NMA Email Newsletter: Issue #76

Photo Ticket Games

Issue #71 of this newsletter series, entitled “Police Protected,” highlighted a story of several Los Angeles area officers who had piled up dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of unpaid parking tickets without retribution. This is an account of a law enforcement officer who was not so lucky; in fact, his story highlights many of the inequities of how traffic tickets can be handled.

After hearing an NMA staffer interviewed on a Los Angeles radio station a couple of months ago, a Southern California federal law enforcement agent called our office to describe what had happened to him. The agent was on the job in Arizona in April 2009, surveilling a suspect. He didn’t know it at the time, but a highway speed camera picked up his government-issued rental car allegedly going 78 mph in a 65 mph zone.

To this day he has not seen the photo ticket issued by the Maryvale Justice Court. The first the agent heard of the ticket was in January of this year, when a collection agency caught up with him, hounding him for the $306.42 he supposedly owed. Knowing that the Arizona Supreme Court already had ruled that photo tickets were not considered valid unless delivered via personal service, he initially requested a dismissal on that basis. That motion was denied because the court claimed the ticket was delivered and signed for months earlier — by a 5’-8”, 180 pound gentleman in his mid-60s, a description that isn’t even close to matching the agent in question. The process server didn’t even walk away with the name of the person he handed the ticket to, but the court recognized that exchange as legally putting the agent on notice.

With the NMA’s help, the agent found an attorney who was willing to represent him pro bono. A motion to dismiss based on the on-duty surveillance status of the agent was denied. After getting one continuance for the trial date, a subsequent request for a postponement due to scheduling conflicts by both the defendant and his attorney was denied at the last minute. Because of a non-appearance by the defendant, a guilty verdict was handed down.

While the law enforcement status of the defendant adds an interesting twist to this story, it doesn’t change its most fundamental and disturbing component: How due process can be skirted, even subverted, even in a state that added an extra layer of due process protection by requiring photo tickets to be personally served.

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