Traffic Court Has Gone Stir Crazy!!
I have great memories of Traffic Court over a dozen years ago, when I suffered through my first and only DUI. The Judge was Paul Bonin, a really fine man. I’ve written him up elsewhere in the blog for his humanity. He’s moved on to the Louisiana Appeals bench, and he’s thriving.
I wonder how the various Court entities in NOLA split their money. Do Civil and Criminal Courts keep their the income earned from fines, court cost bills, or drug screen money? Does Traffic Court keep their contempt moolah, or is the money diverted elsewhere?
There is more to this post, I don’t have the postcard I received and moved to location B while I’m writing this post from location A. I’ll scan it and post the scary piece of mail tomorrow, if I get to it, and I’ll try.
I ask these questions as I’ve discovered to my disgust that Traffic Court has changed some practices from good to bad and it means more money than ever is coming into Traffic Court. A lot more money.
Fines for Traffic Court in Orleans Parish have always been higher than surrounding parishes. That’s sort of OK, since Orleans Parish has higher costs than surrounding parishes. Not sure about Baton Rouge, which has grown into a bigger city after Katrina.
If you miss Court for a single ticket, Traffic Court suspends your license.
Cannot believe it but its true! While NOPD is apparently doing their best to change for the better, and the Jail Reform Committee has made strides, Traffic Court has gone to hell in a hand basket.
There is more! NOPD claim they are not arresting folks for traffic warrants, while Traffic Court churns out traffic warrants by the dozen daily.
I received a postcard yesterday from Traffic Court stating all these repercussions from losing a ticket. Today I called the number listed for Traffic Court and the automated system asked for my ticket number, I punched in, and was told my fine plus contempt addition was a mere $217. I paid by credit card, and was given a transaction number. Checked the credit card, and not only was the $217 there, but an additional 30.08 was missing from the card from a separate but identical transaction.
Tomorrow I’ll know for sure, but it appears to me that the Traffic Court system might be double dipping. 8/4/11 update- $30.08 charge isn’t from Traffic Court, so NO double dipping in this case.
The system also volunteered before paid that my license wasn’t suspended yet, not until August 30 if I don’t pay. So their postcard wasn’t very honest, telling me it was suspended. Should a city court make up stuff and mail it out to lots of NOLA citizens?
Most people who receive the dreaded Traffic Court postcard believe all or part of it. It says you have missed court, your license is suspended, you owe an extra $100 for your new contempt charge, and every cop in town is searching for you via your new warrant.
Another very disturbing fact about this postcard is how many my three adult family members have received in the last year- four! In the last 20 years, the same group hasn’t received that many! The implications are big here. Just how many post cards are being sent out locally and out of town? I figure if we three received four, the entire driving population of NOLA is getting lots and lots. Each one is gold, worth $100!
The suspended license part and the contempt charge are real. So where is all the extra cash going to? I estimate that Traffic Court would take in at least 100 or 200 transactions per day at least, which is $10-20,000/day! That’s enough cash to color almost anyone’s judgement about the fairness of the current system.
From the Lens NOLA– Traffic Court is also about to embark on an $11 million renovation, combining $7.5 million in unspent bond money with a $2.7 million “rainy day fund,” accumulated from surplus court revenues at the end of each year, and a further $1 million in “rainy day fund” money from Municipal Court, Traffic Court Judge Robert Jones said.
Traffic Court’s revenue was up 40 percent from $10 million to $14 million in 2010.
The Traffic Court is a city body with four judges on staff and 84 employees with an operating budget of $4 million. The city paid $940,000 in 2010 towards salaries for the courts.