Speed Cameras

D.C. Lines City Coffers With Arbitrary Traffic Tickets


Bidgee, commons.wikimedia.com

Asset forfeiture is not the only means for law-enforcement agencies and municipalities to line their coffers. From Ashley Halsey III, writing in today's Washington Post, we learn the sordid details of Washington, D.C.'s capricious parking and traffic ticketing practices:

In Washington, D.C., where issuing traffic citations is a $179 million-a-year business, drivers get speeding tickets for violations they don't commit and for vehicles they've never owned.

According to a recent audit conducted by D.C.'s inspector general, the District resembles a "Wild West" of traffic and parking enforcement, thanks largely to its often arbitrary practices of issuing tickets. Speed cameras in particular come under close scrutiny. The District uses 87 speed cameras—and counting—in order regulate traffic speed on its roads, many of which are multilane thoroughfares. When a speed camera captures more than one vehicle, it's up to a department analyst to decide which vehicle deserves the ticket:

One reviewer told the inspector general that the speeding vehicle is "usually the closer one" to the speed camera. The report said there was "a lack of precision and certainty [as to] which vehicle was speeding."

The onus of proof is on the ticketed motorists, who often find it near impossible to muddle their way through the morass of unpredictable ticketing criteria in order to contest the tickets. But District officials seem to like this reversal of the common law presumption of innocence. One such official is quoted anonymously in the report as saying,

One of the beauties of parking, it's like the [Internal Revenue Service]. If you get a parking ticket, you are guilty until you have proven yourself innocent…And that's worked well for us.

Indeed it has, with moving violations and parking tickets becoming a District cash cow. D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier claims that the cameras save lives. But this 2012 article from Watchdog.com argues that aggressive ticketing and speed enforcement offer little in increased safety, but much in increased revenue.

And that revenue has to come from somewhere. As Brian Doherty argues, aggressive arbitrary policing of minor and petty infractions is effectively a regressive tax disproportionately affecting the poor, who often do not have the means to pay or contest tickets. While tickets might be an inconvenience and a slight expense for the middle and upper classes, the poor often face dire consequences when penurious cities turn to ticketing as a reliable revenue stream. For the poor caught in a tangled and expensive system, the official platitudes about public safety are little solace. 


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  1. Why don’t we do it in the road.

  2. I live in DC at the moment and promise you that the parking enforcement employees are the most efficient government employees you will ever find anywhere.

    Only two minutes over? Fuck you, pay me. Didn’t know the hours for this zone? Fuck you, pay me. Etc.

    1. The standard joke is that, in terms of efficiency, parking enforcement and the rest of city government are 180 degres apart.

    2. I once had my car towed even though there was still time before my parking space became illegal. Fun times.

  3. The US will stop at nothing until every American owns an automobile and only the top 20% in income are driving them.

    E-Z Credit terms on one hand, and capricious fines on the other. Why do you think the Caprice is the quintessential American police car?

    1. Oh, come on! Though also out of production, the Crown Vic is STILL the quintessential poe poe vehicle!

  4. It’s amazing how blatantly the government is nothing but a pack of thieves whose main purpose is stealing from the people they claim a monopoly of force over. I don’t understand why people tolerate it and how some actively fellate it. It’s not like they’re being spared.

    1. Tony told me that government is self-regulating because of elections, so this isn’t happening, or if it is, it’s all okay.

      1. The people that the Tony sockpuppet is designed to resemble don’t actually care about whether they’re getting fucked too. They’re so venal, envious, and hateful that all they care about is that the people they hate are getting fucked. They are the exemplification of “cut off your nose to spite your face”.

      2. You’re misquoting him. Government is self-regulating because of erections. Major difference in meaning there.

    2. What’s distressing is that I agree completely with this statement. Even those who benefit also suffer.

      What’s truly amazing is that if voters woke up tomorrow and said, “Wait, what have I been tolerating?” they could end a lot of this very quickly. Yet they don’t do that.

      1. I predict 60s style anti-government protests in the next decade.

        They are becoming absolutely flagrant about flaunting their power. The pendulum will swing.

        1. I sure hope so. It’s so bad right now–much worse than I ever thought it could get without an open tyranny (open in the sense of having a dictator, no elections, etc.–you know, the traditional tyranny). I’m still somewhat stunned that not only are we in this state, we’re not doing shit about it.

          1. But it doesn’t help that the mainstream media will label anyone who even COMPLAINS about it as some sort of extremist. It helps keep people in line. The Fourth Estate is cojoined with The Masters. The internet has had its impact, and will certainly have more to defeat the Pravda-esque nature of the media, but of course Congress is fighting back all the way.

            1. The media is supposed to play a very important role in our system, to call abuses to our attention and to bang the drum when government oppresses some or many of us. The failure of media to do this, by and large, is playing no small role in the acceleration along the path toward tyranny, economic failure, and other oppressive horrors.

  5. Places like DC, NYC and LA can be overtaken by ISIS and I know I wouldn’t care one bit. They’re not worth defending.

    1. Throw in Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago too.

      1. I was going to protest…I can’t. Fuck ’em all.

  6. The proper response to these tickets is to challenge every single one until the system is so clogged and backlogged, the government backs down.

    1. Or they just make it even tougher to challenge them and keep right on stealing.

      1. Make it expensive and annoying–that’s like half of our system right there. Proof that insurance is mostly a regulatory product and not the free market? The fact that they use the same expensive and annoying tactics more and more frequently.

    2. If “the poor” are too stupid to drive under the speed limit and/or read a damned parking sign, then there’s little hope for them to “challenge” tickets.

      Maybe “the poor” can just vote for more Democrats who can then rob the rest of us to pay for their speeding/parking tickets, just as we do their health care, children’s school lunches, etc. ‘Cuz, by gad sir, it’s too hard to read a damned sign or make a peanut butter sammich for your crotchfruit.

      1. You’re the only one who mentioned “the poor,” asshole. And I’m not poor, but I have driven half a million miles without causing harm to any other person or property despite ignoring speed limits. Why should I be punished for an arbitrary number despite doing no one any harm?

        1. Shut up and eat your peanut butter sammich, Brandon!


    3. Or they stop entertaining challenges to them.

    4. “Challenging” these auto-tickets means writing a letter and then waiting 8 months for a reply that tells you “Fuck you pay me.” Then you can schedule a hearing that will be at the most inconvenient time for you where they will tell you, “fuck you pay me.” And that will be that. I’d wager that they can handle thousands of those cases per month. If not, they’ll just push your case out a few months. Eventually, you’ll have to pay. They’re not going to let themselves get so bogged down that they won’t get that money.

  7. If you have a car, I heard Brooklyn is by far the worst place to be. Street sweeping according to the signage occurs EVERY day (sides of the street switch off).

    How often do residents actually see street sweepers? Maybe a couple times a month. Of course you get ticketed regardless of the appearance of a street sweeper.

    It’s an effing scam and nothing says “my government hates me” more than complete BS like that.

  8. *If you have a car, I heard Brooklyn is by far the worst place to be. *

    *It’s an effing scam and nothing says “my government hates me” more than complete BS like that.*

    Yeah, it may or may not be an “effing scam”, because you just “heard about it”.

    Reasoning requires evidence.

    1. My reasoning tells me you’re an asshole.

  9. Laws are now a revenue source,the biggest,the war on drugs.

    1. The law became a revenue source a long time ago, it’s just that people are starting to stop pretending otherwise, and also being more blatant about it. Because they can.

  10. It’s the price we pay….oh fuck it.

    1. When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: “Have ya paid your dues, Jack?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”

  11. The onus of proof is on the ticketed motorists,

    Um…the fuck it is!

    We are the government and we want to fuck you so hard your head falls off.

  12. I had some very enlightening conversations with the parking enforcement staff in CT when I got a parking ticket for my Jeep in New Haven. Trying to explain simple concepts like “I don’t own and have never owned a Jeep” and “I have never been to New Haven” did not go as well as planned.

    1. Don’t worry fellas, Millenials will turn this thing around yet!

  13. This has been the norm here in L.A. for decades. In the 10×20 mile valley there’s about 6 courthouses, daily processing hundreds or thousands of tickets. A day in l.A. traffic court should turn anyone into a libertarian. If not that, then the DMV will most definitely. I just paid 780.00 to register a motorcycle I bought for 2k. As i was yelling at the lowlife clerk, the guy next to me said, “they really need the money” I told him to fuck off and pay it for me then, I was so pissed.
    Traffic tickets START at around 500 and go up from there. God forbid you borrowed a car and had no insurance, that costs 1500.00. The vehicle code lists fines, and they are all like 25.00, 50.00 100.00 etc., but they add the secret “penalty assement” which make a 25.00 fine into about 500.00. God forbid you’re late, then they double it.

    Check it out:


    1. THEN LEAVE!!!

      I don’t know how else to say that anymore …

      The fact that people bitch about it and don’t DO something – leave, protest, get a petition signed, class-action lawsuit, WTF ever, something – is why these things continue to go on.

      If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. There is no middle ground.

      1. The answer to tyranny is not to run away from it.

        Personally, I fight every step of the way. I’ve pled not guilty to every ticket I’ve gotten in the last twenty years. I refuse every request to search. I’ve also help all of my friends mount a defense to their unjust tickets.

        I have filed complaints against numerous officers for lying, illegally searching my car, being aggressive and abusive.

        I’ve given statements to the FBI about the crooked nature of cops in my hometown. I’ve given my story to the newspaper.

        Nothing in my post implies that I have settled for sitting around complaining about it. Hell, just spreading the word is a form of protest.

        I would suggest reserving judgment until the facts are in.

  14. BTW, I’ve won almost every ticket I’ve fought, and quite a few for others as well.

  15. I’m a big fan of replace police with Cameras, Computers, Drones, and just about any other automated facility to enforce Traffic.

    This takes away “professional courtesy” so everyone gets the tickets.
    Traffic laws will become reasonable, speed traps will go away, and the speed limit would actually go up if we had cameras and not police officers.

    Once the cops, prosecutors, towns-people, judges themselves, along with their relatives start getting tickets, they’ll loosen up the thresholds.

    Anyone who drives in NY State breaks the law every single day several times a day.

    1. This takes away “professional courtesy” so everyone gets the tickets.

      And everyone has to pay them equally as well, right?

      1. You can make it a % of last years salary.

    2. Seeing as how professional courtesy is uniformly programmed into all the statist meat processors, updating a digital database to do the same is not a far stretch.

  16. “And this revenue has to come from somewhere…”

    No, it doesnt.

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