NMA Email Newsletter: Issue #65

Does This Make Sense?

In his year or so of ruling over traffic court, Marion County (Indiana) Superior Court Judge Bill Young has exercised the court’s ability to tack heavy penalties on top of the existing structure of fines if defendants have the gall to challenge their traffic tickets or parking violations. Judge Young has seen fit to routinely add a fine of up to $500 against those who show up in his courtroom, in many cases more than tripling the basic fine for the original infraction.

The effect is a double-edged sword wielded against traffic defendants, discouraging people from standing up in court, but if they persist, zapping them with heavy fines that ultimately profit the justice system since much of the collected cash is applied to court infrastructure and ancillary programs. The conflict of interest is plain to see.

After much local uproar about Young’s actions — Marion is the largest county in Indiana, encompassing the city of Indianapolis — Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill that more tightly defines the maximum additional fees to be paid by traffic court defendants who want their day in court. While the premise behind the new law is to control judges like Young who have been routinely assigning the extra penalties, the reality is that Indiana is continuing a bad practice by simply layering new legislation over old. Want to challenge your speeding ticket? Here is a new schedule of penalties if you do so, designed to give you protection against excessive fines while still lightening your wallet in the process.

Just for grins (and grimaces), below is the new schedule of maximum fines against those in Indiana who schedule a trial for moving violations such as speeding (outside of school or construction zones) as well as violations at stop signs and traffic signals. Keep in mind that the following penalties are over and above the $114.50 in court costs and fees charged by each Indiana county for a Class C infraction.

  • $35.50 for admitting to the violation on or before the court date, or for contesting the violation in court but losing — as long as the defendant has not unsuccessfully contested any previous moving violations in the same county within five years
  • $250.50 for contesting the current violation in court and losing (with “only” one previous losing attempt)
  • $500.00 for contesting the current violation and losing (with two or more previous losing attempts)

Unfortunately, the new law in Indiana does make a lot of cents.

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