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New York - Traffic Courts Bring Big Bucks to Municipalities

Published on: August 1, 2009 11:46 PM
By:  Record
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New York - It’s standing room only in Judge Bonnie Kraham’s Tuesday afternoon traffic court in Town of Wallkill.

Nearly 100 people fill the chairs and line the walls of the courtroom, waiting for their turn in front of the judge. It’s a scene that plays out here four days a week: traffic and criminal court, in front of Kraham and fellow town Judge Ray Shoemaker.
And it results in big bucks for the public coffers.

According to the state comptroller’s office, Wallkill’s court collected a shade under $2 million in revenue in 2008, the most of any town or village court in the region, and 11th highest in the state.

The Town of Newburgh court was the second-most lucrative, taking in just over $1.5 million, 20th in the state. The Town of Ulster was tops among Ulster County town and village courts, at just over $950,000, while the Town of Mamakating’s $600,000 in revenue led Sullivan County courts.


Wallkill’s numbers are a testament to how busy the court in this town of 27,000 has become in recent years: It handled more than 16,000 cases last year, with nearly 12,000 defendants.

And the biggest causes for that swollen caseload lie about a mile from the courthouse: Interstate 84, Route 17 and Route 211. Between those three roads, it’s no wonder that more than 13,000 of Wallkill’s cases last year were vehicle and traffic law violations.

It’s also no wonder that out of the $2 million the Town Court collected in 2008, the town only kept about $930,000. Approximately $973,000 went to the state — much of it, Town Clerk Wendy Michaels says, in the form of mandatory surcharges tacked on to fines. The county gets the rest.

Wallkill’s caseload shows no signs of letting up this year: The court has already handled about 12,000 cases with five months to go. And the court will be short one judge within two months — Shoemaker is retiring on Sept. 16.

His replacement would be elected in November, but Michaels hopes the town will appoint an interim judge before then. The thought of one judge dealing with an overflowing courtroom, not to mention arraignments at all hours of the night?
“It would be awful,” Michaels said.


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Read Comments (7)  —  Post Yours »


 Aug 01, 2009 at 11:15 PM Five Towns Resident Says:

The Village of Cedarhurst in the 5 Towns relies on parking tickets and other traffic fines for 15% of its yearly budget. A village official told me that b'feirish. They don't try to hide it. In Court, the cashier sits next to the judge!


 Aug 02, 2009 at 12:03 AM gelt kashere Says:

I've been there caught on route 17 driving 50 miles per hour wen limit was 55. they told me i drove at 70. i couldn't fight it out told them i even had family and newborn in car so i obviously drove carefully but they turned deaf ears and pocketed my bucks. the FBI should get them, not the innocent.


 Aug 01, 2009 at 11:41 PM Anonymous Says:

Some politician should take on this problem. The fact is the cops fill a quota, and the judges fill the coffers. Its not only the fine, you also have to take a day off from work to fight it.
Here in Brooklyn The bike lanes are prime example of this misuse of tickets. The bike lanes are a no stopping zone which is one of the worst traffic violations. In general traffic agents give out many tickets which are just not justified. I personally got 3 parking tickets in the last month I didn't deserve . I sent in pictures but its up to the judge.
Many cops will give multiple tickets once they pull someone over. My son got 5, yes 5 tickets when he was pulled over for speeding on the 17, two were for tinted windows. The reasoning is simple if you plea bargin they will still get their money.


 Aug 02, 2009 at 04:25 AM time for a revolution Says:

Another example of people at the top abusing their power at our expense. About a year ago I was pulled over for speeding on I-95 in VA, the cop told me that if I go to court and am found guilty the fine could be $3000 (that's Three thousand dollars) but if I plead guilty it'll ONLY be $350, of course I pleaded guilty, who in their right mind would take the risk of pleading not guilty, knowing that in court they will always take the cops word over yours.


 Aug 02, 2009 at 04:18 AM Anonymous Says:

New law Says:  The local govermemt can not keep any fine or penalty for them self. they have 2 choices. 1. Give the money to the state2. Give the money to the people via check @ the end of year ( for example a county collected a total of a million dollars and has ten tousend residents. Send a $100 check to every resident.


 Aug 02, 2009 at 08:37 AM Anonymous Says:

Good job I am surprised that they can't write more tickets. I believe that any given time a cop shoots his radar gun he can get someone.


 Aug 02, 2009 at 10:08 AM A Says:

Eventually our police departments will be spending ALL of their time giving out traffic tickets. I wonder where in their charter it says that they're supposed to be a money-making machine instead of serving and protecting the public.


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