I am a traffic ticket attorney in San Antonio. My office receives numerous traffic tickets every single day. Having taken care of almost 1,000 traffic tickets last year, I have got to the point where I can usually tell who is telling the truth and who is not. Most of the time, I know if you know you were speeding and won’t fess up – or if you’re the type that knows you were speeding, but knows good and well you weren’t going nearly as fast as the officer who stopped you said you were.
In all this traffic ticket fighting, I’ve also started to figure out which law enforcement agencies have a greater occurrence of good and upright and honest officers, and which have a seemingly disproportionate number of dirty, dishonest and disrespectful officers. I have even begun to spot who those certain officers are, based on their tickets and the stories I hear from clients, both good and bad.
Let me provide you with a true story – with permission from my client regarding the attorney client privilege – and see if you can figure out what type of law enforcement officer we are dealing with here:
Background Law: Counties are divided up into precincts. County sheriffs are allowed to write tickets in the precinct where they see someone commit a traffic offense or in the precinct where the motorist resides. The motorist then has to go to the proper Justice of the Peace Court in a certain county precinct, based on what the officer puts down on the ticket. So, the officer knows if he is in Bexar County Precinct 3 when he makes a stop, he must indicate on the ticket that the motorist has to appear before the Justice of the Peace Court for Bexar County Precinct 3 or in the precinct where the motorist resides.
So, in the case above, if the motorist resides in Bexar County Precinct 2, then the officer can write the ticket for Bexar County Precinct 2 or 3. If the motorist lives in the same precinct where she receives the ticket, then the ticket MUST indicate only that precinct. For example, if you both live in and are stopped in Precinct 3, then the ticket MUST indicate Bexar County Precinct 3 as the place for the motorist to appear to take care of the ticket. If tickets are written in the wrong precinct, they are VOID. The officers KNOW this law.
Facts: A client contacted me. She received a citation in far Northeast San Antonio, up near Johnson High School – this is in Bexar County Precinct 3. She lives in the 78261 area code, near the Northeast Bexar County boundary – also Bexar County Precinct 3. However, careful examination of the ticket reveals the officer directed my client to appear in Bexar County Precinct 1, Place 3 (Pct 1/3). This is Judge Edmundo M. Zaragoza’s court located on the south side of San Antonio at 1313 S.E. Military #114, San Antonio, Texas 78214. Judge Zaragoza’s court is 27.9 miles away from where my client lives and was stopped. The officer entirely left blank the location of the stop on the traffic ticket – convenient!
Problem: For over a year, I have fought this problem. I have notified the various courts. I have had several dozen of these illegal tickets dismissed outright. The real injustice is two-fold: First and foremost, it is unfair and unethical to knowingly require motorists to travel outside of the proper precinct to take care of tickets. Second, it is unfair to the precincts where these infractions take place, because the number of tickets issued in each precinct has a direct impact on their funding.
We have laws set up for a reason, and it is outrageous to think that certain law enforcement officers who are commissioned with upholding the law are intentionally breaking it – and I say intentionally because I have been made aware by extremely reputable sources at both certain JP courts and sheriff’s office that this is a known issue. I have also seen dozens of these “out of precinct” tickets – many issued by the same officers. So, why would officers do this, you ask? Simple answer – convenience and avarice.
Some officers live in certain parts of town and don’t like having to show up for court on another part of town. Some judges are more strict about an officer’s compliance with ticket writing – insisting on dotting ‘I’s’ and “crossing T’s.” So, the officer writes his tickets for the judge and court most favorable to him. And then, I’m sure in some, but not all cases, the officers just know that they’re making a motorist really have to go out of his or her way to resolve a ticket – especially if they run into that snotty citizen. Even so, isn’t the role of law enforcement to protect and serve? Didn’t officers know they would run into jerks in this line of work? Is retaliation in the form of breaking the law really how we want our law enforcement officers taking care of flippant motorists? With the number of these “out of precinct” tickts that I have seen, I can only imagine how many citizens have received and paid for these void traffic tickets!!!
As I said at the beginning, I’m a traffic ticket attorney here in San Antonio. I write about my observations and what I know. I feel my job is to speak out for the average citizen and use my position as an attorney to bring-to-light certain injustices the weaker among us has endured. I appreciate law enforcement and deeply respect their role in society, so long as they stick to their role and do not become bullies who intimidate and harass anytime a stop doesn’t go their way.