odd? traffic ticket in SC
November 14, 2019 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Driving south from Charleston to Florida, I got stopped for speeding on a state highway, shortly before the interstate. (The ticket, printed from a mobile device, was for 73 in a 60 zone.) Here's the odd part: the officer hands me her business card with the printout, and tells me (not once but repeatedly) that I should email her to discuss, eg maybe reduction in points.

But...if the points and the cost are already entered into the computer, what's to discuss? Would she have been able to change it anyway? And the email address was officername@cityname.org - not even official-sounding. Was this some kind of invitation to bribery, and how would that even work??
posted by mmiddle to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Depending on how the department is organized it’s likely she could do it for a small town. What do you see if you go to the cityname.org webpage?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:56 PM on November 14, 2019

Maybe they don't want to show up in court if you decide to fight the ticket so this way you get a reduced fine/points and they won't have to go to traffic court.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:01 PM on November 14, 2019

Very hinky. I would write a very politely worded letter to city prosecutor asking for confirmation that this is standard procedure. That should be enough to set in motion whatever needs to be set in motion.
posted by HotToddy at 5:10 PM on November 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yeah, if it's a speed-trap type town, I think this is somewhat common.

Anecdotally, I got pulled over on a state highway in very small town in Southern Oklahoma when I was moving out of my dorm-room some 20 years ago. I (cis-male) had glittery dark green painted fingernails and firey-reddish-orange dyed hair and couldn't even get through the clutter in my two-door sedan to show my insurance card. The officer that pulled me over told me that since I "was polite" so long as I sent in my payment within 30 days he'd "tell the judge" to keep it off my record. I did and they did and my insurance didn't go up.
posted by Ufez Jones at 5:11 PM on November 14, 2019

okay, it seems to be the city website, though "not secure." I know you've always been able to haggle over points as the officer is standing there writing out the ticket. But would she have been able to go back into the system and edit it days or weeks later? And would there have been any risk in providing her with my email address (as opposed to my out-of-state street address)?
posted by mmiddle at 5:16 PM on November 14, 2019

If you go in person to appeal a traffic ticket, they often convert it to a lesser offense (this is why my driving record includes a ticket for "improper car door opening"). This does not have to be done "in court," and is often done instead of court. Sounds like she realized you were out of state, and is effectively giving you the opportunity to do that same thing via email.
posted by dizziest at 6:03 PM on November 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

This has happened to me twice. Sounds like she was actually trying to be helpful in that if you did not want to come back to town to fight it, they would likely accept a plea to a charge that had less points but more fine or a type of fine that goes to the local jurisdiction rather than to the state.

I had a 20 mph over speeding charge reduced to ignoring a sign and I made my check out to the town (hello Warrensburg VA!) rather than the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I also had a judge rule such that I was guilty of essentially a parking ticket rather than speeding because I actually had a good case and he was comprising so that the town not NY got my $40. Shoutout to the NYS Troopers on the Taconic State Parkway up north of 84.

This is likely legit especially if it is all in writing or email.
posted by AugustWest at 9:10 PM on November 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if its really the same thing but, years ago, I was pulled over in Honolulu for not wearing a seat belt while driving. The police officer said they had to issue a ticket but also that it I responded saying I was a tourist and didnt know, they'd let me off, ONCE. It worked.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:27 PM on November 14, 2019

Thanks everyone, but only HotToddy caught the angle of my question. Not so much the event as the technology and risks. Why not just ‘negotiate’ in the moment...
posted by mmiddle at 4:01 AM on November 15, 2019

It does seem a little odd, but what's your concern? Maybe she needs to check with someone else at HQ to see what they can do? Maybe she was in a hurry and thought she would discuss the details later? I don't see what the possible downside risk is to you. A police officer somewhere has your e-mail address? Just be careful not do anything illegal (i.e. offer a bribe) If she really was soliciting a bribe, why on earth would she do it in writing? And give you her business card? Send out a neutral statement like "I was ticketed, ticket # XXXX, you said that there was a points reduction program I should ask about" and see what she comes back with. If it's a request for money to go to her personal paypal account or something, don't do it!
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 5:53 AM on November 15, 2019

Why not just ‘negotiate’ in the moment

She may need to ticket what was observed, and get approval from a judge/superior for a points reduction in order to comply with policy/regulations.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:34 AM on November 15, 2019

I got almost the identical ticket on Rte 17 in SC a few years ago. They said I was going 73 or so in a 60. I knew I wasn't and, because I work nearby, was able to go to court and argue it down from a $150. ticket to a $50. ticket which I still protested. If you can show up for the court date it's worth it.
posted by mareli at 6:56 AM on November 15, 2019

Yes, mareli! I bet it was the same spot. I just went ahead and paid it, because I distrusted and disliked her (hostile car-side manner), but if this is department policy, it's a really dumb policy - various ways that things could go wrong. (and Larry, she didn't have any of this advice in writing, nor was it included in the instructional text on flip side of ticket.) Anyway, thanks, all - vaguely reassuring, though I guess I could have also emailed the city attorney to ask (Yemassee, if anyone's wondering).
posted by mmiddle at 8:08 AM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Why not just ‘negotiate’ in the moment...

Doing it over email and not in person would seem to be less likely to be perceived as soliciting a bribe.
posted by Mitheral at 8:58 AM on November 15, 2019

How much your insurance rates go up after a speeding ticket often depends on how many miles over the speed limit you were driving. This is why you should always pursue an attempt to plead to a lesser charge/lower speed, and never just pay off a ticket without getting a free first consult over the phone with a lawyer in that town who deals with traffic court.

At 13 miles over, it almost certainly would have been worth your while to attempt to plea to a lesser charge.
posted by mediareport at 11:47 AM on November 15, 2019

But...if the points and the cost are already entered into the computer, what's to discuss?

The points are not yet reported to insurance companies, for one thing. As folks have mentioned, adjusting the points and costs is common practice. Every one should take advantage of it.
posted by mediareport at 12:13 PM on November 15, 2019

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