Last week nine judges were indicted for ticket fixing in Philadelphia’s traffic court. The indictment charges that the judges improperly “fixed” tickets for various friends and relatives of the judges. The indictment also alleges that the judges made tickets disappear for the politically connected as well as business associates of the judges.
New York City endured a different type of scandal in its traffic courts last year. In New York City all types of traffic tickets including speeding tickets and red light tickets are fought in the Traffic Violation Bureau or TVB. The TVB is the arm of the Department of Motor Vehicles responsible for adjudicating these matters. The scandal involved NYPD police officers making tickets disappear for friends, family, business associates and the politically connected. This is essentially the other side of coin from what is happening now in Philadelphia, with the officers engaging in these behaviors instead of the judges.
The upshot of these scandals, at least in terms of its affect on what its like to be a summonsed motorist fighting your case at the New York City traffic courts, is that it makes an already unpleasant situation that much worse. At the TVB, a motorist could always find in their judge an unsympathetic and disinterested ear to ignore their defense and rubber stamp the conviction. The indictment of the police officers last year has had the effect of making the police officer’s scared to lose a case for fear of reprisals within the Department. Internal Affairs is crawling over the TVB offices in all Boroughs of New York City monitoring win rates, admonishing officer’s for losing cases and even docking officer’s hard earned vacation time. It was even reported in the New York Post, quoting an unnamed officer, that he would be willing to lie under oath to secure a conviction to protect himself from Police Department punishment for losing a case. As an attorney who represents motorists in these traffic cases, I watch unrepresented motorists banging their heads in disbelief at the treatment they endure at the hands of the police and the agency responsible for dispensing justice. One benefit of hiring an attorney can be to prevent some of the egregious injustices that might befall an unrepresented motorist. Just last week it was reported that Judge Brian Levine from the Staten Island TVB was formally reprimanded, not for his mind-boggling conviction rate and vicious penalties he dispenses, but rather for simply being rude and disrespectful to the motorists whose cases he presides over.
I do not mean to suggest that hiring an attorney is a panacea against shabby treatment at the TVB. Nor can we guarantee that we will even win your case, although we do have a lot of success and give our clients the best chance to win that they are going to have. As the rules and procedures continue to tighten at the TVB in reaction to these various scandals, at least our law office can seek to prevent those rules from tightening around our clients necks.