Truck Topics

Ticket Fixing: Probably More Serious Than You'd Expect.

By Jason McGlone
Posted Jul 19th 2010 5:08AM

Ticket-fixing is something you hear about every couple years or so; invariably, you'll hear about some city judge, police officers, or some other government official getting caught up in some ticket-fixing scandal.  It seems that ticket-fixing is a crime that happens across the country, too; all of the resources I found seem to show no real geographical boundaries.  Even over the last few years, there have been cases in New York City, San Francisco, across the Midwest, the South--everywhere. 

It should be noted also that ticket-fixing is nothing new, either.  Essentially, if anyone has ever "known a guy who knows a guy," so to speak, the chances are pretty good you've had the opportunity to have a ticket fixed.  Maybe you've actually gotten a ticket fixed.  Maybe you've fixed a few yourself--and by that, I don't mean that you went to the courthouse and paid your ticket. 

Ticket fixing is a crime, though, and it can be a fairly serious one.  Regardless of any potential jail time or fines to be paid by the folks who have fixed tickets, there are some reasonably deep ethical implications to ticket fixing.  This is something that we clearly know, but perhaps don't often think about--and maybe it's not a bad idea to do this, because ticket fixing exposes ethical cracks in both our government and our society.  Admittedly, in the grand scheme of things, it's probably not a huge deal when you look at it on the merit of a singular case, but on a large scale, it can represent a significant inequality among our citizenry, and a potential for abuse of various government offices.  Perhaps most problematic is the fact that ticket fixing can end up costing the cities lots of money in traffic and parking fines. 

2008 saw quite a number of ticket-fixing incidents: Denver, Jersey City, and Las Vegas each had their own incidents.  These range from singular incidents like the one in Denver where a police officer fixed a ticket for the boyfriend of a Denver city prosecutor, to larger schemes involving court clerks and numerous voided tickets like the one in Las Vegas , where a clerk was found by a judge to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 tickets in a file labeled "Quick fix reports."  The noted incident in Jersey City, NJ, saw the city's chief judge indicted for dismissing eight tickets for a "close personal friend."

In 2009, there were also a number of ticket fixing incidents reported.  Largo, Florida's police chief was suspended last June when he was too lenient on a police officer when it was discovered that the officer had fixed a ticket.  In Georgia, two individuals, one of them a Dekalb County employee, were caught accepting money for dismissing tickets over a period of eight years.  A case in August of 2009 resulted in six Nassau County workers costing the county over $25,000 in revenues. 

In April of this year, San Francisco officials uncovered and are investigating a web of ticket-fixing schemes at their Department of Parking and Traffic.  Essentially, several clerks at the Department of Parking and Traffic were undoing tickets of city officials and friends.  The way San Francisco found out?  They noticed a significant decrease in fines over the previous year, and a cursory glance at their databases showed that an inordinate number of tickets had been voided, many of them the tickets of city workers.  You see where this is going. 

The majority of these incidents, as you've noticed, are likely extreme examples--and it's examples like these where people will get caught: high volume, or simply fixing tickets for the wrong person, can get you busted, to put it bluntly.  To be fair, if you're doing something illegal for long enough, the chances you're going to get caught doing it are pretty good, and rightfully so.  The message that these cases should send is that city employees, whether they're judges, clerks, or other city employees, shouldn't be above the law. 

Again, though, on an individual level, ticket-fixing might not seem like such a big deal--and on that level, it might not actually be a big deal.  What's thirty bucks here and a hundred there, especially when you're talking about potentially giant city and county budgets?  It's not likely to add up to millions, but in what limited research I've done, it's not uncommon for ticket-fixing schemes to add up to tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes in the space of just one year.  So, it's something that could matter--and it's not just about the money.  We're talking about the failings of elected officials and their employees here--and failings that could affect tax rates, tax dollars spent on legal fees, etc.  In the end, though, sometimes it really is who you know.