Are There Traffic Ticket “Quotas” in Texas?
September 9th, 2020 by Tad Nelson in Traffic Offenses
If you have been pulled over and cited for a traffic violation, you might be wondering if the officer is not just trying to fulfill some “quota” assigned to them by their superiors. Indeed, the idea of traffic ticket quotas has been in popular culture for many years. But do they actually exist? More to the point, are such quotas even legal?
Former Texas City Administrator Sentenced to Probation After Pressuring City Marshall to Issue More Tickets
To answer the second question, no they are not. Section 720.002 of the Texas Transportation Code expressly forbids Texas municipalities from establishing or enforcing any sort of traffic ticket quota system. Specifically, Section 720.002 states that a municipality cannot “evaluate, promote, compensate, or discipline” a law enforcement officer or judge based on the number of traffic citations written or fines imposed.
Indeed, the reason for this quota ban is to prevent municipal leaders from relying on excessive traffic fines to fund government services. And local officials who try and circumvent the ban may themselves face criminal prosecution. Just recently, the Texas Sixth District Court of Appeals in Texarkana upheld a misdemeanor conviction of a former Texas city administrator who violated the quota ban.
The defendant in this case, Becker-Ross v. State, allegedly “pressured the city marshal … to write a certain number of traffic tickets within a specified period.” A city councilman, who happened to be a retired Texas DPS trooper, discovered that approximately 54 percent of the city’s budget came from traffic fines. Because of this, the defendant required the marshal to provide her with “weekly and monthly reports” detailing all fines collected.
At trial, prosecutors introduced a recording of a telephone call where the defendant told the marshal that the city’s budget “was short by $150,000” because his predecessor “had failed to write enough traffic tickets.” The marshal said he understood this to mean his predecessor was fired for not writing enough traffic tickets, and that he “would be expected to write more” going forward.
The marshal described the defendant’s “relentless” pressure on him. At one point, the defendant explicitly told the marshal that he needed to issue between 20 and 40 traffic citations per week and that, “If you don’t get tickets up you ain’t going to be City Marshall, do you hear me?”
A jury found the defendant guilty on three charges of “abuse of official capacity,” which is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. The judge sentenced the defendant to probation and ordered her to pay a fine. On appeal, the defendant argued the conviction was improper because she technically did not have direct authority over the city marshal, as he reported: “directly to the mayor and city council.” The Sixth District said that was irrelevant, as Section 720.002 “applies to any official who suggests to a peace officer that he is required or expected to meet a traffic-offense quota.”
Get Legal Advice from a Houston Traffic Violations Defense Lawyer
So while traffic ticket quotas are illegal, that does not mean they do not still exist in some parts of Texas. If you are cited for a traffic violation and have reason to believe the citation is invalid, it is best to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today to schedule a consultation. Call 281-280-0100.