Where Does The Money From A Speeding Ticket Go?

By James Baxter, NMA President

In this land where reality and fiction are indistinguishable there is a dead legal principle that says judges and courts should not personally benefit from the results of their rulings. Obviously, there is a conflict of interest anytime a judge’s well being would be affected by his or her decision. On occasion, a judge is found guilty of taking bribes for deciding in favor of his benefactors.

But, when the conflict of interest is systemic, universal, and worth billions of dollars it is also invisible!

I’m talking about the adjudication of traffic tickets. Traffic tickets are the mother’s milk of the court system. Thousands of judges rule on traffic cases knowing full well that guilty verdicts pay their salary, fund their retirement systems, and build their courthouses.

But nobody seems to see a conflict of interest in this system? The noble judges are apparently above the temptations the rest of humanity experiences?

Here’s how a typical speeding ticket (in this case a ticket from Indiana that we paid though our Traffic Justice Program) is divvied up:

State Courts: $49.00
County Courts: $18.90
City Courts: $2.10
Law Enforcement Fee: $4.00
Jury Fee: $2.00
Highway Work Zone: $0.50 (??)
Auto Record Keeping Fee: $7.00
Document Storage Fee: $2.00
Infractional Judgments: $99.50  The fine!
Public Defense Administration Fee: $3.00
Judicial Insurance Adjustment: $1.00
Judicial Salaries Fee: $18.00:  Do you think murderers and rapists pay this fee too?
DNA Sample Processing Fee: $2.00  Very common service for traffic tickets.
Court Administration Fee: $5.00

Total Cost Of Ticket: $214.00

This should help explain why average traffic ticket recipients start out with two strikes against them when they enter traffic court. The court system just can’t afford to offer real justice. If it did it would drown in its own workload and go broke in the process.

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14 Responses to “Where Does The Money From A Speeding Ticket Go?”

  1. Randall says:

    So your telling me that if I get a ticket in Indiana and go to court that not only do you get the fine but you get all of those fees tacked on too? I just want some clarification because in MD we get whatever fine the judge seems fit to give us and then theres a court fee of about $29.50 which the judge usually includes in the fine. So in MD lets say your found guilty, the judge will say something like $200 including court costs so the math comes out at: Fine:170.50 Court Costs: 29.50.

  2. Doug says:

    And the US Government has the huevos to say Mexico is corrupt! The officials who are responsible for traffic laws and their enforcement in the United States are nothing more than lying, self-serving, legalized criminals.
    With a driving environment like this, it's no wonder nearly the only vehicles the US can develop and sell to its citizens are 50's era pickup trucks.

  3. Melba I. King says:

    motorist.org Googled, "Speedtrap"

    Tullos, LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, population 200 + 3 Revenue Collectors. U S intersection of 165 and 84, has been a established speed trap for many years. Fact, the two U. S. highways are not within legal boundaries of the Town of Tullos. Tickets were not written to town citizens. Necessary. An attorney must file suit for return of money to motorist.

    Go to "wesawthat+kalb+Tullos." Governor Bobby Jindal speaks out.

  4. David JUnkins says:

    This is probably why I lost my court case last year in Columbus, IN. I had legally and rightfully won the case by all standards, but the judge by his rule alone allowed the officer/prosecutor to present their use of a ladar device. I had asked for all kinds of information from the prosecutor and was totally ignored. I got no response and when I asked for the judge to not allow admission of the ladar the judge admited it in evidence even though the prosecutor said he would provide the information I requested. When I told the judge my whole case relied on this the judge said, "I realize that" and sneered. I guess the burden of proof doesn't matter in reality only on TV and make believe cases in the world of movies. When I objected to the ladars use during testimony the officer said my objectin didn't matter because he believed I was speeding and that's all that matters and he didn't have to provide any evidence. Dave

  5. Phil Mckrackin says:

    Quote from article((I’m talking about the adjudication of traffic tickets. Traffic tickets are the mother’s milk of the court system. Thousands of judges rule on traffic cases knowing full well that guilty verdicts pay their salary, fund their retirement systems, and build their courthouses.))

    Phil replies(as I would expect from James Baxter as in most of his articles the content is filled with outright lies. James Every offense of law that can be adjudicated with a fine pays those fees they aren't unique to speeding tickets. Fines are a manner of imposing retribution for an unwanted behavior. Anytime you feel that the imposition of a fine would be for strictly revenue purposes beat the judge and his corrupt court at thier own game and make a motion just prior to the judges sentence that retribution be in a non monetary form. The judge can also impose the sentence of community service and or jail both of which costs the municipality money to impose. I am not so familiar with other jurisdictions but Judges(local court magistrates in my state) are full time lawyers that are elected to the post and draw a minimal salary as compensation currently under $10k a year. I believe it to be similar across the nation as a means of avoiding exactly what you have implicated in this article that the judges decide the cases based on how much $$ they want to make. Please double check your facts before writing articles and filling them with your inaccurate speculations. I have read many of your articles on this site and I can't recall 1 that I didn't find a factual error within the context.)

    David You need to understand that the LIDAR is only a confirmation that you are speeding. The officer has aready performed an independent visual estimate of your speed and that you were traveling in excess of the limit prior to activating the LIDAR device. Regardless of whether the LIDAR was allowed or not you can be found guilty by reason of the officers visual estimate and tracking history. If you had made a proper request for discovery prior to trial and the prosecutor simply didn't give you documentation that you were entiltled to under discovery there is a reversable error and if you appealed you might even win. But at what cost to you?

    • David JUnkins says:

      At this point of the game I very much am aware that whatever the officer says in court whether truth or not is deemed as true. The judge will accept his testimony as truth. I am not denying that he told the truth, but I did indeed follow all the "P's" as you point out. I ask two months prior to court on a discovery petition to the judge and the prosecutor to give me the type of device used, the serial number, his training, the records of the calibration, ect, ect, ect. I only got a one page copy of the officers training records and nothing else. So you may be right that I "MAY" have won on a higher court, but at what expense to me. Dave

  6. Jeff says:

    Mckrackin is still screwed up. A speeding ticket cannot be written by visual estimation only. I would love to see the calibration records for a police officer's eyes. If this were allowed, there would be no need to use radar or laser in the first place.

    A magistrate cannot impose community service in place of a monetary fine. Come to the 36th district court in Detroit and find out for yourself.

    • David JUnkins says:

      Go back and read my response. I am living proof that a judge can do whatever he wants in a court. Legal proceedings are only a facade to make the public think the courts are doing a good job of enforcing the law. Just watch "Judge Judy" and you will see that the case is already made up in her mind before the final sentence is imposed. Ditto on the traffic court judges. The whole thing is circus and a farce. Your mistaken idea that the courts must have evidence to support the officers presumed guilt of the driver is whoefully misplaced. Like Phil said, I may have had a good reason to go to a higher court to have the verdict overturned, but at what expense to me? Dave

    • Phil Mckrackin says:

      Dave your anti authoritarian ideals are lost on this issue. You feel you have been wronged when actually you failed to obey the 6 p's (Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance). You needed to present your motion for discovery to the court and the prosecutor would have had no alternative but to comply. You didn't prepare a good case. You had an idea on why you should win and went into court with that. Courts have rules and procedures that they follow. That you tried to get your ticket dismissed outside those rules and procedures does not mean the courts are a farce just that you were unprepared.

    • Phil Mckrackin says:

      Jeff I am not incorrect. Trained officers are trained with the ability to estimate the speeds of vehicles within +/- 5mph. The norm is that RADAR/LIDAR is used to verify that estimate but cases have been won by using ONLY the officer's estimate when the RADAR/LIDAR results were excluded for one reason or another. Well a judge can impose many different things a fine is by far the most common, however Community service, Jail or ACD are all possible in my home state.

  7. Jim Walker says:


    See State Police Field Update #31 for where the money goes in Michigan. For tickets issued by local police forces, 70% of the fines and 100% of the costs remain with the local courts — it is what gives them the reliable revenue stream to function. Most of the tickets are paid without a court fight, so the local court has almost no real costs, except what it takes to open the envelope and deposit the check.

    Ann Arbor gets about 25,000 ticket convictions per year, most of them for speeding offenses versus posted limits that only very rarely exceed the 30th percentile speed of free flowing traffic.

    People that challenge tickets in Ann Arbor have about a 50% chance of dismissal, a statistic that the prosecutor isn't thrilled to have made public. If everyone challenged every single ticket, even those people with no chance to win, the system would collapse.

    Note in the Statutory Assessments ($40 total) in Michigan that several items have nothing whatsoever to do with traffic issues, just as id the case in Indiana. Speeding tickets are used as a cash cow to feed non-traffic-safety purposes.


    Jim Walker

    • Phil Mckrackin says:

      I would actually like to know the actual ratio of speeding tickets to other infractions. Here is your chance to prove the revenue assertion.

  8. […] common service for traffic tickets. Court Administration Fee: $5.00 Total Cost Of Ticket: $214.00 Where Does The Money From A Speeding Ticket Go? __________________ I support the right to arm […]

  9. […] If you ever get a ticket and go to pay it, you might notice that it is broken down into 2 sections. You have your fine for committing the crime and then you have the court costs “fee”.  The court costs fee is actually a number of different state mandated fees that can go to various funds. These are things like managing the records, paying for public defenders, public safety training, etc. Some of the funds stay in the local court accounts to fund that court’s operations, and some go to the State to fund other things related to trials and courts. Ironically many times these fees end up being significantly larger than then the fine. For example a typical speeding ticket for 10 mph over the speed limit in Hamilton County has a fine of $35.50 and court fees of $115.50 for a grand total of $151.00. Ouch!!!  This guy is pretty frustrated about it. […]