Scandal-Plagued Philly Traffic Court Expected to Meet Its Demise in Near Future

courthouseAccording to the Delaware County Daily Times, legislation to abolish the Philadelphia traffic court is headed toward the desk of Governor Tom Corbett, which he has pledged to sign into law. Senate Bill 334, which was first introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate by Delaware County Senator Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, moves traffic court duties to a new Traffic Court Division of the Philadelphia Municipal Court. The House approved the bill in early June after amending it to include two additional Municipal Court judges and require an annual report from the newly created division. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the amended bill on June 11. After the governor signs the bill into law, currently scheduled elections for the traffic court will be vacated and the Municipal Court will immediately begin establishing a new Traffic Division. A separate piece of legislation, Senate Bill 333, also introduced by Sen. Pileggi, eliminates the Philadelphia Traffic Court from the Pennsylvania State Constitution.

The January 2013 federal indictments of nine sitting and former judges of the Philadelphia Traffic Court due to their involvement in a ticket-fixing scheme is only the latest event in a long history of corruption that stretches over at least a 35-year period. In 1978, the court’s president judge was convicted on federal bribery charges while in office. In 1985, prosecutors convicted 12 people for their involvement in a ticket-fixing scheme that resulted in over $100,000 in payoffs to Traffic Court employees. This year, three individuals have already pled guilty to federal charges related to the latest ticket-fixing operation, during which various judges gave breaks on traffic citations to friends, relatives, business associates, and those with the right political connections. As detailed in an FBI press release, these citations involved driving at unsafe speeds, texting while driving, driving unregistered vehicles, running red lights, driving ATVs on the highway, making illegal U-turns, careless driving, and failing to use child safety restraints, among others.

As a Philadelphia traffic law attorney, my goal is to minimize the consequences of a traffic citation or driving violation for my clients. However, ticket-fixing schemes obviously are inappropriate and unfair; while some citizens receive no punishment at all for these driving violations, other citizens receive fines and other negative consequences as allowable by law. Therefore, we applaud those officials who have taken steps to investigate and uncover the corrupt practices of the Philadelphia Traffic Court and abolish it altogether in favor of a newly established Traffic Division that fairly administers justice in accordance with the law.

With that said, all citizens who are charged with driving violations of any nature are entitled to a strong defense. The repercussions of certain traffic violations can be severe, and can result in steep monetary fines and increased vehicle insurance premiums. What’s more, these traffic citations often accompany more serious vehicle-related criminal charges, such as driving while intoxicated, which can cause even more serious penalties. For assistance with traffic citations, DUI cases, and any type of moving violation, contact The Law Offices of Steven E. Kellis today.