State Police to lobby for ticket policy
By: Lohr McKinstry
May 26, 2006
ELIZABETHTOWN — State Police General Counsel Glen Valle plans to plead with the Essex County Board of Supervisors not to oppose the state’s new traffic-ticket prosecution policy.
When the State Police announced troopers would no longer be allowed to prosecute or plea bargain their tickets and that the responsibility would fall on local prosecutors, the Board of Supervisors prepared to draft a resolution in opposition.
But Valle told County District Attorney Julie Garcia he wanted the chance to plead his case first.
“His position is markedly different than (the county’s). He wants to put across why the superintendent (of State Police) feels the troopers shouldn’t prosecute traffic tickets,” Garcia said.
A trooper must be both witness and prosecutor with the present system, she said.
“They feel the prosecutor would be in a better position to handle that.”
Garcia said troopers can still do trials, just not plea bargain traffic tickets.
Many DAs plea bargain tickets by mail, she said.
“Maybe that’s something that could work out. They’d have to send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to our office with a copy of their driving abstract. We review the abstract and decide if there should be an offer” to reduce the infraction.
“I will do everything in my power to keep the cost to the county to a bare minimum,” Garcia said.
Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said the state is just finding more ways to pass its costs down.
“This is, to me, a cost situation. Our justice courts are collecting all this money for the state of New York. We have 100 percent of the cost of adjudicating that speeding ticket. This isn’t right. This is another unfunded state mandate.”
Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) said he talked with one town justice who said the arresting officer has to be in court.
“One of the local justices I spoke to said if the prosecuting trooper isn’t there, the defendant will go free. That’s pretty serious.”
The greater State Police presence on the Adirondack Northway to look for terrorists also means more traffic tickets.
“We’ve seen a real increase in staff and personnel out there on the Northway issuing these tickets,” Supervisor Anthony Glebus (R-Lewis) said. “It’s going to put a lot more financial stress on the county to prosecute these cases.”
More people are pleading not guilty, he said, which puts even more stress on local justices.
Supervisor Ronald Jackson (R-Essex) referred to the “roadside reductions” police give some motorists when issuing tickets.
“They (troopers) obviously already know what happened. They’ve already cut one break; now do we have two?”
Garcia said she might consider a future policy of not plea bargaining speeding tickets from the Northway when the motorist was going significantly over the speed limit.
Essex County Sheriff Henry Hommes said that when he was in the State Police all traffic tickets were prosecuted by police.
“At that time, we were not allowed to make any plea bargains. They (drivers) pleaded not guilty, the judge notified you there would be a trial, you went to court and prosecuted the case.”
Hommes said there is a mock courtroom at the State Police Academy to teach troopers how to prosecute traffic tickets.
Freed from prosecuting their tickets, troopers with more time will write more tickets, further burdening local courts, Supervisor Robert C. Dedrick (R-Ticonderoga) said.
“I see it as a no-win situation.”
County Sheriff’s Department deputies and Moriah, Lake Placid and Ticonderoga police will still prosecute the tickets they write, Garcia said.
Valley is scheduled to address the supervisors at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
E-mail Lohr McKinstry at:
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