Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Ticket Trouble
If you get a speeding ticket in Collier County, beware. Judges there have been tough on traffic offenders and apparently don't think too highly of Miami-Dade County justice. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- George Herrera of Fort Lauderdale has been forced to get a ride everywhere he needs to go because his license to drive was suspended.
Suzanne Herrera: "We lost overtime. I have to drive him to Miami everyday."
Carmel Cafiero: "And where do you work?"
Suzanne Herrera: "Downtown Fort Lauderdale. We have a very hard time really."
His crime? Speeding on Alligator Alley through a construction zone.
George Herrera: "Well, I know I'm wrong. The policeman's right. He passed me the ticket. I was supposed to go 50 miles and hour and I went 70."
George and his wife Suzanne don't think a three-month suspension fits the offense.
Suzanne Herrera: "He has no points on his license. The last ticket he got that has points was in 2000, eight years ago."
Get stopped for speeding in Naples or anywhere in Collier County and expect to pay a price. Judge Vincent Murphy sent an e-mail to other judges indicating how they should sentence traffic offenders.
It reads: "Lots of speeding tickets, suspend driver's license three to twelve months."
This despite the fact judges are not supposed to pre-judge.
Ted Hollander: "And the most basic rule is they have to be fair. They have to be neutral, and they have to hear the facts of the case before they decide what the sentence should be."
Ted Hollander's Ticket Clinic discovered the e-mail after determining drivers in Collier County were getting slammed in court.
For example, the e-mail also reads: "Previous speeding ticket within two to three months, suspend driver's license 30 days. Teens or young 20s, short suspension if record isn't bad."
Ted Hollander: "Which indicates to me that these judges have decided in advance based solely on somebody's age that their license would be suspended even if their record was good, and that's completely unfair."
In one week, Collier County judges suspended 35 licenses and, according to Hollander, if drivers contested a speeding ticket, 86 percent were found guilty compared to five percent statewide.
Ted Hollander: "The fact that the judges were harsh is not necessarily the problem. The problem is that they decided to be harsh before the person even walked into court."
Judge Murphy turned down our request for an interview. An assistant told us, since some of the cases are being appealed an interview would not be appropriate. However, the judge did discuss the issue with a local TV station in Collier County.
Judge Vincent Murphy: "I really regret any implication that might have arisen that we don't treat traffic court seriously."
Murphy even had some choice words for Miami-Dade County in his memo: "Remember, if we ever let the inmates run the asylum in Dade County, we will have to go through hell to get it back."
Miami-Dade's Chief Judge declined to comment on that statement.
But Suzanne Herrera has something to say.
Suzanne Herrera: "How rude and how biased. Do they think we're animals over here?"
Carmel Cafiero: "Since the memo has been made public, ticket lawyers say justice seems to be on a more fair footing in Collier County. But, to be on the safe side, don't put the pedal to the metal on your next trip across Alligator Alley."
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