Aside from local television commercials that end with, say, a small child squealing “Daddy’s baby girwell,” perhaps the most annoying advertisements are aired by ticket-fixing businesses that seem to inundate this community.
In this political climate, there are probably zillions of viewers who mutter, “Huh? These people in that soothing Pepto-Bismol building can magically turn a speeding ticket into a parking citation?”
Wouldn’t it benefit our shriveling government coffers better to collect the heftier speeding fine than a slap-on-the-hand parking ticket? And if you’re caught speeding, shouldn’t you be fined for speeding?
A handful of readers have questioned these businesses’ commitment to reduce traffic fines and keep points from marring motorists’ driving records. They wondered whether it’s fair, ethical or even legal.
Here’s Dave, for example, a Henderson resident who hails from the Midwest but has driven in countries across the globe.
“We already have the worst drivers in the entire world (and I’ve been everywhere); drunk driving, speeding and general reckless driving seem to go unnoticed — and yet we allow such criminals, when finally caught, to sidestep appropriate punishment.”
The courts believe these types of businesses who employ attorneys actually do the community a service. They relieve the court system of offenses that would otherwise bog it down; at the same time they provide a convenience to traffic offenders.
Chief Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman said her court processes 250,000 traffic citations each year. It would be impossible to examine the merits of each case, so typically the ticket-fixing attorneys are successful in keeping their clients from receiving points on their driving record.
That is done by reducing a citation from a moving violation to a parking ticket.
Most of these businesses claim they can reduce your ticket. The fine isn’t determined by the officer who writes the citation, but by a judge overseeing the case. Michael Sommermeyer, Clark County District Court spokesman, said a judge might be willing to reduce the offense to a parking violation to avoid points; but if a speeding penalty is set at $300, that’s what the offender will pay, not a $20 parking ticket. Most of the time, Zimmerman is fine with the process.
“If you’re a good driver and this is your first speeding ticket in 10 years, I don’t have any heartburn over giving you a parking ticket,” Zimmerman said. “The county is still receiving its revenues, because we collect a lot of revenue over the year. If everyone wanted to have a traffic trial, I don’t know how that would be possible.”
But the ticket-fixing business does become a little sketchy when second-, third- and fourth offenders also catch breaks. These motorists should be punished and Zimmerman recognizes that. She is revamping the case management system so it red-flags repeat offenders who might be tucked in a stack of tickets submitted to the court.
“If you’re a repeat offender, I want your insurance rate to go up because I want you to slow down,” Zimmerman said.
And, to briefly return to Dave’s concerns, the courts do no favors for motorists arrested for driving under the influence. The only circumstance under which the offense might be reduced to reckless driving is if a key piece of evidence — for example, solid blood alcohol readings — are lacking.
Overall, these ticket-fixing businesses’ best service to most motorists is saving them a trip to the courthouse, which can take two or three hours.
“All they’re really offering is a convenience. They’re making it easier for people who don’t want to come down here,” Sommermeyer said.
I gave a few of these businesses a call, but had no luck in talking to attorneys. Short of landing myself a speeding ticket, there is no way to determine whether these little firms are actually effective.
But from what I understand, these businesses aren’t capable of doing anything inside the court that you can’t do yourself. Offenders can call the court and set up an appearance before the judge that very day.
Zimmerman said if you simply tell the judge you are interested in resolving the ticket, you will receive the same treatment as a ticket fixer.
“Their advertising might lead you to believe they can acquire something for you that you can’t acquire on your own,” Zimmerman said. “They’re providing a service — we’ll go down to the courthouse so you don’t have to. That’s the reality of what they provide.”
If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at 702-387-2904, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@reviewjournal .com. Please include your phone number.