For drivers, being wary of police in Pennsylvania that are issuing tickets as part of a quota program should be a thing of the past. The state passed an act in 1981 that made it illegal to require police officers to reach numerical targets for traffic ticket writing. Other parts of the country like California have similar laws.
Are The Laws Upheld?
Actually, a little over a decade ago, in Pennsylvania, there were some lawsuits because the police were asked to write tickets at a level that matched ‘a station average’ or they would be disciplined. The courts found the program to be illegal under the law and the tickets written were therefore null and void. California has seen the same types of lawsuits- and the city of Los Angeles paid out close to 10 million dollars to settle ticket quota lawsuits a few years ago.
Why Do Quota Programs Continue to be Created?
It isn’t the norm, but it appears that at times, coming close to asking for a quota is what occurs all over the country. In Los Angeles, the argument was that they specified that 80 percent of the tickets in the quota program had to be for drivers that were exhibiting dangerous behaviors. Ticketing people in those types of situations is valid because it saves lives. The problem was that the ticketing plan was attached to specific numbers.
In Alabama, although there was no acknowledgement that there was a ticketing quota, one department used ‘contact points’ which means talking directly to citizens as an overall goal and tied ticket percentages in as part of that goal. They were sued because the problem was not that the ticket quota was regarded as being incorrectly applied, but because the overall goal meant that the department as an aggregate had set a goal for itself to ‘contact’ more people per year than there were living in the town.
In Oregon, police that had a ticketing quota program used a police officer walking in a crosswalk to cross the street slowly. Cars that left the crosswalk before the officer stepped up on the curb were ticketed. Because the goal was pedestrian safety and not traffic stops, the program continued without any lawsuits. Of course, there were tickets thrown out because the officer would often pivot after reaching the safety of the curb and then claim that he was planning to go back the other way, which caused all cars that left the crosswalk while he was standing on the curb to be ticketed as well.
Fortunately, overall, it is no longer a common thing to be pulled over and ticketed as part of a quota program.