Trial By Declaration: Fight A Traffic Ticket Without Going To Court

The traffic ticket industry relies on people not having enough time to fight their tickets. Going to court, often multiple times, can be a burden on even the most motivated ticket fighters.

Because of the amount of time a traffic ticket case requires, we’re often asked if there is any way to fight a traffic ticket without the hassle of driving to the courthouse. The good news is that in certain states, through something called “trial by declaration” or “trial by affidavit,” it’s possible. The bad news is that those states are in the minority.

Trial by declaration allows a defendant to state their case in writing, send it to the judge, and have the judge make a decision based on the facts presented in the letter.

Although this may sound appealing, there are few things to consider before fighting a traffic ticket in this way:

    1. When you fight your traffic ticket using trial by declaration, you give up the right to directly ask the officer questions.
    2. Any chance of dismissal due to the absence of the ticketing officer disappears.
    3. Because you’re not there in person it becomes much easier for the judge to find you guilty — all it takes is a rubber stamp.
    4. In some states you give up your right to a regular trial when opting for trial by declaration.
    5. As mentioned previously, it’s not available in the vast majority of states.

States where trial by declaration is not allowed include:

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Louisiana Senate Adopts Ticket Quota Ban

Louisiana state Senate votes unanimously to ban formal and informal traffic ticket quotas.

State Senator Joe McPhersonThe Louisiana Senate yesterday voted unanimously to adopt one of the nation’s toughest bans on traffic ticket quotas. (YAY!) State Senator Joe McPherson (D-Woodworth) pushed this measure to a vote after related legislation to limit the ability of small cities to profit from speed traps died in committee Wednesday.

McPherson’s bill would make it illegal for any state agency to have a plan — even an informal plan — that evaluates police officers based on the number of arrests made or citations issued. The bill goes on to make it illegal for any political subdivision to “suggest” to a police officer that he is “expected to issue a predetermined number” of tickets.

The proposed law does not contain any of the escape clauses commonly found in ticket quota bans in other states. In Maryland, for example, quotas are banned but police supervisors may use “quantitative data” in evaluating an officer’s performance. Such clauses allow quotas to continue in agencies such as the Pennsylvania State Police where averages and proportions achieve the effect of a quota without triggering the law.

Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor documented the state’s problem with speed traps in a report released last June. At least fifteen localities used traffic tickets to generate more than half of their municipal budget. Baskin, Georgetown, Lillie and Robeline each made more than 85 percent of their general budget revenue from traffic citations. Baskin was the top speed trap with $1719 in per capita speeding ticket revenue (view report). Baton Rouge came in at number eight on the National Motorists Association list of the top-ten biggest speed traps nationwide.

Source: Louisiana State Legislature, 5/15/2008

Louisiana ‘speed trap’ bill killed; Barney’s still got his radar gun

An effort has died in the Louisiana House that sought to limit revenues from speeding tickets for towns to between 10 percent and 35 percent. The issue, however, isn’t dead yet.

The House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee voted 10-6 to kill a bill – HB1050 – from Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, that was intended to curtail communities in the state that pad their budgets with speed trap revenue.

Municipalities would have had their percentage of income resulting from speeding tickets limited. Towns with a population fewer than 1,000 could have kept only 35 percent of their revenue from speeding fines. Cities with populations between 1,000 and 3,000 could have kept only 20 percent, and municipalities with populations of at least 3,000 could have had only 10 percent.

Revenues exceeding those percentages would have been used for police training statewide.

Supporters said the protections are needed to dissuade local governments from relying on speeding tickets to fill city coffers. Such activities discourage travel and commerce throughout the state, they said.

Others said they want to rein in cities that use their police departments to “pester” nonresident drivers with unreasonable ticketing.

Opponents said if drivers want to avoid getting tickets in so-called “speed traps,” they should slow down.

A legislative auditor’s report released last summer showed there were at least 15 cities that generated more than half their total revenue during a three-year period from speeding tickets. The top revenue earner was Baskin, LA. The northeastern Louisiana village claimed 87 percent of total revenue from speeders.

Three other cities also claimed at least 85 percent of revenues from speeding fines.

Downs’ bill would have authorized the legislative auditor to investigate towns accused of cheating. Jurisdictions found guilty would have had all ticketing duties on state and federal highways in the area taken over by state police.

Another provision in the bill would have limited speed cameras to “high volume” locations or roads with high frequencies of speed-related wrecks.

Despite the setback, Downs isn’t done fighting for the legislation. He has introduced a similar effort – HB1329 – and sent it to a different committee.