At least once a week I’ll hear from a client or prospective client dealing with an open traffic violation that he’s going to reach out through a friend or relative to the police officer who issued him a traffic ticket.
Typically, I have no problem with that. In most case I don’t think it can hurt to ask. I’m sure officers hear requests like these on a regular basis and have their way of dealing with it.
If you are in a similar position and are looking into receiving some assistance or a favor on a traffic ticket, please consider the following first:
1. Officers “helping” to get rid of traffic tickets has been a notorious news item lately.
Just yesterday, two officers in Huntington Beach, California were convicted of conspiring to help a woman get out of a speeding ticket. The officers were found guilty of misdemeanor conspiracy to obstruct justice. The whole story revolved around a 32 year old woman who happened to meet an officer weeks after getting a speeding ticket from another officer. She asked the one she met to reach out to the issuing officer and text messages revealed she implied she would provide alcohol for the officers if they were able to make the ticket go away. Ultimately, the issuing officer asked the court to throw the case out because he had no notes on the matter and the ticket was dismissed. A suspicious lieutenant looked into it and saw detailed notes sitting right on the original summons and they were busted.
Early last year in NYC we saw one of the largest ticket fixing scandals unfold. The fallout from this scandal has brought changes to the way tickets are prosecuted in NYC and changes to the general attitude and demeanor of officers on routine traffic patrol. What used to be a harmless and accepted courtesy offered by officers was now (and still is) a serious prosecutable offense.
Similar stories play out on a regular basis throughout the country. Increased tracking abilities and new technologies make it more likely that an irregularity or unusual behavior may be spotted and cities in dire need of every dime collected via traffic ticket revenue make it more likely someone will care about the fixing. Perhaps an officer 40 years ago could make things go away just by asking. Those days seem to be over.
Personally, I think any officer who goes down this road is crazy. No one should ever consider risking their career to avoid a traffic ticket conviction. Knowing what I know by following this in the news, I would never ask an officer for such a favor. I just wouldn’t want to put someone in that position.
2. It probably won’t hurt your case…but it’s possible it will.
For the most part the worst that can happen is you’ll reach out to an officer to ask for assistance and be told that he’s sorry but there’s nothing he can really do for you. The problem is, there may be some record indicating that you reached out. Messages left at a precinct, emails, texts, another officer enlisted to reach out on your behalf…all of these can be potentially harmful to the issuing officer. Once a request for assistance is out in the universe, the only absolute way for the officer to prove he denied this request is to do everything possible to get a conviction. Any type of leniency in court, lack of recollection or wavering can be interpreted as a potential “fix”.
This scenario may be rare and ripe with paranoia, but it’s certainly possible. It’s the scenario where you’ve just motivated an officer to try that much harder to convict because you reached out for assistance thinking that it couldn’t hurt to try. In theory it can and this possibility should at least be considered.