The lovely State of Florida is unquestionably one of the most popular vacation spots in the United States. Not only do people from other states flock here for vacations, but people also come to the Sunshine State from all over the world. When planning their vacations, these tourists have certain images in mind as to what they will see and what they can expect while visiting here. Beautiful white sand beaches, voluminous sunshine, blue skies, and swaying palm trees – these are the ideals for a sub-tropical vacation. Of course, there are other images that come to mind as well that are less pleasing, such as traffic…lots and lots of traffic.
Although no one enjoys having to contend with traffic, it is just one of the drawbacks of living in, or visiting, such a popular locale, and as we all know, where there is traffic, there are cops. Pick your agency – the sheriff’s department, state patrol, city cops – they all have a stake in preying upon the frustration that drivers feel, and the actions that they take, as a result of the congestion with which we all must contend.
Preying upon drivers may sound a bit harsh, but what better way to explain the actions of law enforcement in their relentless efforts to catch drivers who commit even the slightest traffic infractions? The tactics that police officers use in doing so are often questionable, at best. Whether those tactics are speed traps, ticket quotas, or intimidation, I think that very few people would disagree that traffic ticket stops have taken a dramatic turn and not in the favor of unsuspecting drivers. Let’s start with speed traps. We have all seen them and many of us have fallen victim to them because they can be set up in a multitude of places along roadways and even in the air. Whether the speed trap is located behind a bridge abutment, on an overpass, or along the shoulder of the highway, this is just a sneaky way of catching unsuspecting drivers. I have even seen medians that are beautifully landscaped with trees, flowers, and bushes planted just so in order to allow for police officers to lay in wait for speeding vehicles without being seen until you drive past them. Medians are probably one of the places that officers hide most frequently because they are abundant, and they allow for police officers to take off in either direction to follow a speeding driver.
Frequently, drivers who encounter speed traps are not even aware that they are speeding until it is too late. We are humming along, thinking about that big project at work or the kids’ softball games, then lo and behold! We spot Officer Not-So-Friendly sitting in his car behind an overpass abutment with his radar or LIDAR pointed right as us. Why would cops be so diligent about catching speeders? Their diligence is often the result of traffic ticket quotas, of course. The existence of traffic ticket quotas is widely denied by law enforcement agencies because, let’s face it, this concept leads to bad press for cops. Quotas give the public the impression that cops are sneaky, and rightly so. If they were not being sneaky in their attempts to catch speeders, the speed traps previously mentioned would not exist.
The reasons for traffic ticket quotas are varied, but the major reason is revenue. In spite of the vehement denials by police agencies, there has been a significant spike in the number of traffic tickets issued in the last couple of decades which surpasses the increase in the number of drivers on the road. This negates the defense that there is a correlation between population expansion and the volume of traffic tickets issued. Additionally, there has been more than one city or town that has made national news because it has been discovered that their police force has been instructed to write X amount of tickets. That’s right – it is their job to meet quotas because many times, the revenue generated from these traffic tickets fulfills budgetary shortfalls. Those who are mandating that these tickets be written are the same people whose salaries are paid by this revenue.
Then there is the matter of intimidation. I don’t know if this is a planned practice among law enforcement or if it is just a matter of the state of affairs these days. It seems that we hear about a cop/driver conflict nearly every day. There are drivers out there who are simply uncooperative with officers when they are stopped. They can be rude, obnoxious, and/or uncooperative. This, however, really represents no difference for cops than for anyone else whose job requires that they deal with the public. If you have ever worked in a customer service-oriented industry, you know that often when someone feels that they are paying your salary, they expect to be treated a certain way. This is frequently how drivers feel when they think that they have been unjustly stopped by “a public servant.” There is the issue of police eliciting a traffic stop only to learn, sometimes in a very dangerous fashion, that they have stopped a criminal. A sudden move or aggressive action can be a contributory cause to all of the stories we have read about conflicts that transpire between drivers and officers. You end up with cops who were not being vigilant enough and citizens who felt that that they were just exerting their civil rights not making it home at the end of the day. Families and even communities are left devastated in the wake of such tragedies.
All of these things probably contribute to law enforcements intimidating demeanor, but these are usually the exceptions. Most drivers who are stopped generally either don’t know why they have been stopped or have committed an infraction that really poses little-to-no treat to anyone else. It may be true that when a cop stops someone, they may be looking for criminals, but that is a poor excuse to treat everyone as though they are one. It is easy to understand why the average citizen would take umbrage with being treated in such a manner as most of us are just going about our daily lives when we get stopped.
I don’t know the statistical data, but I am willing to bet that the number of drivers who attack or even resist a police officer during a traffic stop is a tiny fraction of the number of traffic stops made each day. Yet most traffic stops seem to involve a police officer who is curt, unfriendly, and unyielding in his decision to write that traffic ticket. If you get stopped for speeding or any other traffic violation, do not “resist.” Be polite; do not admit guilt by saying that yes, you know why you were stopped; and then give us a call at 954-967-9888 for your free consultation. You are not only entitled to a fair defense, but you are also entitled to be treated with respect, and not as a criminal.