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January 6, 2005 08:39 AM

Broken: Paying traffic tickets in Los Angeles

Mark Frauenfelder writes this story about his wife's difficulties in paying a simple traffic ticket in Los Angeles.


Interesting. IT and databases have become so embedded in government proceses that the goverment becomes as brittle as the software can be.

If I were Mark, I would simply ignore the obvious technical problems, and operate under the assumption that things should Just Work. If the traffic clerks refuse payment, then it's not his responsibility to face any consequences, certainly if the deadline for payment is reached yet they continue to refuse payment.

One way to take this distant approach is to mail a dated cachier's check or money order. They will probably just let it sit in some in-box until they are able to accept it, but it would be out of Mark's hands.

The advantage of the government as opposed to, say, a computer program, is that there are officers and clerks in between you and whatever broken computer system they are trying to use-- put it in their hands and let them deal with it.

Posted by: Reed at January 6, 2005 02:41 PM

im not sure what the laws are in L.A. but im sure if this was the complication you could just go to court and get the ticket thrown out, thus negating necessity to pay the ticket in addition to driving class, usually you can get a ticket thrown out due to incompetence on the part of the police officer.

Posted by: Dragon at January 6, 2005 03:33 PM

In NJ it takes 10 days for the ticket to get entered. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of paper tickets written out and someone has to enter these by hand.

Posted by: Mike at January 6, 2005 05:26 PM

My suggestion is simple, if even possible; I would try to reach the officer who ticketed you. See if he can correct his error.

Posted by: Bernadette at January 6, 2005 06:01 PM

The solution is of course to have a huge IT project to put tablet PCs in the hands of police officers so that tickets will automatically be sent via wireless to the central database.

Posted by: Alex at January 7, 2005 05:48 PM

but do you want to pay for all of those tablet PCs?

Posted by: joe plaugher at January 8, 2005 01:05 PM

Well of course not. The project will be given to the lowest bidder.

What could go wrong?

Posted by: Alex at January 8, 2005 01:46 PM

Where do your tax dollars go into play?

Posted by: joe plaugher at January 9, 2005 11:22 PM

He may not be able to get into court if it hasent been entered. He could send in payment if that is allowed and they would have to fix it but it is important to get it in writing that he could not pay due to the computer problem.

Posted by: John at January 10, 2005 06:24 PM


You're best option would be to check on the website every week. This saves you time from staying on the phone line for a couple hours at a time. If the website shows no record, do a "print screen" This will be proof that you are not neglecting the ticket and are being responsible enough to check on it. (the date will be on the printout)

Some individuals prefer to talk with a person. If you decide you want to check the status with an operator, always get the person's name and the date/time you talked with them. They are also required to log in the name of the person who called and the problem. This also is considered proof.

When you went in person to the clerk's office at the courthouse, they should have given you a "Proof of Absence". This is a statement from the courthouse letting you know the ticket is not in the system and that you are checking on it.

The officer has up to a year to file the ticket. There have been individuals who have checked once a week for a year. After a year, the ticket is automatically dismissed.

With the holidays, many tickets have been given out. This has caused a backlog of tickets within the court system.

Hope this helps.

Posted by: Keith at January 12, 2005 12:55 AM

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