Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Ask the Judge" column continues in La Prensa of SA, 11-18

Ask the Judge: Traffic Court questions
By Judge Steve Walker

Every day when plaintiffs/defendants come into the Justice of the Peace Court for a hearing or trial or simple filing of court papers, there is the usual fear or uncertainty in regards to the outcome for or against either side. 

Since Justice of the Peace Court handles misdemeanor cases to include traffic tickets, truancy, evictions, and small claims/civil, numerous questions are asked by those visiting the court for various reasons.

In the traffic court, the most common question is: “can I have time to pay the ticket since I am out of work and don’t have any money?”

Answer: Yes we give 30 days to pay the balance or we send you to collections if necessary.

When someone owes a large amount of money to include outstanding warrants or Failure to Appear for those tickets, by sending you to collections you are allowed more time to take care of the ticket than just the Judge offering you thirty days to pay. As the Judge I am limited to offering 30 days as compared to Collections who will set up a payment plan over a longer period of time to allow you take care of the fines.

In traffic court another commonly asked question is: “Can I do community service instead of the fine since I have no job or income?”

Answer: Again yes if you qualify as an indigent. You fill out a Pauper’s Affidavit listing your income or lack of an income and then when approved, you are assigned community service in lieu of the fine. The community service hours are calculated at $6.25 per hour. If you were to owe 62.50 to the court you will receive 10 & ½ hours and so forth.

A third question commonly asked in traffic court; “Can I take defensive driving to get the ticket off my record?” Answer: Yes you can sign up for defensive driving. It normally costs around $25 at most defensive driving schools and you must complete the course within 90 days. A $115 court cost is assessed and the ticket never goes on your driving record.

If the moving violation is in a school zone court cost is $140 since that ticket is $330 as compared to other moving violations.

If you request deferred adjudication rather than defensive driving, the deferred time last for 90 days and if no further citations are issued during that time, it too never goes on your driving record. On a 90-day deferred you pay the cost of the actual fine. On both I can offer 30 days to pay the court costs.  

Lastly as always, if you are due in court, be sure to show up to court on time. It is in everyone’s best interest.

Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and a former Journalist.

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