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Archive for March, 2013

HEARINGS BY MAIL FOR AUTO SPEED, RED LIGHT, PARKING VIOLATIONS IN MARYLAND AND MONTGOMERY COUNTY

The State of Maryland and Montgomery County require defendants accused of parking, standing, automatic speed and automatic red light violations to appear in person  to stand trial if they wish to contest the violations and defend their rights. In addition Montgomery County imposes a   $25 “trial fee” on defendants. The fines for these violations are limited and sanctions involve no dreaded “points”.
Washington DC, Delaware, Virginia and New York City and many other jurisdictions allow defendants to challenge parking, standing, automatic speed and red light violations using the “hearing by mail” process. Hearings by mail are efficient, inexpensive and convenient and provide the judiciary with a process which resolves a large number of cases fairly and expeditiously without formal trials. Our neighbors provide for both “hearings by mail” and also offer a similar appeal process, as well. Reviewing a matter by mail is an option which enhances freedom by enabling judicial resolution without requiring attendance which increases the burden and expense of a trial on all parties.
The current Maryland and Montgomery County requirements deliberately discourage defendants from exercising their rights to defend themselves. Trials waste time and money and are a subtle abuse of the power of the County and State. The attendance requirements are particularly burdensome financially and physically for seniors, the disabled and lower income workers. There is no acceptable argument which requires a low income hourly paid worker or retiree to pay a fee and then spend hours in court waiting to defend a ticket which he or she feels was unjustly issued.
The “in person” trial requirement, delays justice, and imposes burdens which substantially diminish, degrade and undermine the opportunity of an accused to defend him or herself.
The financial expense to the State and County in prosecuting large numbers of this particular class of cases is huge. Every trial involves correspondence, scheduling, preparation, time and the physical presence of the judiciary, clerks, police, district attorneys, in addition to the defendant. A visit to any Montgomery traffic Court is proof of the appalling amount of time wasted by a team of public employees as well as defendants.
“Hearings by mail” in this limited class of cases would result in the substantial financial savings and would not impair “justice”. A cost analysis (including income from fines) vs. productivity would clearly show savings of State and County funds.

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