By on December 10, 2009

Marion County Courthouse circa 1875 (courtesy:b-levi.com)

Motorists who receive minor parking or traffic tickets in Indianapolis, Indiana are being threatened with fines of up to $2500 if they attempt to take the ticket to court. A local attorney with the firm Roberts and Bishop was so outraged by what he saw in Marion County traffic court that he filed a class action suit yesterday seeking to have the practice banned as unconstitutional.

“The deck is stacked against the motorist,” lawyer Paul K. Ogden wrote. “To penalize that person for seeking justice seems wrong. I know it is done for the purpose of discouraging baseless challenges to tickets and clogging the docket, but in the process you are also penalizing people who have a legitimate defense and want a chance to present it to the court.”

The city made explicit the threat of additional fines for challenging parking tickets in a November 30 press release announcing a deal between Indianapolis and a private firm, T2 Systems, to hand over operations of a parking ticket court to increase municipal income.

“Using Six Sigma process improvement strategies, it is estimated that under this program the city may collect an additional $352,000 to $520,000 in parking citation revenue over the next 12 months,” the city press release stated. “If citations are not paid prior to their scheduled hearing, the city may request a fine of up to $2500 per citation. Upon receiving a judgment for an unpaid citation, individuals responsible could be subject to collections actions or having their vehicle registration suspended.”

In traffic court, Judge William Young has been making good on the threats by routinely siding with police officers in disputes and imposing fines of up to $500 on anyone who challenges a moving violation ticket, no matter how minor, and loses. Those who pay without going to court do not face this extra fine.

“Unfortunately what you have happen a lot of times is that judges aren’t particularly worried about whether what they’re doing may be violating the law as the odds of someone ever appealing a $400 traffic ticket is remote,” Ogden wrote. “I see it all the time. Trial judges flouting the law knowing they are unlikely to ever be challenged on an appeal because the litigants can’t afford it.”

Ogden is specifically representing three motorists affected by court policies. Toshinao Ishii received a ticket for driving 63 MPH in a 55 zone in February. Had he paid the ticket without challenge, the fine would have been $150. After Judge Young sided with the police officer in court, Ishii was fined $550. Motorist Matthew Stone was told by his doctors not to wear a seatbelt over his chest as it could damage his cardiac pacemaker. He received a $25 ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. After court officials threatened Stone with a $500 fine, he gave up his intention of challenging the citation. Adam Lenkowsky, who did not receive a ticket, attempted to attend a traffic court proceeding on September 23, 2009. He was barred from the court, despite the state constitutional requirement that court proceedings be open.

Ogden argues the court’s practices in the first two cases violate the excessive fines clause of the state constitution as well as the clause requiring that “all penalties shall be proportioned to the nature of the offense.”

[courtesy:thenewspaper.com]

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42 Comments on “Indiana: City Threatens $2500 Fines for Challenging Traffic Tickets...”


  • avatar
    briancataldi

    Does anyone know the percentage, either in Indianapolis or anywhere else, of tickets that get overturned when they are challenged in course?  If it is extremely low, say 5-10%, across the board then I would say it is probably not such a horrible thing.  Think about it, the remaining 90-95% of times they are just wasting tax payer’s money and also filling the docket beyond what is necessary.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      So what if the percentage is low?  It sounds like this one judge is biased as hell and the Borgified city doesn’t want to bother with ANY resistance from the little people.
      I once wasted a whole day fighting a speeding ticket, even though I was successful I’m glad the stupid legislators here hadn’t yet heard of this latest scam.

    • 0 avatar
      Selektaa

      This is a horrible idea. Think about it, the people that were able to successfully appeal their ticket probably wouldn’t even try if they knew they risked an additional $500 (3x the amount of the original fine!) by even showing up and arguing. Most of them would probably just suck it up and pay the unjust ticket because they were afraid of being screwed out of even more money by speaking up. This law intimidates people into just rolling over and taking whatever the cops hand out.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      An adversarial legal system can’t work if the adversaries on one side are pushed out of the arena by penalties as excessive as this. Without the checks provided by citizens forcing the authorities to prove the facts of a violation, it is inevitable that those same authorities will become callous in their handing out of violations. While adding court fees to the original fine when the litigant fails to prove his case is valid, both to defray court costs and to deter frivolous challenges, effectively tripling (or more) the fine is nothing more than an attempt to stifle challenges to police authority, and is tyranical in nature. This must not stand.

    • 0 avatar
      criminalenterprise

      Of course 95+% of the time the ticket stands, unless the officer fails to appear (and even then sometimes the defendant loses!).  It’s a kangaroo court.
      The judge will always rule in favor of the police.  Your only recourse if you are truly not guilty is to appeal and provide some proof or invalidate the kangaroo court’s ruling because district judges just do whatever the hell they want and follow no real legal guidelines.
       
      This is an alarming violation of civil liberties.  Access to the judiciary is essential for our liberty, codified in common law, and written into our Constitution.  Any judge who imposes punitive fees on a citizen who even attempts to defend himself in court should be censured and impeached.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      Conviction rates on accused murderers is pretty high too.  Maybe we should make it an automatic death penalty if they waste the court’s time by pleading innocent.  The rules of our legal system are there to protect the innocent because innocent people are accused of crimes.  To restrict a person’s God given right (not a privelege given by men) to face their accusers and answer those accusations should be abhorent to every American.

  • avatar
    briancataldi

    Sorry, I meant “challenged in COURTS”…can’t spell and I don’t know how to edit my comment…

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Judges have been pulling this since I was a kid.

    Once I was in court to fight a ticket (which I won, but that’s for a different day).
    The kid ahead of me pleads guilty to littering (threw a coupla beer cans on the grass of the local country club). As this also just happens to be hizzoner’s CC, he offers the guy a fine of $100 or 40 hours of community. Kid’s no dope, takes the fine. Well hizzoner wanted him to take the community service. So he says to the kid,” You’re going to pay $1000 rather than do 40 hours”?  Kid says, “Your honor, you said $100?!?” Hizzoner says, ” My court, my rules…”. 

    Needless to say the kid took the community service and I was 99% sure that I was gonna get a fair bench trial. Just like in Zimbabwe.

  • avatar
    manny

    Typical, you’ll see other states getting on the bandwagon soon.  As the economy keeps tanking, the Bozos in power need to generate money to keep their positions viable, at the cost to John Q. Public.  Why did taring  and feathering officials ever go out of vogue, we sure could use it now.

  • avatar
    midelectric

    So if this results in nobody challenging their tickets it follows that the judge can be laid off.  More savings!!

  • avatar
    doubleshooter

    Finally somebody had the guts to go up against Judge Young’s threats for violators.  I hope they toss this dude outta there!

  • avatar
    Adub

    As a lawyer, I can tell you that the deck is stacked.

    And judges don’t like court any more than you do; most want to sit in their chambers and get paid for nothing. They fail to realize their job is to adjudicate, and that means sitting on the bench and hearing cases.

    Rant over.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    To play devil’s advocate here, the flip side is that without the increased fine, the guy with the ticket had nothing to lose by contesting other than a trip to court.  Maybe he gets lucky and the cop doesn’t show up, so he skates.  If the cop shows up, worst that happens is he pays the ticket.  No gamble, this.  Therefore, the incentive is for more people to contest their tickets, more crowded court dockets, and you have multiple police officers getting paid (maybe overtime) to go and testify in traffic cases which would mostly result in upholding the ticket anyway. 
    As I understand it, the fine is set by statute with a range, and it is up to the judge’s discretion where on that range to assess the fine in a given case.  We need to understand that the initial fine on a ticket is NOT the maximum fine permitted by statute, or anywhere near it.  If we think of it as an attempt to compromise (lest everyone come to court because they cannot possibly do worse by contesting the ticket) then it is not unreasonable that some element of risk be added for the demand of a trial.  In civil court, the loser is responsible for court costs (and occasionally attorneys fees), which is not much different.
    As a practical matter, cities and counties everywhere are scratching for revenue.  I would rather have a system like this than one that relies on speed traps (or cameras) and overtly promotes more tickets.  Here, many (though n0t all) of these tickets are probably called for, and this policy encourages resolution short of a trial.

    Also, thanks for your photo, which is of our historical Marion County Courthouse which, unfortunately, was torn down in the early 1960s.

    • 0 avatar
      midelectric

      There’s more at stake than that, first the lost income from spending at least 1/2 a day in court and the fact it’s not just the fine, but the points levied.  At least in MD it’s worth going to court to get a PBJ (probation before judgment) where in return for an increased fine no points will be levied if you can keep from screwing up again for a year.  The increased insurance rates from a speeding ticket for the three years it takes for the points to be erased make going to court worth it.

    • 0 avatar
      gsw0

      You CAN BEAT THE LAW.  This was told to me by my Father in Law a few weeks ago. He is now retiring the beginning of next year but has been a truck driver hauling diesel fuel around WV and Ohio areas.  He had a load one day late summer earlier this year and exited a major state highway came down an off ramp and made a right turn onto another road.  He slowed down again a few moments later as traffic in front of him stopped.
      He was shocked a minute later when an Ohio State Trooper Post Commander pulls him over and  writes him up for failure to yield and speeding.  The State Trooper had someone higher up from the Capital riding with him that day so I am sure they were passing tickets out left and right.  My FIL is an old timer who does not like to be messed with since he is a straight arrow but felt the charges were totally wrong.  He decides to fight the ticket and take it to court and goes out and finds a local atty to fight his case for him.  Money was no object.  Mind you this was a small small town in Ohio that he did this in.
      The first thing the atty says is he has been waiting years to take a traffic case to court and fight. Then he says the State Trooper Post Commander and Judge play golf together every week and that the Trooper will lie like crazy in court and of course gets away with it.  My FIL says he will tell the truth since he did nothing wrong.  Case goes to court and the State Trooper Post Commander takes the stand and says that he was doing 50 MPH heading in the same direction as my FIL and saw him speeding and went right thru a yield sign when he came down the off ramp.
      Judge dismisses the Trooper and then the fun starts when the Trooper calls a witness. A witness that “saw” what happened.  The 1st thing the witness does once on the stand is state “well your honor, I  was doing 40 mph and headed in this direction and this tractor trailer had pulled out in front of me a while ago so I slowed down”.   My FIL atty asks  1 question –to the witness – “Was there a State Trooper directly behind you?”   The answer was yes.   The atty asks another question to whom I am not sure but ”  how is it that not only does the State Trooper spot my client speeding and not yielding for oncoming traffic but he does so at 50 mph while not rearending the witness who stated he was directly in front of the trooper but behind the tractor trailer while going 40 mph??
      The judge just lost his temper and was not used to looking stupid in court by having testimonies falsely given – he admonished the Trooper , thru the court case out and said the Trooper will go to jail the next time he appears in court lying in front of him again.   (Since he made the judge look bad !!) Evidently, the Trooper was so used to not appearing in court and never being challenged, he forgot to “coordinate his testimony” with the witness. My FIL was stunned and the atty was so excited about winning that he did not even charge any fees for taking the case since he said the judge and Trooper were so corrupt that he has wanted a piece of them in court for years. Mind you this is all from a Post Commander who you would think would be more morally inclined.
      Sidenote:  Evidently, this protection from tickets is only good for my FIL, as my wife just got her 1st ever speeding ticket at age 35 last week.  No we are not fighting it as she would miss too much time from work.  But the thought has crossed my mind.
       

  • avatar
    tced2

    What is the main purpose of tickets and fines?
    To encourage lawful activity?
    To enhance revenue of city?

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    They have another revenue raising scam in Indy. 

    In the downtown, they have a huge traffic circle encircling a beautiful Civil War monument, there are main streets leading out of the circle like spokes on a wheel.

    Once in Indy on business, 8 of us took our two rental cars and parked on one of these streets in the designated parking area and fed the meter, had dinner at a fancy restaurant (we were celebrating a big business deal), fancy meal, enormous bill, and then the 8 of us walked back to our cars … NOT THERE!  Both were gone!

    We thought we had walked back to the wrong spoke … we searched the other spokes … no cars, very strange, then I spotted some policemen cops directing several tow-trucks … I went over and told them I thought our cars may have been stolen … cop smiles and answers, no, they’ve been towed because at xx:xx, the spokes and the circle have to be emptied else the cars get towed… then he points at a sign on a lamp post about 20 feet above the street where no one would ever look and he smiles again…

    Then we could find no taxis, it was cold, we had to walk all over town … first to town hall, go thru metal detectors, wait in line, then they would not take a visa card, so we had to walk around and find an ATM, then back to town hall, thru metal detectors, wait in line, then … wait for it … break time, then pay, then follow instructions from clerk … oh, you can walk to the impound lot … xy blocks up and xy blocks over … then again, no taxis, so we walk, and walk, and then it began to rain … but the raincoats and umbrellas were in the car … and the route she told us was blocked by construction, so we had to go several blocks back and find a way thru … dark streets … lousy neighborhood … cold, wet suits, wet shoes, cold feet … stupid city.  And this is how, at least from the distance across the Atlantic Ocean, things seem to be trending across the USA, at least with respect to vehicle-related violations.  Before long, its going to be like Mexico, no respect for the law, and eventually corruption will creep down into the ranks of the patrolmen who will be looking for their little cut … just like the judge has now.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Carpenter

      All I can say is, the USA is slowly becoming “Mexico North”. 

      Corruption is going to be rampant, because it is already so right from “The Occupant” (of what was once considered the People’s White House) on down.

      Fair warning to all non-Americans about what this country is turning into.  If you come here to do business, it’s not the same place it was 10-15 years ago. 

      At one point I used to think that Americans would stand up for themselves and put this kind of behavior to an end by getting rid of such judges, bureaucrats and “overlords”. 

      But I suspect that most people are far too busy watching “reality TV” and drinking beer while collecting freshly minted money from Uncle Sugar in Washington. 

      Yes, I despair for my country and its future.  Things like this just make me shake my head.

      No, I won’t be going to Indianapolis for any vacations and spend any money while such behavior exists there.  But I’m running out of places to go to.  The Indy 500 will have to go on without me being a spectator. 

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      If you were visiting from another city, I hope you sent a letter of complaint to the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. Hearing that visitors will shun their city due to shabby treatment is a powerful incentive for them to lean on city politicians.

    • 0 avatar
      Rick

      HA.  I live here, and I know that downtown parking is a nightmare.  I went to a Colts game a few years ago, and parked on a street where one side of the street had a clear, yellow curb, and one side did not have any paint on the curb. I parked on the paint-free side.

      When I returned to my car after the game, it was gone, as were all of the cars that parked on that side of the street.  The cars that were parked along the yellow curb were unmolested.

      A few days later, I went to take some pictures of the unpainted curb to show the judge – lo and behold, I found a bright yellow curb.  However, it was clearly freshly painted, so I snapped a picture of the paint on the grass and weeds.

      I went to court – I didn’t have to pay the ticket, but nobody could ever figure out how to get the money I paid to the impound lot refunded.

      Bunch of apathetic dumbasses running this city, for sure.

  • avatar
    George B

    The extra fine is clearly excessive.  Much higher stakes than a double or nothing  bet.  However, I could see charging on the order of $100 for court cost to discourage frivolous appeals from clogging the court.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    This is what happens when you put too many cops on the street. They have too much time on their hands, so they generate revenue to protect their employment.

    Now that governments have falling sales/property tax revenues, does anyone think for a moment that they will actually cut themselves to remain proportional in the equation? Yeah, right.

    Orwell was just off a bit on the date. 

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      Too many cops isn’t the problem. Most cops would rather chase real bad guys than bother decent people. It’s self-serving politicians and bureaucrats who order them to abuse the law just to raise money.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    This reminds me of the time I was ticketed for parking in a very faded red zone in Henderson, NV. I was planning to just walk two blocks to City Hall and pay it, but my wife, bless her caution, suggested we call and find out the cost. $125.00. Well, we looked at each other, considered the likelihood that they would track us down from the Oregon plates on Mr. Hertz’s Marquis when we live in Washington, and blew off the ticket. Had it been on the order of $20 or $25, we might have bitched about the faded paint on the curb, but we’d have paid.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    This reminds me of the time I was ticketed for parking in a very faded red zone in Henderson, NV. I was planning to just walk two blocks to City Hall and pay it, but my wife, bless her caution, suggested we call and find out the cost. $125.00. Well, we looked at each other, considered the likelihood that they would track us down from the Oregon plates on Mr. Hertz’s Marquis when we live in Washington, and blew off the ticket. Had it been on the order of $20 or $25, we might have bitched about the faded paint on the curb, but we’d have paid.

    Hate to tell you this, but they will get you. Maybe 10 years from now, but they will get you.
     
    I lived in Phoenix for about 6 months about 10 years ago. Moved there with one car, and left another in CA. Got my AZ DL, and title and plates on the car I brought. After a few months, bring my other car.
     
    Driving the car into Phoenix get lit up simply for having CA plates on the car. (They don’t like CA people…) Get a ticket for no AZ plates and no AZ title. No biggie, gets dismissed when I get that car titled and tagged. Get that done, get transferred to KC  prior to the court date.  
     
    OK. Call the court, fax them the data, send them a money order, all done. Right? Nope.
     
    Flash forward to last week. Renewing my DL in MO. They tell me I need to get something straight with AZ before I can get my license renewed. WTF? So after 2 hours on the phone, find out that somebody dropped the ball in AZ. 10 YEARS AGO.
     
    Even better, the court has turned the matter over to a collection agency. Who now wants $900. Interesting, that although the court no longer is after me, a collection agency now has the extra-legal abilitty to quash my renewing my DL in another state.
     
    I have an attorney in Phoenix on this now, so we’ll see what happens. Beware, there’s now systems coming online that will either prevent your renewal, or administratively suspend your license (no notification required) for that out of state ticket you forgot about 10 or 20 years ago.
     
     

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    This is 1) excessive, and 2) can’t be constitutional.  I’m no lawyer, but it sure seems to me that the burden of proof is on the government.  Tickets are already questionable in this regard.
     
    But I just constantly compare this to any other act.  Plead guilty and you won’t be fined.  Don’t plead guilty and the fine is $1,000,000 if you lose.  Do it for shoplifting.  For anything else.  Its ridiculous.  The judicial system must prove guilt.  People have the right to defend themselves.  Using extortion cannot be allowed.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If citations are not paid prior to their scheduled hearing, the city may request a fine of up to $2500 per citation.

    That’s $2500…for an unpaid parking ticket. These people should be tarred and feathered.

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    I would be very tempted to take my $2500 back by disenfranchising the judge’s car with a hammer.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I have no idea why people are so terrified of big government, especially when small government has historically shown much more willingness to abuse, screw and oppress people than the upper levels have ever really dared.

  • avatar
    Durishin

    Overthrow the government!  Get these “ruling class” politicos and their appointees the hell out!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      You would do that by this nefarious method known as “voting” whereby you and citizens who agree with you can, by legal trickery, remove the current government and institute one that’s more to your liking.
       
      All you need is fifty percent plus one of “voters” to agree with you.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    I wonder what it’s going to take before there’s enough outcry for there to be a protest. All it needs is enough individuals to get their dander up sufficiently that they take the plates off of their rides.

    Get a movement going and it would be devestating for the government.

  • avatar
    NickR

    The shamelessness of municipalities and provinces in terms of punishing people and bilking them out of money is reaching new peaks daily. I was watching the news last night and they were talking about how the RIDE program is out in full force again. It was stated they were on the lookout for people impaired by ‘drugs, alcohol or fatigue. Fatigue? How the *expletive* do they make that determination?  Ask that time they got up?  How much coffee they drank?  Do they have children under the age of 2?  And this has real consquences…they can impound your car and suspend our license for 3 days.  It does in our driving record and your insurance company is privy to that information as well. 

    I hope that I can use fatigue as a defense.  “Officer, how much sleep did you have the night before you caught be speeding?  Were you hungover this morning?  How long was your shift?”  What bullshit.

    And this morning I read that two people were busted for public intoxication as they stood in a pub parking lot waiting for their designated driver.

    “Also, thanks for your photo, which is of our historical Marion County Courthouse which, unfortunately, was torn down in the early 1960s.”

    They tore that awesome building down??? Well, at least it is somehow comforting to know that it is not just Toronto that has a long history of utterly inept municipal government.

  • avatar
    loverofcars1969

    Stop crying lol. Porschespeed hit it right on the head. These cops were hired no doubt with a “get tough on crime” mandate. Well guess what getting shot at sucks but ticketing you nice good people going to and from work is great business. No fuss no muss. I am currently in Indiana and the worst thing about this place is they have the speeds for the roads set from 10 to 15 miles to slow.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    You would do that by this nefarious method known as “voting” whereby you and citizens who agree with you can, by legal trickery, remove the current government and institute one that’s more to your liking.

    You will get a new bunch that will be corrupted by the same forces that ruined the last bunch. You were being tongue-in-cheek, weren’t you? Unless you are part of the money that runs that council/city/state/country your vote is window dressing. The powers that be will do what they want as long as it serves them. They will ignore any law they wish, and get away with it until it bumps into someone else, who has more power.  That’s politics American style. Welcome!
    Well guess what getting shot at sucks but ticketing you nice good people going to and from work is great business.

    True policework can be dangerous at times, but in the big picture (across the whole country) it is about #20 on the list of dangerous jobs (that which get you dead). It is  more dangerous to be a landscaper or a steelworker than it is to be a cop. Or a fireman. Data from the BLS .
     
     http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.t03.htm

     


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