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Traffic Court

By Matt Artz
Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 at 9:53 am in Uncategorized.

I’ve got a front page story today about two traffic commissioners with very different judicial philosophies, who’ll be dispensing justice here in Fremont starting Friday.

The story, which you can read here, pretty much lays it all out.

But in addition to handing out significantly lower fines, Commissioner John Porter is also much more accommodating than Commissioner Nancy Lonsdale.

I was in Porter’s court yesterday. Porter asked a defendant if he needed 30, 60 or 90 days to pay his fine. The defendant said he could “hopefully” do it in 30 days. Porter said, “Let me give you 60.” Porter also always asks defendants to see if they might qualify for community service, which is available to students, and people working less than 20 hours a week.

In Lonsdale’s court, there’s been several times defendants have asked for 90 days to pay their fines, and Lonsdale usually gives them only two months. Plus, many of those defendants would qualified for community service in lieu of paying the fine, but Lonsdale almost never grants community service.

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  • Jen

    I was in Lonsdale’s court back in the spring. She’s no joke. Her explanation was that if she lowered the fines for red light runners, etc. what is the incentive not to offend again? Offering to see another judge to get a payment plan was about the best she’d do.

    I happened to have a municipal violation so she did lower my fine. I was one of two out of about 50 in the courtroom that day for whom she reduced the fine.

  • Roger J

    Lonsdale feels that granting community service is letting people off easy and people will re-offend unless harsh punishment is meted out. First of all, I guarantee you she does not track recidivism rates for Community Service vs. exhorbitant traffic fines. Alameda County Court does not even track how many fines are paid through community service. I checked. Perhaps, people who just pay the fine are being let off easy. What if community service was REQUIRED and one could only get “off” by writing a check. You would see the likes of Lonsdale any many other well-paid people spending 4-6 hours waiting to get into Court to ask the judge if you could avoid community service. You should witness the number of unemployed people who ask for 3 months to pay a $500 fine and are only given 2 months…

  • Marty

    I see from the article that no judge including Porter is going to reduce the fine for straight red light runners. Not that the fine isn’t significant, but do you have to appear in court? Can’t you just write a check and be done with it?

    I’d find the wasted time in court more a punishment than the fine, which can be recovered by not buying a taxable item in Fremont until it’s a zero sum, or aggressively reducing your tax liability to other agencies (challenging prop tax assessments, voting against parcel taxes, etc).

  • Roger J

    Marty: All judges will impose the “mandatory minimum” on straight-thru’s of $480. Exceptions are some judges who knock off $100 at arraignment for a guilty plea. Boydine Hall formerly the Hayward commissioner and who now is in Fremont is one of those (her rate is usually $389). At trial, Hall and some cops plea bargain to a lesser offense requiring about a $250 fine for a guilty plea. Other reasons to see the judge are community service and extensions to come up with the money. You can always just pay the ticket and most do just that. I have seen where people pay the ticket even though they were innocent since it takes 6-8 hours of time sometimes to go thru the court process.

  • Charlie C

    It’s a fact that most of our yokel judges will support the non-calabrating officers who live the good life giving radar gun speeding tickets to soccer moms. When it comes to catching the bad guys…you can forget about it!

  • Marty

    I understand a good portion of the fine (>50%) goes to Redflex in Arizona. Does Fremont still owe that portion if the ticket is converted to community service, or reduced?

    I’ll invoke my favorite rule of economics, that Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees. If I were to get one of these I’d make sure the adjustments to my budget came at the expense of Fremont tax revenue. I’d buy toothpaste on Amazon if I had to.

    Most aren’t as diligent as me. But at the least, the situation is that the city takes control of a small portion of the offender’s income at the expense of an even larger amount of money leaving the city and state.

    It just seems like an entirely moronic solution for enforcing this law, especially considering that the ultimate goal of reducing accidents is not associated with the presence of red light cameras.

  • Gus Morrison

    Re #6, Marty- You are close to right. Redflex, an Australian company with (used to be) an office in SF installed the first 12 (I think) cameras in Fremont at their cost (about $50K per installation.) They then were to receive a percentage (I recall 80-85%) of the city’s share of the fines collected. The city used the remainder of their share to administer the program and to actually issue the tickets. The processing of the camera images is done in Arizona, I believe. My memory is usually pretty good, but I could be wrong in minor details.

    The city share of the fine is less than 50%, with the balance taken by a variety of agencies and programs. The city essentially makes no profit from the program and it is intended to be a safety program. There are no other effective programs to catch red light runners because a cop would have to follow the offender through the red light, compounding the safety situation. We were told the courts would have to have clear evidence that the driver had run the light and that the light was actually red when he ran it. Difficult to do.

    As for what happens to Redflex when fines are reduced to community service is awarded in lieu of a fine? I believe their remuneration is based on the actual amount of money collected from the fine by the city. Community service equals no money to Redflex.

  • bbox231

    So – if I am understanding Gus correctly –

    max leniency = max value returned to COF but, in the form of community service and minimum ($0 ?) “expenses” paid to RedFlex

    Max $ fine levied = minimum value returned to COF and maximum “expenses” paid to the service provider

  • Charlie C

    So what does Cargill Salt & Redflex have in common Mr. Mayor???
    http://www.safespeedlafayette.com/pdf/redflex-class-action-lawsuit.pdf

  • Tony Irvington

    Thank You Charlie C!
    For treating us on Thanksgiving, a nourishing pdf of primary document, a delicious an informative copy of a complaint, that you pulled from your Horn of Plenty of links.

    The above comments, read from first to last, exemplify what a succint, intelligent dissussion and/or debate looks and sounds like. What I so rarely see, the primary reason for what some call, my “bizzaro, nut-job” posts. If I lived in a world in which there was increasingly more discourse such as this instead of less, I have little doubt that my blood pressure would be at a much more reasonable level and I could hope that my large but rapidly diminishing reseviour of sanity might be restored.

    Though I added nothing to the discussion above or know any of the writers personally, I’m not embarrassed to say that I feel strangely contented.

    I believe, and know it’s true, that I helped make this, and however much or microscopically unconsciously little I did influence any of the writers above, for that amount I’m responsible I am proud.

    I understand that my compliment here may seem excessive to some, unwarrented or too pretentious for an unpretentious blog such as OURS here. Some will say I’m insincere.
    I’m not.
    I’m not being (my) a bit.

    Because now comrades, let me tell you what for ME was the

  • Tony Irvington

    best part about the, admittedly, unsuspecting discussion above… ..what I saw…

    THE MEATPUPPET WAS DEFEATED! YES!

    MEATPUPPETRY WAS DEFEATED!!

    Once again, thank you Charlie C. for the juicy primary document. Maybe someday we’ll have the pleasure of sitting down together and watching that classic film that ends so poignantly with the unforgettable last lines being screamed into the air, to no one in particular, to anyone who might be listening, screamed at the top of his lungs up into the night sky, by that Legendary Conservative Hero, “Soly-”- NO Marty, NOT Ronald Reagan!-

    “..is people!! We’re eating PEOPLE!”

    Occupy phase II begins now. Tommorrow we will all
    Fart in the Bank. That’s right. FART INSIDE THE BANK.

  • Tony Irvington

    Thank You Charlie C!
    For treating us on Thanksgiving, a nourishing pdf of primary document, a delicious an informative copy of a complaint, that you pulled from your Horn of Plenty of links.

    The above comments, read from first to last, exemplify what a succinct, intelligent discussion and/or debate looks and sounds like. What I so rarely see, the primary reason for what some call, my “bizzaro, nut-job” posts. If I lived in a world in which there was increasingly more discourse such as this instead of less, I have little doubt that my blood pressure would be at a much more reasonable level and I could hope that my large but rapidly diminishing reservoir of sanity might be restored.

    Though I added nothing to the discussion above or know any of the writers personally, I’m not embarrassed to say that I feel strangely contented.

    I believe, and know it’s true, that I helped make this, and however much or microscopically unconsciously little I did influence any of the writers above, for that amount I’m responsible I am proud.

    I understand that my compliment here may seem excessive to some, unwarranted or too pretentious for an unpretentious blog such as OURS here. Some will say I’m insincere.
    I’m not.
    I’m not being (my) a bit.

    Because now comrades, let me tell you what for ME was the best part about the, admittedly, unsuspecting discussion above… ..what I saw…

    THE MEATPUPPET WAS JUKED! YES!
    MEATPUPPETRY WAS DEFEATED!!

    And once again, thank you Charlie C. for the juicy primary document. Maybe someday we’ll have the pleasure of sitting down together and watching that classic film that ends so poignantly with the unforgettable last lines being screamed to no one in particular, to anyone who might be listening, into the air, by that Legendary Conservative Hero, “Soly-”- NO Marty, NOT Ronald Reagan!-

    “..is people!! We’re eating PEOPLE!”

    Occupy phase II begins now. Tomorrow we will all
    Fart in the Bank. That’s right. FART INSIDE THE BANK.

  • Tony Irvington

    Ohh yess, one should always take things in MODERATION on Thanksgiving. sheeesh.

    Hey Moderator, if possible, post the edited & combined version of #10 & #11 that I just posted today at 10:30 friday 11/25. It should be here somewhere, but I don’t see it. If you do, please use it and scuttle #10 #11 and do what you want with this Buzzkill Redstape B.S.

    That is if my words are allowed to be posted.

    Thanks for giving gobble, GoooOble, Gobbekl, Goebbles,

  • bbox231

    Reposting in hopes of un-derailing the topic at hand -

    Gus M and post #7

    So, is it fair to conclude the following ?-

    Where max leniency is granted we also return max value to the immediate community but which occurs in the form of community services and minimum ($0 ?) “expenses” paid to RedFlex

    Conversely, in those instances where the max $ fine is levied we return minimum value to the community and maximize the expenses paid to the 3rd party service provider

    If true and when combined with the other facts reported throughout this thread, it seems that -

    1.) Porter and his relative “leniency” are more common than the unilateral approach taken by Lonsdale.

    2.) Porter is likely returning far greater value to the offended community than is Lonsdale.

    3.) Porter is not appreciated by RedFlex shareholders. Lonsdale would be seen as a a reliable contributor to their bottom line.

    4.) In both cases, the most significant deterrent from the perspective of the “criminal” is the time consumed to appear and plea your case.

  • Gus Morrison

    Charlie #9,

    I actually skimmed the document you posted from Louisiana. Sorry I’m not oblique enough to tie it to Cargill. It would be interesting to know the results of the suit as opposed to the allegations.

    That said, there are many differences between the La. suit and the way things are done in California and Fremont.

    We do not use cameras for catching speeders, they did.

    We do not delegate the enforcement to Redflex, they simply supply the pictures to the PD who review them and actually issue the tickets.

    We do not issue tickets unless the photo of the driver is clear and we know the registered owner of the car is the person driving (from Driver’s License photo.)

    There are probably more differences, but the Thanksgiving meal became more important than remembering them.

  • Charlie C

    #10 & 11…Tony I’s comments can only mean the “cornucopia” was raided, and is now few bottles *short* of what we have come to call adult beverages. Does anyone know if Tony survived Thanksgiving 2011? Does anyone know if Gus owns stock in RedFlex or Cargill? In closing I can only say I to am neither perpendicular nor parallel. The Thanksgiving meal is digested and soon will be passed.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vY-4zWKsJM