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More Internal Affairs investigators showing up in traffic court

In the aftermath of the ticket fixing scandal that rocked New York City earlier this year - particularly the Bronx - officials with the New York Police Department's Internal Affairs (IA) Bureau have been working overtime to uncover any potential improprieties on the part of police officers in issuing traffic violations.

Specifically, these IA investigators have been showing up in increasing numbers to traffic court to gauge the testimony provided by officers concerning past traffic tickets.

Here, they are verifying that officers actually show up for the hearings and examining whether the officer is being truthful when they profess not to remember a particular traffic stop - two methods allegedly used to fix tickets in the past.

However, critics fear that this approach is actually having an altogether negative impact, as officers are now fearful that even smallest memory lapse or clerical error can result in an IA investigation, causing them to write altogether fewer traffic tickets.

In support of this argument, they cite the following rather interesting statistics:

  • Summonses for traffic violations in the Bronx have fallen by roughly 11 percent from a year ago
  • Summonses for traffic violations in all of New York City have fallen by roughly 8 percent from a year ago

"They are setting this up in a way that there is not going to be a cop out there who wants to write a summons - it is too personally risky," said one critic. "To warn and admonish, or arrest, is better."

Another argument advanced by both critics and police officers of IA's approach is that just because a police officer cannot remember the details of a ticket in traffic court doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is being deceitful. After all, tickets may have been written several years earlier under rather mundane circumstances and without detailed notes.

"I said, 'Your honor, this [ticket] is five years and three ranks ago,'" said one NYPD officer of his experience trying to recall a ticket from several years prior. "It's insane. Where have you been the last 1,000 days?"

It should be interesting to see how this situation plays out.

Stay tuned for further developments from our New York traffic law blog ...

If you have been issued a traffic violation, fight to keep your driving privileges and your insurance premiums as low as possible. Consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

The New York Times, "Now, traffic ticket may hurt officer who writes it as much as driver who gets it" July 31, 2011

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