Ticket Fraud Allegations
Fraud is the primary reason that ticket and arrest quotas should be illegal. If officers are told, a priori, how many illegal activities they must observe within a given time period, failing to do so creates pressure to fabricate illegal activity (and the related evidence), as my examples reveal below.
The following are driver allegations of traffic ticket fraud in Tampa, as well as a few scenarios from Tampa officers. All of the following persons were available to testify before a jury (with the exception of one that did not occur until 2010), if federal district judge Stephen Merryday and the three appellate judges had allowed my 2004 lawsuit to proceed to a jury trial. Further, many Tampa patrol officers would have testified about Tampa’s quotas and the perversities they have witnessed as a consequence.
Examples of Fraud Allegations:
Achieving Tampa’s Ticket-at-Every-Crash Policy
- A friend was involved in a minor, un-witnessed accident that caused $50 in damage to her car. She and the other driver disagreed on the accident circumstances, each proclaiming the other caused the accident. The minor crash did not require a police investigation. Nonetheless, a Tampa officer investigated the minor crash and informed my friend that he did not know which driver violated a traffic law; however, he was required to give one of them a ticket. He informed her that he had selected her as the “recipient.” The officer then wrote a crash report that omitted my friend’s statements, to justify the ticket, but the vehicle speeds documented on the report support my friend’s statement of circumstances. The other driver then used the police documentation to make a claim from my friend’s insurance company.
- My neighbor was stopped in a median, waiting to make a left turn, when a car ran into her from the opposite direction. The other driver then made a call reporting that he would be going to jail, as he just caused a crash while driving under the influence of marijuana. My neighbor said the other driver smelled of marijuana and was unable to provide the investigating Tampa officer with any identifying information, claiming the vehicle was not his – thus no driver’s license, registration or insurance. The officer told my neighbor she was unconcerned with the marijuana use and then gave my neighbor a ticket for failing to yield the right of way. My neighbor asked to speak to the officer’s supervisor, and the officer refused. A crash report has never been located for this crash. My neighbor subsequently experienced a large auto insurance increase. The Tampa police pension does not profit from ticketing uninsured drivers.
- One of my graduate students, who is an Air Force captain, was rear-ended in a minor crash and he received the ticket. His crash report incorrectly states that his car sideswiped the other, meaning the investigating officer misrepresented the points of impact. His ticket was dismissed, as the other driver attended the hearing and admitted to rear-ending the captain’s car. However, the other driver had already used the police information to collect from the captain’s insurance company, precipitating a large auto insurance increase.
- Another of my students was rear-ended, and received a careless driving ticket. He had stopped at a stop sign, then accelerated to about 25 mph and then slowed to about 20 mph, as the area was crowded with pedestrians (since adjacent bars had just closed). The officer claimed my student had stopped abruptly to wave to a friend. My student told the officer that no one claimed this and there was no friend present. Nonetheless, the officer documented this on the ticket and crash report, which also documented skid markets from the rear car only. My student’s car was a total loss, but the other driver’s insurance company paid only 80 percent of his claim, due to the ticket, even though it was dismissed.
- A co-worker reports her son’s car had been sideswiped. She went to the scene of the accident, as the crash was being investigated. The officer gave her son a ticket for rear-ending the other car, which is also stated on the crash report. My co-worker explained to the officer that the front of her son’s car had no damage and only the side was damaged, meaning it was not a rear-end crash. She reports that the Tampa officer told her that if she spoke to him further, he would arrest her, which she believes is because she is Hispanic. The ticket was dismissed; however, the insurance companies still attributed “fault” to her son due to the police documentation.
- I observed an accident, but was not in the affected traffic. Nonetheless, I called the Tampa police, asking to have the officer call me if he needed a witness. He did not have a witness, and was not informed I had observed the accident until after writing the ticket and crash report. The officer told me both drivers claimed to have a green light and he did not know which was telling the truth. Regardless, his supervisor ordered a ticket issued to the driver who claimed to turn left when the left-turn arrow was green. The officer told me his supervisor had him write a ticket for careless driving with the crash report suggesting the left-turn arrow did not exist. Hence, the driver received a careless driving ticket for violating the right of way when turning. The officer then asked me whether he had ticketed the correct driver.
- In my federal lawsuit, Officer Edward Bowden said in his deposition that he was trained as follows: if not knowing which driver ran a red light, he was to ticket both drivers and document both as running the red light on the crash report, using two separate diagrams. Obviously, probable cause cannot exist to ticket both drivers, when only one could have committed the infraction.
- A Tampa officer told me that he investigated a major crash, but could not determine which driver ran the red light. Both drivers appeared credible when claiming to enter the intersection on a green light. Nonetheless, the officer’s supervisor told him to choose one of the two drivers and issue a ticket, which also required documenting on the crash report that the driver ran the red light, causing a major crash. I explained to the officer that this was not legal. The officer responded that they are ordered to do this by supervisors. He was hopeful that I could get the policy changed, stating he did not want to do this again.
Achieving the Traffic Squad Ticket Quota
- Speed limits on major neighborhood thoroughfares were changed from 35 or 40 mph to 25 mph, thereby creating speed traps. Drivers who did not notice the new sign were ticketed by officers who hid further down the road. One driver complained that he was ticketed for 15 mph speeding after a speed limit sign was changed from 40 mph to a temporary 25 mph speed limit sign. Tampa changed the speed limit back to 40 mph, but told the driver to pay the ticket because he was speeding on the day it was issued.
- My neighbor knew he was driving at 11 to 12 mph over the speed limit, when a traffic squad officer ticketed him for speeding at 15 mph over. Apparently, traffic squad officers are expected to target 15 mph or more speeding tickets, a threshold that adds an additional driver’s license point (and auto insurance increase), meaning the officer allegedly embellished the speed to meet the squad’s 15 mph speeding threshold.
- Another driver claims a squad officer arrested him for DUI, despite the officer not having probable cause to stop him. The officer claimed the man’s tail light was broken, resulting in the traffic stop. However, the light was not broken. The driver claims the officer actually followed him out of a parking lot at a bar and subsequently stopped him, alleging a broken tail light and then reporting to smell alcohol. After believing he passed the field sobriety test, the driver refused the alcohol test because in Florida, if an officer believes a driver failed the field sobriety test, a DUI conviction is achieved with an alcohol level of only 0.05 (rather than 0.08). In court, the officer claimed the driver had been weaving across the center line, absent any video evidence. Mid-trial, prosecutors proposed a plea deal after the jury watched the field sobriety test – agreeing to drop the DUI charge if pleading guilty to some lesser charge. The man still lost his driver’s license for a year for refusing to be tested for alcohol, and his truck became the property of the Tampa police, as they wanted $1,000 in fees for its return.
- This same traffic squad officer gave a ticket to a driver for allegedly going 70 mph in a 50 mph zone; however, the circumstances were physically impossible. The driver was stopped at the intersection adjacent to her apartment building and turned left onto the road. The traffic squad officer claims that within a distance of one to two blocks, the driver accelerated to 70 mph in a 4-cylinder car, the officer then took a laser reading, which he later crossed out, then he paced the car at 70 mph, and then caught up to the car to make the traffic stop, which would require exceeding 70 mph and would violate Tampa police policy. This all supposedly occurred within a one to two block distance. Further, the officer incorrectly listed the speed limit as 45 mph, thereby embellishing the speeding charge. This occurred after my lawsuit, but is evidence that drivers continue to allege Tampa’s traffic squad is engaging in ticket fraud.
Achieving the Patrol Officer Ticket Quota
- One Tampa officer wrote tickets using fictitious driver names. Fictitious traffic violators received two tickets – a moving violation and a second ticket for not providing a driver’s license. A Tampa officer told me the names were selected from local cemeteries. In Tampa, even death does not preclude one from receiving traffic tickets.
- Two drivers independently report they believe that a Tampa officer forced an alleged infraction using a decoy vehicle. In both instances, they were following a car on a two-lane road in a no-passing zone. The forward vehicle then stops. After waiting for a time and absent any other vehicles in the vicinity, each then passed the stopped vehicle (one to the left, the other on the right shoulder). An officer then immediately emerged, writing a ticket for illegal passing. In court, the officer denied the forward vehicle had stopped. Florida law allows for passing an obstacle in the road, such as a parked car.
- In my neighborhood, an officer began routinely writing stop sign violation tickets at a particular intersection. My neighbor claimed to receive a ticket from the officer, despite stopping at the stop sign. The same thing happened to me. However, the officer told me he measured my failure to stop using radar, which was not possible with the equipment used. Also, the officer was not certified to use radar and his hiding position, as reported in court, revealed that he had an obstructed view of whether cars were actually stopping at the intersection. At my court hearing, two other ticketed drivers claimed they were ticketed at the same intersection, despite having stopped. The Tampa police investigated my ticket fraud complaint only because they had been unsuccessful in a previous attempt to terminate this officer, and they used my information to finish the job. It appears they tricked the officer into believing the court hearing tape was inaudible. In a sworn statement, the officer then denied claiming to use radar, which was untrue and resulted in termination for untruthfulness and misuse of department equipment. It is quite easy to get a ticket dismissed when the officer has been fired over it. The paperwork was later changed and the officer was allowed to resign. The squad’s corporal admitted to my husband and me that the officer had been writing the tickets to achieve the police department’s “revenue quota.”