It’s rare to get a truly disruptive technological idea out of Oklahoma, but former police officer cum State Senator Al McAffrey has come up with sheer brilliance in Senate Bill 1872, which would “allow law enforcement officers to issue electronic citations for traffic, misdemeanor and municipal ordinance violations.”
“Allowing officers to issue electronic citations will help better protect them. If they don’t have to approach vehicles during traffic stops to give people tickets but can simply email traffic violation citations directly to the district court clerk then they’re less likely to get into a dangerous altercation,” said McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City.
As any highway patrol officer can tell you, approaching a stopped car on the side of the road is one of the riskiest things a cop can do. You never know who is inside the car, an old woman who will call you mean names, a bloodthirsty lawfully armed driver or a deaf person who refuses to comply with orders, compelling the police to take extreme measures to protect themselves from the silence. Anything can happen, and that raises terrible questions about how to apply the First Rule of Policing.
If the cop wasn’t required to actually stop a person, but rather just do a digital jig that popped out a citation on the other end, he wouldn’t be placed in danger. And really, isn’t that the core purpose of due process, to protect the cop?
But because you aren’t a cop, and really couldn’t care less about the First Rule of Policing because you don’t get it, you are probably asking the only question that matters to you: What’s in this for me?
The measure would add a $5 fee to the amount paid by defendants convicted of speeding (up to 10 mph over the speed limit), certain misdemeanor traffic violations, or a driving under the influence misdemeanor or felony.
A “Court Clerk’s Records Electronic Citation Fund” would be created in each county.
Sixty percent of the fee, or $3, would be credited to the fund and forty percent would be disbursed to the agency of the arresting law enforcement officer to help with the expenses related to the establishment and maintenance of electronic citations.
While it’s unclear how the “court clerk’s” fund will be used, it’s assumed that it will be applied to the same purposes as all other court surcharges, ice cream parties for court personnel. Obviously, that means the parties will no longer be a burden on the general fund, thus eliminating the otherwise anticipated .003% increase in your taxes. Spend the extra money wisely. Perhaps on a new iPad to receive your citation emails.
Having a good laugh at this inane proposal? Wipe that silly grin off your face.
As regular readers here are painfully well aware, there is a broad swathe of early adopters for whom technology offers the solution to all that ails us. This particular proposal has the added virtue of providing safety for law enforcement, institutionalizing the First Rule, which is no laughing matter to legislators. And as it happens, it will be safer for cops, despite a problem or two:
So why not let them just skip it, even if that also means skipping the opportunity for motorists to be notified of their legal jeopardy at once, see their accusers, have a chance to explain themselves, and so forth?
But we are already extremely close to this scenario now. Red light cameras, anyone? When the notice of violation arrives a month or more later, can you remember what you were doing on May 13th at 15:37? There is no one to complain to, to question, to challenge. Just pay the bill and be happy you get no points.
McAffrey’s proposal isn’t all that different in kind from what is already ubiquitous, not to mention a huge money-maker, around the country. Sure, there are huge issues with the maintenance and handling of red light cameras, with the companies who get a cut of proceeds to calibrate them and assure the municipalities that get the other cut that they are completely trustworthy, but money is a strong incentive.
When you add police safety to money, the incentive may be overwhelming. Who wouldn’t support a program that does two fabulous things for government. It’s not like there is an interest group fighting for the rights of motorists who speed.
Ironically, the best argument against the use of electronic citations is that it would preclude cops from using the opportunity to request consent to search and have the drug dogs do a quick sniff. This could mean a serious hit on forfeitures as police seize whatever money drivers have in their pockets.
There are two solutions to this dilemma, of course. The first is to fix fines at an amount greater than what the police take in from seizures. The second is that police department policy limit the use of electronic
seizures citations to local roads, thus making cops do physical stops on highways, where the big money is usually found.
Sure, there is also that whole notice and due process thing, where being stopped by an officer would allow a person to know that he’s being accused of a wrong rather than learning of it months later with no possible means of challenging it. But if it works for red light cameras, why not traffic citations?
After all, what could be more important than the safety of our police officers? So what if it costs an extra fiver for the pleasure of being cited, as that’s just the price of technology. Digital isn’t free, you know. But more importantly, the thoughtful integration of technology into our lives will make the performance of the law enforcement function so much more effective, even if they send out a citation or two for an offense that never happened when tax revenues are down.
Tech. It’s the future. Hop on board or watch it leave the station without you, for which you will no doubt also be fined.