Friday, July 28, 2017


We live in a weird echo of the Ancien Regime where law enforcement agencies and courts fund themselves directly though funds raised by stopping and fining people.  District Attorneys have a lot of leverage in such a system. They're finding new ways to make it work for them.

The Lens asked seven district attorneys, covering 11 parishes, for records on their traffic diversion programs. Those DAs are diverting as many as half of their traffic tickets, according to the records. Several said their programs are growing.

Meanwhile, the courts in most of those judicial districts are handling fewer tickets. Statewide, there has been a 30 percent drop in tickets processed by courts over the past five years, according to data collected by the state Supreme Court.

In East and West Feliciana parishes, the number of traffic tickets processed in court has fallen 35 percent in the last five years.

The local district attorney has diverted about half of all tickets since 2013, according to public records.

District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla acknowledged his program keeps money out of the court system, but he said he needs it. For instance, one program requires his office to pay officers overtime for working extra hours to write traffic tickets.

“And that’s kind of why we started the diversion program, we just weren’t making the money,” he said.
Across the state, it appears that more tickets are being written even as fewer tickets are being processed through the courts which means, more money is going directly to the DAs. The Lens notes that we don't see this exact issue in Jefferson or in Orleans Parish. 
The district attorneys in Orleans and Jefferson parishes don’t run traffic diversion programs, although tickets have dropped significantly. In New Orleans, that’s due to the police department’s decision to move officers from traffic enforcement as it deals with understaffing.
In New Orleans, of course, we are filling the gap with cameras which may not fund the courts or the DAs directly but do account for an estimated $24 million in revenue to the city (after American Traffic Solutions takes its 30% cut) so everybody is subject to some version of this. 

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