Did you know that -- for the right price -- some Metro cities will cut a deal on disputed speeding tickets and other offenses so your insurance company doesn’t find out?
Anyone who has gotten a ticket they felt they didn’t deserve can contest it in court. The first step in that process is to argue your case to a hearing officer who may make you deal, but FOX 9 Investigates discovered that the kind of deal you’re offered can vary greatly from city to city.
If you are one of the drivers that goes with the flow and hangs with the pack, it can be hard to explain that to a traffic cop with a laser gun.
“I didn’t think I was going 65 in a 50,” said Teresa Graham. “The ticket was $145, which was pretty stiff.”
Graham said she does not condone speeding in any way, and planned to contest the ticket from the get-go.
“I wasn’t going the speed they suggested I was,” she said. “I drive a Toyota Prius. It’s not exactly a Ferrari.”
Every year, more than 100,000 people contest tickets and Graham was determined to fight hers.
“I wanted to contest it for a number of reasons,” she said.
Little did she know, however, she was about to ruffle the feathers of some powerful people.
“You'd think they'd have better things to do than spend time on this issue,” she said.
Since Graham had a clean driving record, she was offered a few ways to resolve her ticket dispute without going to court.
Option 1: She could pay $108 instead of the $145 face-value ticket, but the offense would go on her record.
Option 2: She could pay $200, avoid any more tickets for a year and her record would stay clean.
“My reaction was, ‘Why would I pay more to keep this off my record than the face value of the ticket?’” Graham recalled.
Graham discovered that each city in Hennepin County sets its own price tag for the privilege of keeping your indiscretion a secret from your insurance company.
Hearing officers at the county’s Violations Bureau are given a list of guidelines to use, and Graham believed the public has a right to see them. So, she demanded they be turned over.
“The state court administration did not want this information released,” Graham said.
Attorneys for the cities of Minneapolis, Golden Valley and others objected, saying there was no legal requirement or benefit.
“(Those cities are some) of the higher ones for speeding tickets,” Graham said.
Though it took many months, Graham ultimately won the fight. Because of her efforts, there is now a published list of the prices of brokered justice -- which varies widely across the county.
Graham said she was caught speeding on Highway 7 in Minnetonka. That city’s guidelines allow anyone with a clean background to pay $200 to settle the ticket but keep it off their record. Hopkins, Brooklyn Park and Osseo charge the same.
If Graham had been pulled over in Minneapolis, the price of a similar arrangement is $145 dollars -- the face-value of the ticket.
In Eden Prairie, Wayzata and St. Anthony, the deal is available for $3 less.
Cutting a deal in Golden Valley, Maple Grove, Robbinsdale and Rockford will cost a cool $250 in cash.
Yet, the deals don’t get offered to everyone -- only those with a pristine record qualify, and you can’t have another similar offense within the next year.
Cities like these deals because they bring in more revenue than an ordinary ticket. Typically, $75 from an $145 speeding ticket will go to the state automatically, another $3 will go directly to the county’s law library and then the balance goes to the city; however, when people fight a ticket and get offered a deal, the city gets to keep the entire amount that’s agreed to.
“That money all goes to the city, but I will tell you nobody is getting rich on it," Brooklyn Park city attorney Roger Fellows said.
So, how much are cities making? FOX 9 Investigators found that in Minnetonka -- where Graham was offered her deal -- the city netted $97,000 thanks to ticket deals in 2009, which was $20,000 more than the previous year.
“This is purely a money deal,” Graham said.
Before the guidelines were made available, the public had no way of knowing about the deal-cutting guidelines unless they actually challenged a ticket.
Hearing officers are in place to keep the courts from clogging up with minor cases, but since there is no requirement to charge the same, each city sets their own standards.
To see what guidelines apply to area cities, click here to view the published list.