Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Deferral for Traffic Tickets

I never even knew about deferrals for traffic tickets until I began working at the Prosecutor's office but it seems clear to me now, judging by the number of pre-trial deferrals I process, that I was one of the ten people in the state who were not aware of this option.

Basically, with a pre-trial deferral, you pay a little more ($182 versus whatever your ticket would cost) and sign an agreement stating that if you don't have another violation for six months, your ticket will be dismissed and not appear as a conviction on your driving record. There are two kinds of people who leap at the opportunity for a pre-trial deferral - those who have never had a traffic ticket on their record and are determined to keep it that way and those who already have points against their license and don't want any more, mostly for fear of increased insurance rates.

I tell people when they call for information about deferrals that I need a copy of their ticket and a short note letting me know they are requesting to defer it. Often I get a lengthy letters in return. "Dear Most Honorable Ma'am" one of them started out, "I'm deeply apologetic for committing the offense of speeding in your county. If you will offer me forgiveness and a deferral for my ticket, I give you my solemn promise that it will never happen again."

We gave him the deferral but I couldn't promise him forgiveness, that not being part of my responsibility. And truth be told, he really didn't even have to promise that he'd never do it again, only that he wouldn't do it again for at least six months. Otherwise, when I run his driving record at the end of his agreement and see another traffic conviction on his record, I will terminate his diversion and he'll not only owe for his current ticket but the previous one besides, having wasted his $182.

People often try to convince me that they "deserve" a deferral or, more often, that their children do. "My son was valedictorian of his class. He works two part-time jobs to save money for college. He spends his free-time dishing out food at the soup kitchen. Please give him a deferral". And we do, but it doesn't really matter. They could have told me - "He's at the bottom of his class and may not graduate. He's never worked a day in his life. He spends every spare minute playing video games." He'd get the deferral just the same.

And, frequently, before making their request, drivers will lay out the case for why they shouldn't have got the traffic ticket at all. "I had my cruise control set at 57 but the officer said he clocked me at 69 so his radar must have been off." "I had to speed up to pass the semi in front of me" "I was going down a hill and naturally, my car automatically went faster - its the law of thermodynamics (or something)." "The two cars ahead of me were going faster than I was so I don't understand why the cop picked on me."

But those are issues that have to be dealt with in court. I don't certify radars or question an officer about why he chose the target he did and thermodyamics (or something) is beyond my level of expertise. Once your ticket comes to our office, its just a matter of doing a deferral. We don't require either justifications or explanations.