Saturday, January 6, 2007

Poor People Bear the Burden of Speeding?

A harsh civics lesson for the poor
Saturday, January 06, 2007

The courtroom was filled. A young man who had just received a full-time position sought leniency. A man who said he would be fired if he missed three days of work made an appeal to avoid jail time. A disabled man facing nearly $1,000 in accumulated fines pleaded as he had in weeks before for more time to come up with the money.

These were not hardened criminals charged with violent crimes, but the working poor who fill the Mayor's Court each Wednesday afternoon in Linndale. I was there on a Wednesday in December, because, at age 50, I had received my first speeding ticket.

The village of some 50 homes and 117 residents is famous - or infamous - for issuing traffic tickets at a rate rivaling large cities in the area. The Plain Dealer's Mark Rollenhagen reported in November 2005 that speeding fines and other Mayor's Court fines and cost assessments bring in nearly $800,000 a year - enough to cover nearly all of the village's annual $900,000 budget.

We expect communities to use their power to protect and serve the nation, not to generate revenue by seeking out people with registrations that are expired by a few days because of the discrepancy between their birthdays and the end of the month printed on their stickers.

What makes those ethics particularly troubling is that the poor bear a disproportionate burden. For many people in the courtroom, the hundreds of dollars in fines were far more than an inconvenience and annoyance. They pleaded for more time to come up with money that placed them on the edge of economic survival.

The continuances were granted, but the magistrate made clear his patience had limits. "I do put people in jail, so make the payments," he said at one point.

People have tried to put the brakes on Linndale's manipulation of the American justice system to take from others for the disproportionate benefit of a few. In 1994, the Ohio legislature tried to block Linndale police from issuing tickets on I-71, but the Ohio Supreme Court sided with the village and upheld its authority to patrol the interstate. Others have urged abolishing mayor's courts.

Meanwhile, the Linndale system survives, creating suffering for people on the economic margins and undermining the trust and respect required of the criminal justice process in a civil society. Until it ends, all of us, especially those of us who believe public policy requires a preferential option for the poor, have a responsibility to hold Linndale up to the light.
-- Public policy requires preferential treatment/options for the poor? You have got to be kidding me! Why should anybody get preferential treatment when breaking the law? An officer has the authority to use his discretion when issuing a ticket. If he felt a warning was appropriate, a ticket would not have been issued.

The reporter notes that since 1994 the fact that Linndale WILL ticket you if you exceed the speed limit or have a driving infraction, there are other communities like this also. You would think when driving through Linndale or one of the other communities that are "ticket happy" that you would obey the posted speed limit.

Nope - liberal rag P.D. and reporter, David Briggs would rather whine it is unfair and poor people should get special treatment. The magistrate gave these people time to pay their fines, what else should be expected?

I would prefer a mayors court to a municipal court anyday!

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