Saturday, December 5, 2009

City Threatens People Who Challenge Their Parking Tickets With $2,500 Fines For Going to Court; Policy Mirrors That Used in Traffic Court

News this week is that the City has opened up a new parking citation court at the Guardian Home located at 5751 University Ave. Of course the City wasted no time issuing a press release bragging about being able to squeeze the public for more parking ticket revenue, part of which, of course, is shared with a private contractor:

INDIANAPOLIS – On December 1st, the City of Indianapolis will pilot a parking citation court in an effort to improve the way the city collects revenue from parking citations. The court will hold hearings at the former Guardian Home facility and will be managed five days a week to give violators an opportunity to pay outstanding citations.

"We have seen a significant lack of collections with unpaid parking citations and feel this is a way to increase revenue while working under our Six Sigma process to manage the program with greater efficiencies," said Manuel Mendez, Deputy Controller.

Using Six Sigma process improvement strategies, it is estimated that under this program the City may collect an additional $352,000 to $520,000 in parking citation revenue over the next 12 months.

The parking citation court will be managed by T2 Systems, which currently oversees the City’s collections and software for parking tickets. The court, which will hold hearings on a daily basis, will allow violators increased opportunities from the currently run system which holds hearings every two weeks.

"Our goal with this program is to assist the City in collecting parking citation revenue. Working together with the City, T2 Systems also offers payment options over the Internet, mail or IVR to make paying citations as easy and convenient as possible," said Jim Zaloudek, Chief Financial Officer for T2. "This allows us to fulfill our role of helping the City’s parking operations be as profitable and efficient as possible."

If citations are not paid prior to their scheduled hearing, the City may request a fine of up to $2,500 per citation. Upon receiving a judgment for an unpaid citation, individuals responsible could be subject to collections actions or having their vehicle registration suspended.

The citation court opens Tuesday, December 1st from the hours of 9am to 3pm at the Guardian Home located at 5751 University Ave.

Translation of that second to last paragraph? If you dare exercise your right to a trial over your parking ticket, the City is going to ask that your fine be increased up to $2,500. How's that for an incentive to pay?

The Marion County Traffic Court is doing the same thing. When defendants go into court they are warned by the bailiff, the prosecutor and the judge that if you take your case to court and lose, you can be fined an additional $500. Judge William Young lives up to that promise, imposing an additional fine of $400 or $300 on litigants who are unsuccessful.

Make no mistake about it. The Traffic Court fine and the City's threat of an up to $2,500 fine for parking tickets, are not fines for their respective offenses, but rather fines imposed on people for going to court. Most people I've talked to believe that fining someone for exercising their right to go to court, a right protected by the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions, is highly offensive. The practice may also be illegal. Stay tuned.

For the Star's story on the new Parking Citation Court click here.

Note: If anyone reading this is aware of anyone who has been a victim of these fines in Traffic Court or Parking Citation Court, or chose not to litigate their case because of the threat of those fines, I would like to talk to them ASAP. I can be reached at 317-631-0172.


Doug said...

Excessive fines for asking a court to review your case does seem unconstitutional. I can see where it may be appropriate where the costs assessed bears some relationship to the resources expended to review the case; along the lines of taxing costs.

But $500 for what I imagine is a 10 minute hearing or $2,500 for whatever they have in mind for this case sounds out of line.

Gary R. Welsh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, I've been ticked at least 3 times for parking at a meter that was not functioning. I asked one of the parking ticket officers what they are instructed to do if someone is parked at a spot where the meter is not properly functioning. She told me that no ticket will be written if the meter is not functioning. I told her that I had repeatedly been ticketed for parking in a malfunctioning spot on Vermont Street. She told me that I needed to contest it. Right. I've only challenged one ticket in traffic court and it was a waste of time. The court rules against you and slams you with a higher fine for daring to challenge the ticket. Essentially, Mayor Ballard is proposing the same crap that Mayor Daley is doing in Chicago to try to pay for his out-of-control spending--excessing parking fees and fines. It's a tax increase by any other name. Yet another broken promise by Ballard.

Downtown Indy said...

It's also a (max) $2500 fine for illegal signs in right of way, on utility poles and such.

If they'd crack down on that the city would clean up in more ways than one.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I agree with your assessment. I think they can assess "court costs" that are reasonably related to what it actually costs to prosecute the matter.

I know why Judge Young and the Parking Court is threatening the fines. They're trying to clear their cluttered docket by forcing people into paying their tickets. I just don't think you can do that though. You can't fine someone for asking for their day in court.

Paul K. Ogden said...

AI, I talked to a guy today who tried his case. He was doing 63 in a 55 mph zone on 465. He tried to ask the cop whether he remembered who he was and what the type of car he drove. (the Model wasn't noted on the ticket.) The cop couldn't remember. The prosecutor got angry about the defendant questioning the cop.

Even though the cop couldn't identify the car or the defendant and simply read from the ticket he wrote, the defendant lost. The ticket was $149. Judge Young tacked on $400 for challenging the ticket. So he ended up apying $549 for driving 8 miles an hour over the speed limit.

Paul K. Ogden said...


That's an excellent example. Let's say they fine people for putting signs on poles. I believe they have to assess the same fine to people who pay their ticket as those who challenge the ticket, with the exception the court could tack on some court costs reasonably related to the prosecution.

You can't fine someone $100 for an illegal sign on a pole, but fine them $2500 if they decide to go to court to challenge the ticket.

Downtown Indy said...

The city has put together a really nice brochure spelling out what can and cannot be done with signs, but I'll be danged if they are being very serious about enforcement, despite having a newly enhance Code Enforcement division.

Illegal signs

It's been in the Code as a max $2500 fine for years, though I suspect it's rare (if ever) they collect one.

Blog Admin said...

You would think that with store clerks being held up at gun point and forced to undress, the cops and courts would have better things to do than spend time collecitng parking and traffic violations.

Blog Admin said...

Paul, my experience with traffic court is here:

I also e-mailed you around that time, though I don't think any detail in the e-mail isn't in my blog post.

You can e-mail me at mamstone AT I can e-mail you a phone number if that is more convenient for you.

Cato said...

When you read enough stories about Indiana's omnipotent governance, you have to ask, in all seriousness, why anyone lives in Indiana?

Indiana is a proto police state. The companies, the police, the courts and the media are all controlled by the same plutocracy. The individual is despised. Group membership is exalted.

What, exactly, is the attraction?

Cato said...

From everything you've posted, Paul, Judge Young appears to be a very bad man who is antithetical to America's foundational ideas.

A good first step in reclaiming Liberty in Indiana would be to effect his removal.

Know this: attorneys in other jurisdictions are positively shocked at "judge" Young's statement "the officer is just a phone call away."

Things are done very differently, very scarily, and very fascistic in Indiana.

M Theory said...

This blog gets better every day! Thanks for putting your law degree and legal experience to work for free for The People!

Southsider said...

Boycott parking meters??

Blog Admin said...

I rarely carry coins with me, so in the rare instance that I really need to go downtown, I either park far away from meters or take the bus. I once parked at Easley Winery when I had business to do at the city county building.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I'll have to review what you sent me. I had forgotten you had contacted me about this earlier.

Downtown Indy said...

Aren't the fines and court costs defined and limited somewhere in the law? I read through the

of the Consolidated City and County

But saw nothing there.

How can a judge arbitrarily decide he's going to assess $2500 against someone for a parking ticket?

Blog Admin said...


They can't. It's unconstitutional.

Article I, Section 16: Section 16. Excessive bail or fines, Cruel and unusual punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required. Excessive fines shall not be imposed. Cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted. All penalties shall be proportioned to the nature of the offense.

Now, what I want to know, is where the funding comes from for traffic and parking courts.

The court, at least Traffic court, also violates the Constitution's clause of "All courts shall be open." Some may say that that just means "available", but I'm going to say otherwise. First off, this was 1984 when it was amended, and the word "available" could've been used rather than "open." Second, the Constitution uses similar language saying that all meetings of the general assuembly are "open" unless otherwise said.

Having a closed court that many average folks use makes it ripe for abuse, as seen by these ridiculous fines.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I'm pretty sure the Traffic Court people know they can't close their courtroom like they do. I've heard they're only closing the courtroom to non-litigants now because of space issues. They expect to stop doing it when they move into a new facility.

Of coure, that doesn't really excuse the illegality of the practice.

Blog Admin said...


The signs posted in traffic court make no mention of space issues. It just plainly says no one in the court room except for litigants.

varangianguard said...

One of my kids decided not to fight a Marion County moving violation because of the threat of a extra fine for challenging.

Worse, the baliff told her the writing officer was present, when he apparently wasn't. It appears that non-attending officers are called to court if one of their tickets are challenged and they aren't in court that day (adding time for the citizen having to wait for the officer to drive across the County to court). It doesn't appear that lying in court on the part of the baliff is frowned upon?

I guess when the judge decides to go his own way, he goes his own way?

Oh, and she was ticketed for going two mile per hour over a posted limit on 86th Street (what a canard). All of the national literature on traffic enforcement says not to ticket for under five mph. I guess the Traffic Court and the Police Training Fund really, really needs the money?

Paul K. Ogden said...


I've heard the same thing from several people...that if the defendant shows up and wants a trial then the oourt will call the officer to get him or her over to court. How convenient.

Jon said...

Then there are "deferred tickets". Under the guise of correcting driver behavior some individuals who receive tickets for speeding may be eligible to pay a higher fee to receive a deferred ticket. If that individual doesn't get another ticket in six months then the speeding ticket is not reported to the BMV. The cost difference between a regular speeding ticket and a differed ticket 225 dollars versus 150 dollars. Just a fancier wrapper for revenue enhancement or a legal bribe?