Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I try to write every day because I think I have some worthy opinions to share. I call this The Other Serpico mostly because it is my name that I share with another Serpico who exposed corruption in the 1970’s in the N.Y.C. Police Department. I was also a cop and then moved on to become a Administrative Law Judge. It sounds fancy but   I did was basically night court. I presided over the parking violations bureau and handed out fines or dismissed tickets that citizens opposed. Not such an new president changing part of the law but yet important. Today I feel like what I am about to blah blah   about is an extension of a form of corruption or fleecing of America found in many states ongoing in America. Not as dramatic as what The Other Serpico did in the 70’s but important.

What I did as a Judge can be called presiding over Municipal Violations. It involved everyday ways of breaking the law like speeding or jay walking or not paying your parking tickets. We have all committed a Municipal Violation but congratulations if you have never gotten caught. For most people tickets are just annoying and you pay the fine but if you don’t have the money or just forget to pay the fine, tickets can literally ruin your life.  You can have some low level traffic tickets but if you do not start paying them off you will get all kinds of other fees put on top of them and then you can be arrested for non- compliance with the law.  Then you wonder how can I go to jail over a ticket?

Most tickets come with a fine. In Alabama a speeding ticket is $250 and if you only earn minimum wage there at $7.25 an hour it would take you   more than 35 hours of work to pay that off. No judge wants to put granny in jail for forgetting to pay or put a low wage earner in serious trouble to pay but it happens. In California they have a reasonable base fine but it can turn into something you can’t   afford.  The actual fine for running a stop sign there is $35 but by the time the state puts on 10 different surcharges or fees, the amount you owe jumps to $238 dollars.  Courts know that not everyone can pay their fine so they allow a payment plan.

Payment plans can turn out to be even more expensive. These charges effectively can penalize people solely for being poor.  In Illinois the state law authorizes charging individuals who fall behind in payments with a fee of 30% of the delinquent amount. Nine states charge defendants a fee for just entering into a payment plan that is $100 in New Orleans.  Yes, I just said that your payment plan starts with a payment plan fee.  This fleecing of Americans is widespread. At least 44 states charge people a fee to be on probation and many municipalities use these funds to provide services without raising taxes. So, the average citizen is fine with all this nonsense as long as the money is coming from some criminal type. Yes having that parking ticket makes you a criminal.

Ferguson, Missouri should also be known about how the cops have to treat all citizens there.  When the recent Department of Justice Report uncovered institutional racism they also stumbled upon   how one of the ways it manifested was in how the city uses fines as a cash machine. The report showed that the officers competed on who could write the most tickets and also found that police officer promotions depended upon citation revenue. Yes if you wrote a lot of tickets you were up for a promotion.  The Black Attorney General, Eric Holder quoted a specific case on National TV. In 2007, one woman received 2 parking tickets that together totaled $152.  To date she has paid $552 in fines and fees to the City of Ferguson. That markup is excessive.  Why doesn’t the Missouri Congressman get off their ass and address these issues for the citizen of the states they represent?

Using fines to fund a government of that region is rampart. Calverton Park is at the 66% level.  Should everyone there stay at home or be in fear of leaving their homes to get fined for something? When 66% of a place is funded by fines, you are actually hoping that the citizens break the law.  So folks start speeding or we will have to close the library. Do it for the kids. RIDICULOUS! In these situations the poor get hurt the worst. It is also a common practice to have people’s likenesses suspended. In Orange County, Florida, they made an event of showing all the licenses   they took away from folks.  In 2012 a staggering 88% of all suspended drivers licenses were taken from people that failed to comply with summons or fees not from reckless driving habits.  If you do loose your driver’s license it can affect your entire life since most people drive to work. If you can’t get to work you loose  your job and more problems evolve for all.

Lower income workers who found their license suspended were 66% of people in New Jersey and lost their jobs as a result which does not help anyone. You need them to pay their fine but you are taking away their means of paying it.  It is a self-defeating act. To make the situation worse, private companies are getting involved by consolidating all your debt and now you also owe the private company money too who take their money first and pay the tickets after they get their cut while waiting for you to give them pennies. SENTINEL Services are rich from this practice.

None of this even makes sense on a financial basis. Creating criminals of our citizens cost us jail time expenses. Is this the America we want? There is a Southern Poverty Law Center but they are swamped. Jack Long a Conservative Republican lawmaker thinks all this crap is just fine to   fine.  Yes our language spells all this the same too.  This is everyone’s problem.  Remember who you vote for in Congress.

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