Two states act to end ticket quotas; other states in pursuit
May 5, 2022
New laws in Alabama and Virginia address concern about practices that force law enforcement officers to partake in ticket quotas.
Communities nationwide are able to generate revenue from different types of fines. In certain locales, fines account for a disproportionate amount of local revenues. These municipalities are known for being speed traps.
The National Motorists Association says that “a speed trap exists wherever traffic enforcement is focused on extracting revenue from drivers instead of improving safety.”
About 20 states have acted to discourage practices that pressure law enforcement officers to meet ticket quotas.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed into law a bill intended to discourage ticketing abuses.
The new law limits the amount of money a municipality can retain from fines and penalties from traffic tickets.
Specifically, municipal traffic fines and penalties could not exceed 10% of the municipality’s total general operating budget.
Excess funds would be deposited in a crime victims fund and a court fund.
Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, said the threshold was determined following a survey of municipalities to determine the how much of their budgets came from traffic tickets.
Previously SB282, the new law does not apply the rule to Class 1 municipalities. The revision covers the city of Birmingham.
The exception was made after a review that showed the city’s ticket revenue amounted to about 2% of the budget.
The new law takes effect this summer
A new law in Virginia prohibits law enforcement agencies from setting a target number of tickets for officers to write.
The ticket quotasrule applies to the state police, sheriff’s departments, and local police.
During a Senate committee hearing, at least one committee member expressed surprise that quotas exist in Virginia.
“You used to hear about these all the time many, many, many, many years ago. I thought that was pretty much something that was done away with,” said Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax. “You’re saying it still exists?”
Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, said that some departments within the state continue to have ticket quotas.
“We just want to put an end to it,” Reeves said.
The new rule takes effect on July 1.
Michigan, New York pursue action
A Michigan House bill would revise the state’s rule on issuing citations.
Since 2010, Michigan law prohibits a police officer from being required to issue a certain number of citations for traffic offenses.
According to a legislative analysis at the time, even though police departments were generally prohibited from requiring officers to meet ticket quotas, there were reports about departments that engaged in related practices. Examples included offering prizes to the officer who writes the most tickets in a time period or withholding promotions from officers who issue few tickets.
The 2010 law attempted to address concerns about abuse. However, an exception provided in the law authorizes ticket numbers to be used as part of a police officer’s evaluation system.
The lone requirement for the inclusion of the ticket writing component is that the issuance of citations is not given any greater consideration than any other factor in the evaluation of an officer’s performance.
HB5723 would revise state statute to prohibit a police officer’s performance evaluation from including any consideration of citations issued.
The bill is in the House Government Operations Committee.
In New York, one Senate bill also covers the issue.
The Empire State prohibits an employer from transferring or penalizing a police officer for failure to meet an established ticket quota.
Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, D-Nanuet, points out it is possible, however, that an employer could deny a promotion to a police officer who fails to meet a quota.
“Penalties should always be used as a means to an end – incentivizing compliance – and should never come to be viewed as a guaranteed source of revenue,” Reichlin-Melnick wrote in a bill memo.
S8259 would outlaw state agencies from imposing or suggesting any enforcement quota. Agencies would be forbidden from using ticketing numbers as the primary criteria to evaluate officers.
Ticketing numbers could not be used to reward performance nor be used to transfer, reassign, dismiss, or deny a promotion.
The bill is in the Senate Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business Committee. LL
More state trends
Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, keeps track of many trends among statehouses across the U.S. Here are some recent articles by him.