Traffic Tickets by Text? One Texas city is trying it, but is it a good idea?

Traffic tickets by text? One Texas city is trying it, but is it a good idea? If your city offered a program where you could sign up to be texted a speeding ticket as opposed to being pulled over and given one if the police officer sees you speeding, is that something that you would sign up for? It’s an interesting question, and there’s a town here in Texas that’s starting that exact program. And so I discuss some of my concerns and thoughts on it today.

Happy Friday everybody. Hope you’re having a great week. Like I talked about, there is a program that is being started here in a town in Texas that is designed to try to decrease the amount of minor traffic stops that the police have to do in order to write citations. I’ll put a link to the news story that discusses the program in a little bit more detail, down below in the video description. So check it out and read it because it is interesting.

But what I wanted to talk about is what some of my concerns are with this type of program. And I’ll tell you, at the end of the day, I really am not a huge fan. I don’t think it’s a very good idea. I don’t think it’s going to work quite the way that the police are intending for it to work. And here are my main problems with it.

The first general problem with a program like this is similar to why so many people had issues with the red light cameras, those cameras that would be on red lights, where if you ran a red light, you’d receive a ticket in the mail a couple weeks later. The issue there, and the issue that I see in this particular type of instance is if an officer observes your car committing a minor traffic violation, like speeding or changing lanes without signaling or something like that, and they send a citation to the owner of that vehicle, how is it that they’re verifying that it was actually that person driving? So if I’m signed up for this program, but I lend my car to my wife or to my kid or to a friend or to another family member, and that family member commits a traffic violation, am I on the hook for that ticket?

Now, obviously I’m not because part of the thing that the state has to prove when they’re trying to convict you of the violation of speeding or whatever is that you were actually the person driving.

And so I think there’s going to be some major issues that identity is going to play into why this is not going to be just a more efficient way to issue citations.

The other biggest problem that I have with this type of program is it’s a way for police to kind of have their cake and eat it too. And here’s what I mean by that. The program is designed as a way to limit, or they say that the point is to limit the amount of interaction between a police officer and a citizen for something minor that doesn’t need that interaction. Because if you cut down on those interactions, you down on the amount of times that those interactions escalate and become dangerous either to the citizen or to the officer. And that sounds great in theory. And as a defense lawyer, I should love that because it would also cut down on what are called pretextual stops. Now, I just did a video on what a pretextual stop is. So go and check that video, if you want more information on that.

But the problem is with this program being implemented, it’s not actually going to cut down on those pretextual stops, because all an officer has to do is if they see a traffic violation and they really want to pull that car over to search it for drugs or for contraband or for whatever, they can still, even if that driver is signed up for this program that says don’t pull me over, just text me the ticket, all an officer has to do is say, “Well, I couldn’t verify who was driving. And so I needed to pull them over anyway.”

So they can get around the fact that drivers would otherwise use this program as a way to limit that interaction. They can still get that interaction that they’re looking for by simply disregarding the fact that this program even exists.

So that’s what I mean by it’s a way that it makes the officer’s job easier in the sense that it’s one thing they don’t have to do. They don’t have to verify who’s driving and it completely eliminates that step. But at the same time, there isn’t a trade-off for why it adds any type of extra protection for the citizen who that stop is targeting.

So anytime there’s a program like this that is aimed to do some type of public good like this, I always look for is there a way that it benefits both law enforcement and the public at large. And this type of program is very, very one-sided. It’s very easy for me to see how this would benefit police officers, would benefit law enforcement, and they could use that to take advantage of the situation. And it really doesn’t offer any tangible benefits that I can see to the public at large. Because like I said, most people would say that the biggest benefit is, well, it’s a way that I can avoid having being pulled over because they’re just going to text me my ticket. Well, if the officer wants to pull you over, they’re going to pull you over regardless. You have no protection against that.

So that’s what I mean. It’s kind of a one-sided deal. And so anytime you have those one-sided type programs that really only benefit law enforcement and are easy for them to take advantage of at the expense of the normal everyday citizen, not a huge fan of that.

But the program’s not in place yet. It’s still being hammered out. The details are still being ironed out. So it will be interesting to see exactly how they implement it, what they do, because who knows, it could end up being an awesome thing. I don’t know. I will reserve final judgment until I see how it’s implemented. But like I said, at first blush, I’m not a huge fan.

So we’ll keep an eye on it. If there’s any updates that I think are particularly interesting, I will certainly pass them along here to you. And likewise, as always, if there’s any questions that you guys have or anything that you want to see me discuss in a future video, or just want to chat about one on one, feel free to reach out to me via email, give me a call, I’m happy to answer whatever questions that I can.

Hope you have a great week. I look forward to seeing you next Friday. Enjoy your weekend. Enjoy the weather. Enjoy the time out. Hope everybody is staying safe and healthy, and I will see you in the next video. Bye.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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