Wednesday, January 1, 2020

(STICKY) Lets get something straight...

I like to consider myself to be a safe driver. I haven't had a traffic violation in 13 years. I'm not a leadfoot, I go with the flow, usually a little bit slower than traffic (not that I am a treehugger but I do like to save gas in my big F-150). I am the average driver. In fact, I am probably better than average.

This blog is not about how to get out of a traffic ticket (although it is fun hearing about the people in Arizona looking over their shoulder for 120 days, trying to dodge the process servers). This blog is not about stating the obvious "Obey the law and you won't get your picture taken by a Scamera" (make a comment like that and you will be ridiculed). The point of this blog is to explain why the use of these devices is simply wrong... and to have a little fun along the way.

So kick back, relax, and have fun.

(last edited 10/26/08)

(STICKY) My story

Alright. Here's what happened...

On Sunday, September 7 of this year (2008), I was driving Northbound on Rural Road in beautiful Tempe, Arizona, in a rented Nissan Titan pickup truck, on my way to the In-N-Out Burger for a delicious, nutritious Double-Double Animal style. Little did I know at the time that that would become one EXPENSIVE burger.

WHen I reached the 200 S. block of Rural Road, my picture was snapped by a "Robo-Cop". Apparently I was traveling at 46 MPH in a 35 MPH zone.

On October 8, I received a letter from the National Rent-A-Car "Citations Department" stating that I had received a moving violation on September 7 (one month prior!) and that, for my convenience, they charged me $15 to rat me out to the authorities. That really pissed me off. Not so much that I had gotten a ticket (it had been about 13 years and I was about due for one). Not so much that National ratted me out and charged me $15 for the honor. What pissed me off is it took me ONE MONTH to find out about it.

So I contacted the court to try to see what I needed to do to get this taken care of. Apparantly, nothing. Not until they "officially" put the ticket in my name and I received it in the mail. So I had to wait SOME MORE.

Finally, on Saturday, October 25 I received it.

Luckily I could make it go away. I could take Defensive Driving school. Not an inequitable trade, I suppose. I could take it online, right? NOT. Tempe Municipal Court is one of the few Arizona courts that won't recognize an online course. I did get lucky though. I could take 6 hours of traffic school here in Texas and send the certificate to an Arizona driving school, pay them $133 and they would give me an Arizona certificate and clear things up with the court.

The best part? 90% of Texas traffic schools are taught by professional comedians. I'm not joking. What you saw on that episode of "King of the Hill" was true. I'm kind of looking forward to that. On top of that, my insurance company offers an 8% discount for taking traffic school and you can do that once every 3 years for the discount.

Furthermore, in Arizona, you can get out of one basic (non-serious) moving violation every two years if you take traffic school prior to your court date. In Texas, you can get out of one non-serious moving violation PER YEAR. That's right-get pulled over for speeding once a year, pay for traffic school ($40), pay a court fee (which, plus the school fee almost is like paying for the ticket) and get NO POINTS on your license. Ain't Texas great?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Man takes a pick-axe to a photo-radar camera!

Man takes a pick-axe to a photo-radar camera!

I almost want to buy this guy a steak dinner.

Again, I do not (officially) condone violence towards the robo-cops. But hey, if it's your thing, then run with it!

This website is a great find!

Just take a look, you'll enjoy it! These guys are great, even protesting in front of Redflex!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's official, I got out of the ticket.

I contacted the Tempe Municipal Court today and, it's official! My ticket has been dismissed. My record is once again clean!

Speaking of contacting the Tempe courts, it is almost impossible to reach them by phone. It's a bunch of recorded menus basically giving you your choices on how to handle your ticket. They definitely don't want to be bothered. But you will eventually get through.

I should get some sort of official notification in the mail in a few days.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to Traffic School

(Cross-posted from my other blog at

This past Saturday, Kellie and I went to take "Defensive Driving School" -- referred to lovingly in Texas as "Traffic School." I took it to get out of my photo-radar ticket in Arizona. Kellie took it with me because we will get an 8% insurance discount. For $39.95 each, it's a pretty good deal. The outfit that teaches the class is called "Comedy Guys Defensive Driving" and--just like the name implies--the classes are taught by professional comedians. They have classes all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Ours was held at the Spaghetti Warehouse up on US-75 in Plano, and Comedy Guys even bought lunch (and the menu choices presented a good variety too!). We plan on someday visiting the restaurant just for the food!

Texas has this racket where you can get out of one traffic violation per year by sitting through this class. And, Arizona has the same racket where you can get out of one ticket every two years. I was able to work it out where I could take the Texas class, transfer the certificate to Arizona (you need to do this in coordination with an Arizona traffic school) and I would still be able to take the class again next week if I get a ticket in Texas. Not that I plan to, mind you, but I was able to reserve that right. My total cost was about $1 less than had I actually paid the fine to Arizona (the fine would have been $171, the defensive driving class was $37 {I had a coupon} and the fee that I needed to pay the Arizona driving school to transfer the certificate {I'm sure the state of Arizona gets their cut of this as well} was $133, bringing my total out-of-pocket to $170). But I got out of the two points that would have appeared on my Texas driving record. I don't think those two points would have hurt me much (I haven't had a ticket in 13 years, knock-on-wood) but it was easy enough to make it go away. I wish they had had this plan in Michigan because my wife has had a couple of tickets over the years up there.

So, as far as rackets go, this is one I just can't complain about! Of course, the whole purpose of all of this is to give people an option where the state can still take a little bit of a fee, but the people who want to fight it won't clog up the court system, and the people who otherwise wouldn't do anything about it (or, those people in Arizona who get a photo ticket in the mail and try to wait out the process server) have a palatable option to pay it and get it over with. The defendants are happy, the driving schools are happy, and the state is happy. Everybody's happy!

Anyway, here is my review of the class:

We saw a number of safety videos that were produced by the Michigan State Police for the AAA foundation in the 70s and 80s. The first video was called "The Final Factor" and it outlines the fifteen or twenty factors that can lead to accidents. Being as it was filmed in the mid-70s, they go over important safety guidelines as avoiding changing out your 8-track cassette (factor 1) whilst driving while drowsy (factor 2) in the snow with your baby fussing in her car-seat (factor 3) mounted in the front passenger seat while some dumbass kid rides out into the middle of the street on a bicycle (The Final Factor). Can you imagine if they had cellphones back then?

There was another video about organ donation. Don't get me wrong, organ donation is important, and when I kick the bucket, any of you can have anything that still works. But the only real connection to a driving class is that there may be an organ donation sticker on your drivers license.

The teacher spent about 20 minutes detailing the speed traps in the DFW area. My wife was furiously writing these down as she drives all over the area for work.

Then came a very easy 25 question test at the end. All in all, the whole experience was not too painful, except for my bladder, I managed to drink about a gallon of iced tea that day.

So, although I am happy that the state of Arizona has let me drop this whole thing from my record, I am still less than pleased with their methods of enforcement (Robo-Cop cameras, and portable speed-radar Talivans). One question now remains: Since my ticket has gone away, does it count? Can I keep adding to my 13 year record of no tickets (or, at least no convictions)?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Truth and Compromises

When someone is pulled over and given a "ticket" by a peace officer, that officer is actually "serving process," i.e. he is serving you with papers the same way an officer serves a search warrant or an arrest warrant, or the way a process server will serve lawsuit or divorce papers. Service of a traffic ticket is free (included in the cost of a court fine) and instant (right after you committed the violation).
In many states (including Arizona, where I got pinched by a robo-tard) , it is not legally proper to serve papers by mail, they must be served in person. When they mail you a ticket, you must respond in one of four manners ("I wasn't driving"; "I'll be an idiot and just pay it"; "I'll take traffic school to make it go away" (my favorite); or "I'll see you in court, bastard"). If you don't respond, they have 120 days to serve you your official papers in person. That's right, a mailed ticket is not "official." When you respond to a mailed ticket, you are waiving your right to proper service.
But if you do wait for them to serve you (while hoping they take longer than 20 days), and they do successfully get you to open your door and take the papers, the court will happily charge you for the service, something you get for FREE from a real cop with a real ticket in his hand. It's something like $30 on top of your $171 photo-radar fine if you are properly served, and more like $150 if they need to pay an out-of-state process server to catch up with you.
In other words, get pulled over by a cop, and the requirement of proper service is completed instantaneously at no additional expense to you. Get a photo-radar ticket, and you wait up to a month for an "unofficial" letter allowing you to give up your right to service. Demanding your right to proper service then costs you $30 to $150 extra, and they have 120 days to do it.

The proper thing to do, of course, would be to rip out all the cameras, sideline the talivans, and put real cops back on the roads. But if I were to present a compromise, it would be this:
  1. If you are detected speeding by a scamera, the local police department has three days to first attempt personal service to the vehicle owner. Should the vehicle be registered out of town or state, a process server may be hired at the court's expense. Simultaneous attempt shall be made to reach the vehicle owner by telephone and mail. Although telephone and mail are not proper service, the vehicle owner will at least have knowledge of the offense as soon as possible. However, if legal service is not attempted in three days, and not completed in ten days, then the violation is voided. It doesn't matter if the person is out of the state or the country or just hiding under the bed. You may not know where the violator is -- but you had your chance to properly serve him with the ticket when he committed the violation. It's not the violators fault you had no real cops there.
  2. The papers served and mailed will provide the phone number to reach the actual officer that reviewed the photograph and other camera data. That officer, much like the officer that would hand you the ticket if you were really pulled over, would have the descretion to modify the ticket or void it entirely based on the situation as explained by the vehicle owner.
  3. The vehicle owner would have the option to, under oath and in front of a notary, swear that he was not the driver -- but should the owner excercise this option he would agree to have the picture from the scamera compared with his legal drivers license photo. He would not be required to provide a copy of his license (see US Bill of Rights, 5th amendment), the police department or prosecutor would be responsible for locating this picture, which is on a state computer somewhere. If the pictures match, there may be just cause for a perjury violation. If the person was properly pulled over by a real cop, this cop simply compares the drivers license (which, in this case, he has the legal right to see) with the person's actual face to verify identity.
  4. However, if the owner states that he was not the driver, he will be under no obligation to (although he may elect to) rat out who was really driving at that time. After three to ten days, he may not remember. Or it may have been a spouse, and you are not required to testify against your spouse (see U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence). Businesses would not be required to reveal who was driving a company or rental vehicle (this is actually already the case in Arizona, it being illegal to write a traffic violation against a business).
  5. All photo-radar pictures that don't have a clear picture of the driver's face will be summarily dismissed. That is truly the only real evidence of who committed a violation.
  6. All photo-radar and photo-enforced red-light violations will carry the same fine as their non-photo-enforced counterparts. However, points will not be issued. This will make it more fair to those who simply pay the fine without knowing their rights... (alright, this is stretch).