here in GA if your car is photographed going thru a red light camera the burden of proof is on YOU to prove that you were not the driver. The rationale is that because the fine is low and it doesn’t go on your driving record it is not a “criminal” case, rather an “administrative” one, so the normal protections in a criminal case do not apply. I would have a hard time believing such a thing except that I’ve gotten so jaded by the way courts rationalize away the Constitution.

      1. I would think that the fact that it was your car that was photographed, and you hadn’t reported it stolen, etc, would be pretty strong evidence that it was you who was driving. And if it was someone else you had authorized to drive your car, you presumably could identify that person and offer to testify in court against them.

        The Constitution was not put in place to protect the guilty. It was put in place to protect the innocent accused, and perhaps protect a few guilty people by mistake.

        1. What if you did loan your car to someone and they ran the red light and refused to admit they did it? Your word against theirs. Shouldn’t be your job to prove what did or did not happen.

      2. I mean, if a driver hit your car and drove away, and you got the license number, would you expect to have to prove that the owner of the car was actually the one driving it when you sue them?

        1. Apples and oranges–in a civil lawsuit the owner of a car is responsible for all damage done by it while a guest is driving the car. Not so when someone is charged with a crime.

      3. IIRC, the differences between and “adminstrative” and “criminal” offense is the crux. Again, IIRC San Diego got its red light tickets thrownout becuase the tickets were criminal and points went on the license.

        Then again, I may not be remembering correctly.

  4. If the officer can’t be bothered to make it to court, or if his commander won’t release him for court duty, then it must not be that important to them. Choose your priorities, guys.

    The job of a police officer does not end with writing the ticket. Aside from the obvious legal reasons, the requirement that they appear in court to testify should also act as a counterbalance to prevent the writing of frivolous citations.

  5. I seem to remember Reason reporting that in the state of MA they were charging a $25 “fee” to challenge a ticket. I bet those clowns are kicking themselved now…they could have scored a couple large!

  6. Tying government revenues to crimes and misdemeanors is so stupid that I sometimes think that life is just one big video game.

    1. Isn’t that the model of “justice enforcement” pushed by our anarcho-capitalist friends? Private justice corporations who make money on fines?

      1. But then i just reload the game a few times till i win at the track, and buy an enormous arsenal.

        Then i take over the whole hood.

        Wait, are they playing a different game? I thought San Andreas would be the model for the Game of Life.

  7. I don’t see how it can NOT be a violation of due process to have a defendant who pleads not guilty punished more severely because they took up the court’s time.

    The entire reason the state exists is to support the court system. The state has no other legitimate function. The state has no right to “complain” about citizens actually showing up in court to plead not guilty.

    Of course, our quisling courts will fail to protect our rights here, because they will find that the state has a “compelling interest” in issuing traffic tickets, and will declare that their “strict scrutiny” tells them it’s OK to jettison your due process rights to support the traffic courts in their important work. Just like the Sotomayor court will undo the “cross examination of expert witnesses” case from last session just as soon as they have the opportunity to do so. If the exercise of your rights makes it inconvenient, expensive, or time-consuming for courts to function, there will be plenty of judges lining up for the chance to tell you to go fuck your

    1. …mother? So what, Joe Pesci is a judge now?

    2. You can’t be punished for asserting your rights. For example, a jury can’t consider an accused pleading innocent or not taking the stand as an agrivating factor in their sentence. That is exactly what this is. You are entitled to a hearing no matter how guilty you are. And you can’t be punished for asserting your rights.

    3. I don’t see how it can NOT be a violation of due process to have a defendant who pleads not guilty punished more severely because they took up the court’s time.

      It IS a violation of due process. This is most likely the main argument for the class action suit.

  8. They have started doing this in Boston as well, its only $25 per filing but the premise is the same.

  9. To be clear: demanding due process and facing your accuser is not “gaming the system” – it is everyone’s constitutional right.

  10. Hoosier Clem: “Looky hyeer, Maw! We’s in the nooozpaper!”

    I fucking hate that place.

  11. This reminds me of my long-held cunning plan to capsize the judicial system.

    If everybody who got a ticket on some specific day (the fourth of July, say) decided to fight it in court, the system would grind to a smoking, juddering halt.

    1. Who woulda thought The Revolution would come in such a benign form…

  12. ‘I don’t see how it can NOT be a violation of due process to have a defendant who pleads not guilty punished more severely because they took up the court’s time.’

    Good point, but naturally, the courts don’t see it that way. They will approve of plea-bargaining as long as it’s not *too* over-the top. In fact, criminal cases are generally resolved with a plea.

    The U.S. Park Service proposes schedules of fins for people who mail in an admission of guilt for certain infractions at the national parks – such-and-such fine if you plead guilty to a littering charge, and so forth. Plus you don’t have to come to court if you just mail in the check. If you contest it and get convicted, the court is free to impose higher fines (up to the statutory maximum, of course) plus the inconvenience of going to a court which may be remote from your home (if you got the citation while you’re an out-of-state tourist in a national park).

    This case seems to be filed based on the Indiana bill of rights – specifically, a ban on excessive fines, a requirement that punishments be proportioned to the offense and (for one plaintiff who was allegedly denied access to his own trial) the requirement of open courts.

    1. It’s not a “plea bargain.” If you decide to forego a plea bargain you can be given a harsher sentence after trial if the facts support that sentence. The extra punishment is not because you request a trial but based on the facts of the case.

      We already have a 5-0 disciplinary case from the Indiana Supreme Court which says that if a judge imposes a harsher penalty on someone for asking for a trial, it’s a violation of judicial ethics. The Complaint has been amended to add a new count to reflect this. We are very confident of prevailing.

  13. If you work for the government, you are the enemy.

  14. It’s all about safety. The revenue generated has niothing to do with it.

    Also, I won’t cum in your mouth.

  15. Sounds like they’re running a tidy little racket there:

    http://www.complaintsboard.com…..14354.html

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