Parking ticket reductions! We're giving out millions of "reductions"!
Friday's New York Times finally covers the parking ticket reduction program. If you challenge a ticket, the city can "plea bargain" with you and give you a reduced price, in lieu of seeing a judge. The Times story is light on the details; the "reductions" program simply cannot be evaluated.
I wrote a response that perhaps can be read at the NY Times website. The program began with commercial adjudications. UPS gets thousands of parking tickets and had many long, pointless hearing. An average figure was worked out, allowing UPS to pay a reduced bill--with both sides saving money on legal costs. The "plea bargain" reduction system was, without fanfare, expanded to individuals.
Parking judges (like I used to be) were told of an additional change in policy. If a person declined the reduction and sought a hearing, no reduction could be given for any reason. The public, of course, was never informed of this unilateral policy change.
Judges used to reduce tickets based on many established reasons (multiple inspection of registration tickets within a week, a far-away or a nearly illegible sign, a car parked partly--even a bumper touch--in the prohibited area). Judges are per diem, at-will "independent contractors" and were required to follow the policy change--in reality, if the city says "jump!' the parking judges ask "how high?"
While some tickets are automatically reduced by clerks, the clerks are not authorized to explain the law. A person who doesn't understand "No Parking" or "No Standing" will get many more "reductions." A hearing with a judge might have proved invaluable.
New York City, of course, is writing parking tickets in greater numbers. A thorough, independent evaluation of parking tickets is needed. In all the years I worked as a judge, no one asked me about anything.
Ticket quality is up (thanks to computer-zapped registration information, there are fewer errors), but the quality-of-life issues remain. For example, you can't park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant and you can't park in a crosswalk. The 15 feet hydrant are is almost never marked by paint. The crosswalks are often unmarked. Most everyone parks an inch or even a foot in these areas. In my opinion, it's not a violation worthy of a $165 fine. If the city wants to charge that amount, then the city should actually paint lines and markings to make rules easy to follow. But why do that when you have a money machine going?
Also, what's the deal of the $15 per ticket New York State Criminal Justice surcharge? Where is that money going? If tickets are reduced, is the surcharge also reduced?
So read today's New York Times article. If you have a parking ticket, I hope you get a reduction. Be happy with that "money-saving reduction." You'll probably get many more!
By JO CRAVEN McGINTY and RALPH BLUMENTHAL
New York City has been offering reduced parking fines since 2005, but the discounts have gone unnoticed.
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