Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Collections racket

Meter Maid Mural

Take your lick.
New Orleans Traffic Court has always been a relatively straightforward proposition: A cop writes you up for several violations, you admit to something and pay your fine, and the city likely will agree to drop the other counts.

But that kind of convenient horse trading suddenly disappeared a few weeks ago, when city attorneys who prosecute cases in Traffic Court — from drunken driving to jaywalking — began singing a harsher tune, local defense lawyers say. The new refrain: Take your full lick or go to trial.

A spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office confirmed the policy change, indicating that the days of dealing down traffic violations are a thing of the past, at least for now.

“In an effort to reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses, the city has implemented a new pilot policy that would require the penalties for all offenses in Traffic Court to be fully served,” mayoral spokesman Brad Howard said in an email message.

Howard said the new policy would remain in place for at least 30 days but did not say how much more money the city expects to reap from traffic violators.
This is speculative but it makes sense. They're probably adding muscle in the courthouse because they're a bit light on the streets at the moment. Citations are down and the city is noticing their budget projections are lower than they'd like as a result. 
Noel Cassanova, the longtime clerk of Traffic Court who retired last year after almost a half-century, said the city and the court are wrecking what he described as “a people’s business.”

He suggested that the blame belongs with police officers who inflate citations with excessive violations.

“This almost gets to the point of railroading people now. You just can’t do that to the public,” Cassanova said.

“What do you do with the little old lady that comes down to court with her speeding ticket and she’s charged with no registration, no driver’s license, no insurance, and she in fact has all of that and she had all of that dated at the time she was stopped?” he asked.

“Is that lady going to pay $1,000 or $1,500 worth of traffic tickets, or is she going to pay the speeding ticket? It’s beyond impractical.”
Note some of this falls into the category of citations  the hotel-funded NOLA Patrol quasi police will be issuing as they do their part to make the city collections racket more robust keep the French Quarter safe. So help is on the way there. 

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