Dallas Is Making It Harder to Dodge Traffic Tickets

Categories: City Hall

Flickr user Phillip Winn
Remember that story a couple of weeks back about how Dallas was sitting on 25,000 municipal court warrants? And how you were probably safe ignoring your traffic citation with impunity? That was caused by a technical glitch, and technical glitches get fixed. The reprieve was temporary.

The broader trend is that the city's municipal courts are getting much, much better. If they're not yet a well-oiled model of efficiency, they are at least an increasingly effective means of squeezing fines out of traffic violators.

Take a look at the numbers. Before, those who challenged their citations had a better-than-even shot at a dismissal; ; only the foolish and the tragically civic-minded paid their fines up front. That's changed. The overall number of dismissals is down 28 percent over last year there.

According to court records maintained by the state, the number of dismissals is dropping, down 28 percent year over year, only some of which is explained by DPD's newfound permissiveness. The percentage of newly filed cases resulting in dismissal dropped from 42.1 percent to 34.7 percent as reforms have reduced the number of police officer no-shows and unprepared prosecutors.

See also: Dallas Cops Are Writing Half as Many Tickets as They Did Five Years Ago

The outcomes now look like this:


The number of people who plead guilty or no contest and pay their fine -- the city's preferred outcome, because it's quick and cheap -- has dropped slightly over the past year, but not enough to offset the reduced dismissals. In 2009, the city collected $80 for every citation. In 2013, that figure was $115.

More worrisome still for scofflaws were the city's repeated pledges at yesterday's council meeting to become a "leader in the industry," which was invariably described in opaque business jargon. (e.g. The municipal courts will become "more customer-centered"; "Deferred disposition is our most popular court program"; "We're reviewing this process to see if we can find efficiencies.")

See also: Dallas Has Basically Been Ignoring Unpaid Traffic Tickets for Months

The upshot is that further reforms should make tickets harder to beat. Prosecutors should soon be able to stream police video from dash cams (and, eventually, body cams) in the courtroom, obviating the need for police officers to recall traffic stops from memory. The city is also developing a smartphone app so those who get a ticket can pay it that very night.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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Yo the biggest scam is the red light camera scam!

ScottsMerkin topcommenter

I for one appreciate the cops downtown who write tickets to speeders, asshats cutting off pedestrians in crosswalks and people who stop at red lights in crosswalks and those turning right on red when posted no turn on red allowed. It makes it only slightly safer to walk downtown   

TheRuddSki topcommenter

Shouldn't be too hard dodging a ticket from the cop in the photo,

everlastingphelps topcommenter

Prosecutors should soon be able to stream police video from dash cams (and, eventually, body cams) in the courtroom, obviating the need for police officers to recall traffic stops from memory.

I don't think the rules of evidence permit that, without an expert witness to come in to testify about how the system works under the Silent Witness Doctrine. 


Translation: We're becoming better and better at fleecing the populace to fill our coffers with money that doesn't require oversight, all under the theatrical concept that it's to make things safer.  Now pay up, you forgot to use a signal.


Meh, most traffic enforcement in the non-feral parts of town are geared toward revenue generation, not public safety.  A traffic ticket nowadays has nearly zero moral content and ought to be viewed as little more than an irregularly exacted travel tax.

everlastingphelps topcommenter

To clarify, I think that the cops can use the tape to refresh their recollection, but they still have to have an independent memory of the stop, records that they created, and the ability to testify under cross examination. 

The tape is just what it is, and isn't subject to cross-examination, meaning that to rely on just it would be a 6th Amendment violation.  It's not as simply as just playing the tape and saying, "there you go."


@bvckvs Of course, it's nearly impossible to run afoul of ten different traffic laws in your average run to the store for milk, even if you're an excellent driver.  Because, absolutely, those laws are designed for safety and not revenue generation.  

Care to look into why so many cities are removing traffic light cams?

everlastingphelps topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @everlastingphelps  Yup, and they are routinely tossed out on those grounds, too.


Witnesses at Trial

The red light camera manufacturer is supposed to appear at trials regarding red light traffic tickets. A representative from the camera company is there to testify whether the camera was working properly and when it was last maintained. If no one shows up to represent the camera company, you can argue that no one is there to verify whether the picture is accurate.

It applies to pretty much all physical evidence.



Any police officer will tell you that if they wanted to, they could follow anyone around & eventually they would do something that could initiate a traffic stop. Including you, so get off your freakin' high horse & quit acting so high & mighty.

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