Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adventures in Traffic Court - Part Two

Today my office was flooded with calls from people who read the news reports about the lawsuit against the Traffic Court. The calls uncovered some other other problems I had overlooked or forgotten:

Right before the judge takes the bench, the Deputy Sheriff acting as bailiff actually physically locks the courtroom door. (I'm sure the Fire Marshall will be interested in this information.) He warns that anyone who leaves the courtroom at that point, even for an emergency or to use the bathroom, will not be let back in and will receive a "failure to appear" along with an additional fine. People told me how they wait for three hours or more for their case to be heard. It's not hard to imagine that someone might have a health problem that would necessitate getting water or using the restroom.

By the way, everyone I spoke to was highly critical of this Deputy Sheriff, his demeanor, attitude and the threats he makes to the defendants. The word heard most often with respect to the Deputy Sheriff: intimidation.

The Traffic Court lets police officers sign in and leave. If the defendant wants to try the case, they actually track down the officer to get him back to court. It's a "convenience" the court certainly doesn't afford to the Defendants.

I received complaints that interpreters were not provided or even offered to Defendants who did not speak English and could not understand what the judge was saying. Before I get a flood of comments about "Mexican illegals," these were non-Spanish speaking Defendants. There is no problem finding Spanish-speaking interpreters.

According to one person who paid the ticket he received on the court's website, he was given an option to pay an extra amount above the fine so that the court would not report his ticket to his insurance company. He (and I) believe that smells of extortion. His court reported his ticket and as a result his insurance premiums went up.

The report on the parking citation court is that on the first day the court made a $1,000 extra. Four people showed up to challenge their parking tickets and were each fined an additional $250 for having the temerity to challenge their tickets. Supposedly this was in the Star, but I missed the article.

As a side note, I heard a few people suggest that since the total amount of the Traffic Court fine is within statutory limits (actually I've seen a few occasions when they exceed the $500 statutory limit), it is legally permissible.

Here is the problem with that logic. The additional $300 or $400 fine is not because some evidence or information that came to light during trial that warranted an increased fine. If that were the case, the supporters of the fine would have a point. However, the history of the court, the comments of the bailiff, prosecutors and judge, all indicate, with absolute certainty, that the $300 or $400 fine is directly attributable to the person's decision to exercise his or her right to a trial. That is what makes the practice illegal and unconstitutional.

I hit on what I believe is a good analogy. Let's say a criminal court judge adopted the policy that if Defendants in his courtroom did not plead guilty and instead chose to go to trial, the judge would impose the maximum penalty allowed by law should the Defendants be found guilty. He does that on every case. Even though the penalty is within the statutory limit, the penalty is not being imposed because of the evidence, but rather because the Defendant is exercising his constitutional right to a trial. I couldn't find a criminal defense attorney today who thought that practice would be upheld by an Indiana appellate court.

Yet, that's exactly what is going on in Traffic Court and why I am confident the Indiana Court of Appeals or Indiana Supreme Court will strike down the practice as unconstitutional.

9 comments:

Cato said...

If Brizzi wanted to reclaim his reputation and salvage something of a legacy, he'd head down to that courthouse and arrest "Judge" Young and that Deputy on civil rights charges.

After those disgusting crimes against Liberty, it's a shame that Young is walking around a free man.

varangianguard said...

You know, I do acknowledge that Traffic Court has been a mess for years.

But, it appears that this attempt at a solution was thought out by someone over a few too many cocktails one evening, and has been imposed in the manner of what my late grandpa would have described as "by someone acting too big for his little britches".

Indy Student said...

varangianguard,

So your solution is to do nothing?

varangianguard said...

No, IC.

My solution would have been to actually perform some analyses before making some blithe, snap judgement about the problems. And, to get some input from some of the actual participants in the process (both citizens and bureaucrats).

Did the judge actually ask any citizens or the Court employees about the problems, or was this just his own uneducated guesses made before he ran for the Traffic Court judgeship?

I think there are some solutions to be had that don't include Judge Roy Bean behavior.

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

Everyone but Abdul seems to be with you on this Paul.

Thanks for looking out for The People.

OGDEN FOR MAYOR!

Cato said...

Under what justifiable employment of the word does Abdul dare to refer to himself as a "Libertarian?"

Indy Student said...

varan,
My apologies. I completely misread your initial post here. I realized it didn't make sense when you voiced support for the lawsuit over at Abdul's blog.

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

Cato...to Abdul's credit he regularly features Libertarians and Libertarian viewpoints on his show. He gives the L's a better shake than the rest of the media in this town. He even brings in Libertarian guest hosts.

I'd like to see someone in the media discuss that Liberatarians CAN and WILL win elections instead of constantly telling people that Libertarians cannot win.

That is not of service to our country. The media did it to Ron Paul after the first Republican debates when the polls showed that he was clobbering the establishment candidates.

Regardless of whether we get a republican or democrat running your city or state, there is rarely improvement. What we get instead is higher costs and more social problems.

People are starting to wake up and realize that there is little difference between the R's and D's.

Americans see that there is a BIG difference between the Libertarians and the other parties.

That awakening is closing the gap for the Libertarians. I'd like to see pundits like Abdul talk about this glaring fact.

So while Abdul maybe more fair to Libertarians than other media, he is not one.

Never forget Abdul voted for and supported Obama for President. And while he didn't wear his heart on his sleeve during the election, he did favor the Kenyan son who is about as far from a Libertarian and the plan laid by our founders as you can get.

Albany Lawyer said...

I came across this blog post and read some of your other posts. Good stuff, but you're crazy if you think traffic courts in Marion County or the state of Indiana are especially bad. It's my experience in New York, and what I hear from other states, that traffic court makes a mockery of justice across the country.

The practice of sticking people with a higher fine if they fight does happen in other states, though not that I've seen here in NY. I've never seen a courtroom locked like that, but I have seen deputies be abusive to people. It is quite normal for police to get courtesies from the courts that regular people do not get. In one court here the judge puts out a meat and cheese platter for the cops.

By the way, I'm building a traffic court directory. we have about 25 states now and Indiana is the next on our list.