Traffic Stops Are Money Makers in Ohio – But You Can Fight Back

Traffic Ticket Quotas OhioFor many people, a traffic ticket is a minor inconvenience. Most folks just pay the fine and go on their way, provided it won’t raise their insurance prices or put points on their licenses. But if you look closely, you’ll start to notice a pattern in small towns and cities across the country: a certain neighborhood that ALWAYS has a cop at the corner, or a particular highway where you’ll get ticketed for doing 56 in a 55 zone, even though a few blocks away, people are driving 65mph and no one bats an eye. And if you’ve thought “I only got a ticket because it’s the end of the month,” you should know that your instinct may not be wrong.

A 2021 investigation by the New York Times found that, in many towns, police officers are used as revenue agents — ordered to do whatever it takes to collect a fine or penalty, all with the federal government’s blessing: “Fueling the culture of traffic stops is the federal government, which issues over $600 million a year in highway safety grants that subsidize ticket writing. Although federal officials say they do not impose quotas, at least 20 states have evaluated police performance on the number of traffic stops per hour….”

The Times report goes on to say that while this issue is endemic in cities, it is smaller towns – the ones with 30,000 or fewer people – who benefit the most from these traffic stops. Per their findings, “over 730 municipalities rely on fines and fees for at least 10 percent of their revenue, enough to pay for an entire police force in some small communities.” Per the Times:

A 2019 report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio found that 1 in 6 traffic tickets in the state were issued in towns with mayor’s courts, which the A.C.L.U. called a “shadowy and unaccountable quasi-judicial system that wrings revenue from drivers.” The U.S. Supreme Court, as far back as 1927, flagged the inherent conflict in Ohio mayors imposing fines to pay “marshals, inspectors and detectives” who, in turn, generated cases.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, about half of the country’s states have laws against traffic quotas.

We want to point out that revenue generated by traffic tickets also funds a lot of good programs. Anti-drunk driving campaigns and police training are often funded through ticket revenue; so, too, are emergency services. In some cases, traffic tickets also help fund Legal Aid societies and public defenders.

So our issue is not entirely that traffic tickets are used to generate revenue – all Ohioans benefit from that revenue in some way. We don’t even have an issue with people getting traffic tickets for breaking the law, which we know is kind of a “weird” thing to say as defense lawyers. The problem we have arises when you are pulled over for a reason that violates your rights, and then hit with multiple traffic tickets (or worse).

How do I know if my traffic stop was unlawful?

If your stop was problematic in any way, you should contact a Columbus defense attorney at Soroka & Associates. You may be the victim of an unlawful traffic stop if:

  • There was no reasonable cause to pull you over.
  • You were subject to an illegal search of your vehicle.
  • You were stopped by an officer who does not have jurisdiction in Columbus (or wherever you are).
  • You were given a ticket for an infraction you did not commit.
  • You were pulled for legally turning around near an OVI checkpoint.
  • You were denied access to legal counsel.
  • You were physically harmed in any way.

If you’re facing criminal charges that stem from the stop – such as an OVI charge or a possession charge – we may be able to have that evidence suppressed if the stop itself was illegal.

Why should I fight a traffic ticket in Columbus, OH?

For many people, a traffic ticket is a minor inconvenience. Most folks just pay the fine and go on their way. But the penalties stemming from traffic violations – even minor ones – can build up over time. Aside from the fines and fees, you will also get points on your license. Too many points can lead to increased insurance costs or even the suspension or revocation of your license, which means you may be unable to get to work or school. If you refuse to pay the tickets, a bench warrant may be issued against you, meaning you could end up spending time in jail because of those tickets.

This leaves you with three options:

  1. Pay the fines and let the chips fall where they may.
  2. Plead guilty during a mitigation hearing and hope the judge goes easy on you.
  3. Fight back against an unfair or unjust tickets by pleading not guilty.

Our Columbus defense lawyers can help in this regard. We can ask for evidence during the discovery phase (like dashcam and body recordings) and create a defense for you. We know how to negotiate with prosecutors if that’s what’s best for you, and how to present a case to a judge.

Besides – a person who walks into traffic court with a lawyer by his or her side? That’s someone who means business.

A solid defense presented well can mean the difference between walking free and going to prison. No matter what you are being charged with, you never want to try to fight alone. At Soroka & Associates, our aggressive Columbus criminal defense attorneys know how to separate fact from exaggeration and present that truth to the court. Call us or fill out our contact form to learn more.