Are traffic tickets just a police budget issue?

Jun 26, 2020 | Criminal Law

In theory, traffic tickets exist to force people to follow the law. If a driver is speeding and gets a ticket, he or she won’t speed in the future. If a driver parks illegally and gets a ticket, they’ll look for a legal parking space the next time.

That’s how they should work, but the problem is that they have turned into a budget issue. If a police department sees a drop in funding, one way to make up for it is to get more fines from writing out more tickets. Could they use this tactic to buy more equipment, hire more officers or take care of budget shortcomings?

This is why some departments give quotas to their officers. They entice them to write more tickets. They need a certain amount of income so that they can balance the books.

The problem here is that police are supposed to watch for safety violations in order to keep people safe, not to make money. Giving them a financial incentive to write more tickets makes the process inherently unfair to drivers. The police are no longer doing the job they were hired to do — which is to protect the public. Now they’re essentially just collecting taxes.

This could also make officers more likely to write tickets that won’t hold up. If an officer needs one more speeding ticket to make his daily quota, is that pressure going to cause him to pull someone over when there is no need to do so? If you end up getting a ticket in this fashion, make sure you know what rights you have.