Friday, February 19, 2010

Ticket roundups are taxation masquerading as a public safety initiative

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley called the Driver Responsibility surcharge "taxation masquerading as a public safety initiative," and I can't think of a better description for these increasingly common "ticket roundups" like the one more than 250 Texas law enforcement agencies will participate in March 6. Whenever I see these I think that 1) the jurisdiction is mainly hoping to mulct taxpayers for money, not prevent crime, and 2) they're filling jails with petty offenders who don't need to be there, generating hidden costs on the back end.

Given the scope of "wanted" Texans, "roundup" really is the right word and the livestock imagery appropriate - if they "rounded up" everybody you're talking about a staggering number of people. More than 10% of Texas adults have outstanding arrest warrants. In Collin County, more than one third of arrest warrants are for failure to pay tolls. Unless counties have jail facilities the size of the Chicago stockyards, there's just no way to arrest everybody with an outstanding warrant.

Anyway, very few of these people pose a threat, but instead represent a profit center for government to squeeze when money gets tight. Unfortunately, that's also when things are tight for people of modest means, many of whom probably would have paid the fines - particularly these blasted surcharges - if they could afford them in the first place.

Yes, perhaps people with warrants can take money from the car-insurance bill or the family grocery budget keep from going to jail - and certainly many will - but they'll resent it for the same reason Americans resent taxation in the first place, knowing full well that this backdoor path to their wallet is not justice but mere government avarice.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are we making ourselves prisoners in our own neighborhood?

In discussing childhood obesity, Michelle Obama spoke of the difficulty some children have getting daily exercise. She said, "Urban sprawl and fears about safety often mean the only walking they do is out their front door to a bus or a car.”

By being so eager to open the prisons and send them back to the neighborhoods are we turning our neighborhoods into prisons?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Obesity? Urban sprawl? Imaginary prison releases that haven't occurred yet. Quien sabe? None of the people being rounded up for traffic tickets or toll road fees are being released from prison or have anything to do with why kids don't get enough exercise. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

The D A in Williamson County is correct and everyone but the State Legislators agrees with him, and these are the people who represent us, hmm.

Folks are going to get tickets, and if they miss a court date the truth is that sooner or later they will take care of it; and from time to time they may get arrested if they don’t take care of it, if and when they get pulled over again, but there is absolutely no need to waste tax dollars hunting them, not for revenue source or for any other reason.

The surcharges have taken it to the beyond belief category. For now anyway, they do still serve the people, vote them out, and let them no why. Government spends our money on the most ridiculous of things and then thumbs their noses at the people, if a surcharge was levied on each one of them personally every time they chose to spend money needlessly and was increased according to the amount of expenditures they would all be in debt to the taxpayers.

It is almost as if a new law should be passed that doesn’t allow expenditures or the creation of new laws unless approved by the majority of a government watch group. The watch group could be made up of citizens throughout the state that rotate out every month; may sound crazy, but what they are allowed to do once elected to office seems even crazier.

Anonymous said...

If kids are so afraid of the bad guys that "the only walking they do is out their front door to a bus or a car” then many people are now prisoners in their own neighborhoods.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:54, If fish could fly they'd be birds. But it wouldn't have anything to do with the post.

Anonymous said...

If you use your insurance money to pay the surcharge, you will end up with a new citation for not having insurance and probably a new surcharge. A vicious counter productive circle. If you are able to pay your ticket, you will probably also have to pay one of those onmi collectin agency fee.Glad someone is talking about this tax that DPS has been stuck with trying to collect in large measure from Texans who have little money and live pay check to pay check.I kinda like Anonymous7:07's idea of putting a surcharge on legislators. I wonder how many of our legislators have paid a surcharge?

Anonymous said...

What did the Police cars say?
Protect and DEFEND. I agree
with all who see this as a form
of hidden taxation of the poor.

Anonymous said...

That is precisely why I try not to get a ticket. And in the event I do, I pay the ticket!

But then again, that is just silly me being responsible for my actions!

Charlie O said...

Wow, took less than 12 hours for some self righteous, cowardly, Anonymous asshole to puke up a comment. Yeah that would be you, Anon: 11:17. Paying the ticket doesn't keep you from accumulating the points, which in turn, does not prevent the surcharge.

Anonymous said...

Surcharges are not the same as getting a traffic ticket and ignoring it. The surcharge (as the name suggests) puts a cost above and beyond the original violation. A ticket is simply the cost applied to the original violation.

It really isn't fair to criticize both in the same thought. Why should we have any sympathy for someone who has been issued a ticket and then chooses to ignore it? You get notice when it is issued to you. You get another notice if you don't take care of it. You usually get a third notice before it is passed on to a collection agency. By the time it gets to a warrant, you have to really, very deliberately ignore you social responsibility.

It is a shame that it takes a threat of arrest to get some people to pay a fine. But, at that point, there really isn't any other option.

It is somewhat like the parent who says over and over to a child to do something and the child ignores the parent. At some point, you have to follow through with a punishment or lose all control.

Anonymous said...

Well said, but 1146 still won't understand. A perfect example of an idiot looking for excuses for everything.

Red Leatherman said...

The commenter at 5:55 says that you get several notices before the ticket goes to warrant. That is a huge change from just a few years ago when never a notice of any sort and even one day late would land you in jail for a unpaid ticket + warrant fees.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I agree, RL. There are not multiple notices before tickets go to warrant. To my knowledge, the only such notice is on the ticket that it will go to warrant if you don't pay, and then it's done pretty much done automatically without additional correspondence with the driver. Some departments did send separate notices in preparation for the "roundup," but they don't do so prior to the ticket going to warrant. They send no notice at all about the surcharge until they've already revoked your driver license for nonpayment. I don't know where anon 5:55 gets their information.

Anonymous said...

Many violators do not receive the notices because the address listed on their drivers license is not current.

How much effort, time and taxpayer expense should the police and courts spend trying to find a good address for these no shows when it is thjeir responsibility to keep their DL address current?

Anonymous said...

If people lose their drivers license for failure to pay surcharg, then, even if they have liability insurance, will their insurance be void in the event of an accident? Will a driver who has insurance, but who also has a suspended license due to surcharge, be denied coverage from his own insurance carrier? If an accident is not the fault of a driver under suspension due to surcharge, can the driver's carrier deny the driver's claim for colision coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, pip etc., due to violation of a policy provision requiring that the insured have a current unsuspended drivers license.Does anyone know the answer to this?

Anonymous said...

If you were not such a loser, these things would not have happened to you. You must learn the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Once again. American law enforcement will take to the highways this holiday season under the guise of public safety. Here is the "official line" and then I will provide a "real life" translation.

THE PUBLIC SAFETY SIDE

Texas troopers will be out in force over the long Christmas and New Year's weekends to help keep travelers safe. The Department of Public Safety on Tuesday said troopers will concentrate on drivers who may be intoxicated, speeders and people not wearing seat belts.

All available troopers will be on patrol from Thursday, Dec. 24, through Sunday, Dec. 27, and again on Thursday, Dec. 31 through Sunday, Jan. 3.

DPS troopers during the 2008 Christmas period arrested 651 drivers for DWI and issued 15,400 speeding tickets and 2,580 safety restraint violations. The New Year's holiday period resulted in 304 drivers arrested for DWI. Troopers issued 5,173 speeding tickets and 912 safety restraint violations.

REALITY

Texas troopers will be out in force over the long Christmas and New Year's weekends to help generate revenue in a state facing a budget crisis. The Department of Public Safety should have said troopers will concentrate on every infraction that can generate a revenue collecting TICKET. This will include drunks, speeders, people not wearing seat-belts, those who cross the center line and anyone who looks shady.

All available troopers will be issuing tax citations from Thursday, December 24, through Sunday, December 27 and again on Thursday, December 31 through Sunday, January 3, then we will go to minimum staffing for a couple of weeks to stay off the horrendous overtime costs accrued by our collection efforts.

DPS troopers during the 2008 Christmas and 2009 New Years period arrested 955 drivers for DWI, the average cost of a DWI in Texas (all court fees and fines) is $5,707.00, so troopers added $5,450,185.00 to state and municipal coffers.

Troopers also wrote 20,573 speeding tickets of which the average cost per ticket is $185.00 and the accelerate upwards so troopers brought in $3,806,005.00 to state and local coffers.

And those pesky seat-belt tickets, well troopers wrote 3,492 tax collecting tickets for that at $150.00 a pop adding $523,800.00 to state and local government.

So...follow the money. Texas doesn't give a crap whether you are safe or not, although it sounds "nice and government like". What Texas really cares about is the almost $10 (M) Million dollars raised by issuing tickets.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...

Ignore the ever increasing size of the unpaid ticket stack, giving those who refuse to be responsible for their traffic crimes the unfettered authority to do what they want, when they want, in any manner they choose, while driving (as long as it's one of those pesky Class "C" violatins)...

or...

One day each year address the rediculous bahavior of those with little to no respect for the current legal system, by making them ACCOUNTABLE for their actions (or, in this case, inactions).

I vote for the latter.
Boohoo! You didn't get a WARNING in the mail? Hell, you got a warning when you got your ticket, moron! Expensive? Just make payment arrangements with the court. They'd gladly see ANY amount of restitution versus slamming you in the pokey!

Whew! Sorry 'bout that. Lost my head for a minute and made some sense...wrong blog for sense.

Anonymous said...

LMAO!

"Real life translation"?!?!?

I'm sure you'd rather see jail time for lower misdemeanors to prove that it's not about money. Really. Feel like spending 48 hours in jail for speeding?
No?
Thought not, dumbass.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

LMAO!

"Real life translation"?!?!?

I'm sure you'd rather see jail time for lower misdemeanors to prove that it's not about money. Really. Feel like spending 48 hours in jail for speeding?
No?
Thought not, dumbass.

2/21/2010 06:55:00 PM
--------------------------------
What's wrong doughnut eater? Get your feathers ruffled a bit. The truth hurts when you some (L) loser with a badge who THINKS they are providing public safety!

Boyness said...

Do not expect the po-po to understand the revenue generation REASON they are writing tickets. They are fed the same line about public safety like we are. The enforcers are only doing what they are told.

The numbers, however, speak for themselves and dont try to feed us a line of shit about unpaid tickets. How many traffic warrants are outstanding in Texas? The state WILL GET ITS MONEY and you know it...DUMBASS.

Anonymous said...

I live in a rental in Belton, TX, and just found a "warrant roundup" notification for a former tenant in my mailbox. Apparently this hardened criminal received a citation for a curfew violation 8 years ago, then failed to appear in court. By now this poor kid could have joined the army and fought and died in Iraq or Afghanistan, but Bell County still wants their $666.90 from him. What a twisted hellhole. Give me a state income tax any day over this kind of extortion.