Drunk Driving and Traffic Tickets in Michigan – The Money-Making Speed System

A recent Channel 7 News story about local Police cashing in on Tickets struck a familiar chord with me. A big chunk of my Practice involves DUI’s and Traffic Tickets. I often find myself explaining to a Client that, above and beyond any facts in their case, it represents revenue to the City in which the case was brought. Now let’s be clear, I’m not talking about major crimes here. Instead, I mean DUI’s, Suspended/Revoked License charges, Traffic Tickets, Possession of Marijuana and similar, local Misdemeanors.

I could literally list hundreds of examples, but one that comes up as much as any other occurs when a Client has been arrested for a DUI. The person might have been pulled over for speeding, and then ask me something like “I was only a few blocks from home. Why couldn’t he (the arresting Police Officer) have just let me call home and get a ride?”

money.jpgI then explain to my Client that, besides the fact that Driving Under the Influence is a crime, to the City (or Township, or Village, or whatever) their arrest represents revenue. And a nice chunk, at that.

In addition to the Fines that the City picks up in one of these cases, the Court supports itself by imposing Costs, as well. Add to that the cost of supervised Probation for a year or more, and just letting that DUI Driver go means sending better than a thousand dollars out the door.

Even a simple Traffic Ticket, which represents only a few minutes of Police time, generates better than $100. If you figure that into an hourly rate, the Police Officer is more than earning his or her salary back for the City.

This is why, in most Traffic Ticket cases, a person with a decent Driving Record can hire a Lawyer, take the case to Court, and wind up walking out with a deal that keeps any and all points of their Record. Of course, part of that deal is paying the fine on a “non-reportable” Traffic offense. From the City’s financial point of view, they are still making money.

We can debate the ethics and morality of this system forever, but it is what it is. Most of my Clients either have, or eventually convert to my position that whatever else, if it’s about money, then it means it’s not about you. Personally, I simply accept that this is the way things are. Perhaps I take that position because I know that, at least for this cause, “you can’t fight City Hall.”

Still, there is a quiet lesson to be learned here. When it’s 1 or 2 a.m. on a weekend night and someone is driving home who had a few too many, bear in mind that the Police are out looking. All the crime-fighting rhetoric aside, finding that Drunk Driver or stopping that Speeder represents money in the City coffers, and, in this economy, you’d have to wonder about the loyalty of any employee who would just let that go.

Is it fair? Well, life isn’t fair. But it is reality, and ignoring reality can be very expensive. So whatever else you do, remember this, and drive carefully.