Judiciary seeks to clarify fines for outstanding traffic ticketsTuesday, October 29, 2019
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Judiciary has sought to clarify its handling of motorists who are brought before the court with hundreds of outstanding traffic tickets, particularly as it relates to the fines imposed.
In a statement from the Court Management System (CMS), the Judiciary said misinformation has been aired in both social and mainstream media but it believes this is as a result of the release of incomplete information to the public.
In recent months, a number of motorists with hundreds of outstanding traffic tickets have been brought before the court. However, there has been public criticisms over the fines handed down to the delinquent drivers.
Most recently, a motorist who had amassed a total of 425 outstanding traffic tickets was fined $20,000, another who had 423 unpaid traffic tickets was fined $34,000 and a third motorist with 406 outstanding tickets was ordered to pay $35,000.
The Judiciary, in its statement, explained that a number of factors contribute to the fines imposed including the parish in which the ticket was issued, the offence listed on the warrant for the motorist and available sentencing options.
It also noted that a new Traffic Ticketing Management System (TTMS) will soon be commissioned to ensure that the police, tax offices and the courts all have simultaneous access to one constantly updated database showing an accurate status of paid and outstanding traffic tickets.
See full statement from the Judiciary below:
Following the extensive discussions in the public domain in respect of fines being imposed on Motorists who have been issued with hundreds of traffic tickets, the Judiciary would like to clarify some of the misinformation which has been aired in both social and mainstream media. The misinformation, we believe, is as a result of the release of incomplete information to the public.
The following should provide clarity on some issues raised in the ongoing public discussion on this matter:
- Outstanding Tickets
- Each outstanding ticket relates to a separate charge. A number of the motorists who have hundreds or over a thousand tickets have accumulated them over several years, (in at least one case from as far back as 2010), and in more than one parishes.
- Each Parish Court can only deal with those tickets issued within the parish for which that court has jurisdiction. Motorists who have accumulated tickets in different parishes have to attend court in each parish to answer to the tickets issued in that parish
- Each outstanding ticket has to be located and relisted for hearing. If a motorist pleads not guilty, the matter has to be tried. For there to be a trial, the policeman who issued the ticket has to provide a statement, if one was not initially provided.
2. Executed Warrants
- When a motorist is brought before the court on an executed warrant, he only answers to the particular offence(s) listed on that warrant. For example, someone who has five hundred (500) outstanding tickets who is brought to court on three executed warrants, will only answer to the charges on those warrants and not all their outstanding tickets. The court can only deal with the offences listed before it. The other tickets remain outstanding for future adjudication. It is therefore inaccurate that the courts are giving discounted fines to persistent traffic offenders.
3. Guilty Pleas
- Once a motorist who is brought before the court on an executed warrant, pleads guilty to the listed offences and fines are imposed and paid, the court has no power to further detain the person on any other outstanding matter(s) unless another warrant is executed on the defendant.
4. Available Sentencing Options –
The Road Traffic Act (RTA) stipulates the penalties that can be imposed:
- Most ticketable offences do not carry the option of a custodial sentence regardless of how many times an offender has been ticketed.
- The penalty is usually limited to a fine. The courts are not empowered to increase these fines.
- In some circumstances, the court may additionally suspend the individual's driver's licence.
- There are instances where the maximum fine that can be imposed by the court is less than the fine payable at the Tax Office. The offences of 'exceeding the speed limit' and 'disobeying traffic signs and traffic lights' for example, attract a lesser fine in court than at the Tax Office. If a person who is issued with a ticket for exceeding the speed limit, comes before the court, the maximum fine the court is empowered to impose under the RTA is $6,000.
- Significantly, in respect of most ticketable offences, section 116(10) of the RTA prevents the court from considering previous offences when sentencing a motorist for a current offence, even where the previous offences are similar.
5. Reform Initiatives
Through the joint efforts of the Ministries of National Security, Justice and the Court Management Services, a new Traffic Ticketing Management System (TTMS) will soon be commissioned. This improved system will among other enhancements:
- Ensure that the police, tax offices and the courts all have simultaneous access to one constantly updated database showing an accurate status of paid and outstanding traffic tickets; and
- Provide for the automatic generation of warrants for checking and signature to replace the manual completion of warrants that currently obtains.
The Judiciary of Jamaica enjoins all justice partners and stakeholders to ensure, as far as possible, that complete and accurate information is issued to the public concerning matters addressed by the courts. This will help to uphold respect for the Rule of Law and reduce the danger of the credibility of, not just the courts, but also the entire justice system being seriously undermined.
The Judiciary of Jamaica remains committed to doing our part to ensure the maintenance of law and order in our society.
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