Bad drivers, the digital traffic ticket is here and it’s harder to beat

Charles Rabin

Miami-Dade Police Sgt. George Wilhelm II retrieves the new eCitation system after giving a presentation to members of the media at the Miami-Dade Police Department Headquarters in Doral.

The next time you get pulled over for speeding or some other motoring infraction, a Miami-Dade police officer won’t be writing you up.

Don’t get too excited. You’re still getting a ticket. But the officer will be typing you up instead on a new eCitation system that police believe will improve the accuracy and efficiency of cracking down on violators.

That will be a boon for the county court system, where paper citations have been lost and messy handwriting and blurry carbon copies pose regular challenges. It may be a bummer for drivers though, because indecipherable hand-scrawled citations are sometimes grounds for tossing a ticket. Technological progress often comes with a tradeoff.

The system, rolled out this week, allows officers to file directly from the computers in their patrol cars to the courts online, then hand the accused offender a neat printout of the ticket. The system is also supposed cut the time an officer spends on the roadside in half — making it safer for the cop and the suspected offender as cars whiz by — and eliminate the clumsy job of turning in the tickets at the end of a shift and sending them to the clerk’s office through interoffice mail.

“It makes our life a whole lot easier out there,” said Miami-Dade Police Sgt. George Wilhelm II. “It’s printed, clear and legible and it automatically sends it to the clerk’s office.”

If there is a benefit to the ticketed driver, it’s that you can pay any fine more quickly. The citation will be available for review on line within 24 hours, police said, not the week to 10 days it took under the old manual system. The start of the eCitation system was delayed for months as technicians grappled with implementing the software and matching it up to the new technology at the Miami-Dade Clerk of the Court’s office.

Compounding the issue was that Miami-Dade police hadn’t ordered enough paper ticket books to make it to the end of the year and were subsequently writing fewer tickets. For the past several months, only the most blatant traffic violators were getting pulled over.

Through November 2017, Miami-Dade police had issued 76,653 citations, well short of the 98,330 that were issued in all of 2016 and the 123,731 tickets that were issued in 2015.

Thursday, police introduced the system to the public. Wilhelm, from inside a patrol car, showed how filling in the boxes on a computer screen over the center console eliminates the messy handwriting that often gives the courts fits. A few seconds after the boxes were filled and he clicked print, a perfectly clear copy — not the usual blurry carbon copy of the ticket — appeared from a small printer under the computer.

Once the driver gets a copy of the ticket, he or she has 30 days to pay the fine or inform the court that they intend to fight the charge on the citation. Some 1,600 Miami-Dade patrol cars were outfitted with the new system this week. Police departments in Miami and Miami Beach and the Florida Highway Patrol are already using the new system.

For those who don’t have a computer to pay a fine or feel safer using the U.S. Postal Service, police will continue to hand out a mailing option with the ticket printout.

“Then I hand it to them and I’m done,” said Wilhelm.


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