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Consolidation of traffic courts coming soon

Ticket in La Mesa? Then drive to Clairemont to take care of it

The San Diego County traffic courts in the East County’s and South Bay’s superior courts are scheduled for the chopping block. As a cost-saving measure, the San Diego Superior Court’s proposed budget for the 2014–15 fiscal year calls for the relocation and consolidation of traffic operations that serve half of the county’s population. Traffic courts in El Cajon and Chula Vista will be moved to the Kearny Mesa court.

Motorists that receive tickets from La Mesa — eastward, to the county line, and south to Mexican border — would now be under the jurisdiction of the Clairemont Mesa Boulevard courthouse. If one wants to challenge their case, it would mean two trips to the out-of-the-area courthouse, one for the arraignment hearing – to plead not guilty – and one for the trial.

As any agency issuing a ticket is required to advise the offender where the court of jurisdiction is located, traffic officers will need to be retrained to assign the correct jurisdiction.

Because this is a significant change in operations, the court is required to advise all local law-enforcement agencies, the CHP, state-park rangers, campus police, animal-control departments, and individual cities’ code-enforcement officers of the proposed change. The agencies will have several months to comment.

Karen Dalton, spokesperson for San Diego County Superior Court said, “At this time, there is no specific date for this move.”

According to a source familiar with the operations of the traffic courts, the public announcement wasn’t supposed to be until October. But, the source advised, “It’s a done deal. The traffic-court employees have all been notified.”

Due to the state’s budget crisis, the San Diego courts have had their budget reduced by $42 million over the past six years. Dalton said, “Over the next two years, we will need to reduce the budget by another $9 million.”

One cost-cutting example: in 2013, San Diego County traffic courts stopped providing a list of approved traffic schools to violators, even though required by the DMV.

When challenged by the San Diego County Traffic School Association, executive officer of the San Diego Superior Court Michael Roddy said his courts could no longer afford the three-dollar cost to print, insert, and mail a traffic-school list to violators, even though mandated by the DMV and the legislature. As a result, many area traffic schools were forced out of business because of this change — potential students could not find a complete list traffic schools for their area.

One possible cost-saving move feared by court-watchers is the possible elimination of the mailing of “courtesy notices” — a formal notice regarding the amount of fines and fees, the charges against the violator, and one’s options for handling the case. To date, Sacramento County is the largest metropolitan county that has eliminated the mailing of courtesy notices.

According to one traffic-school-industry expert, “The court knows most people, without receiving a courtesy notice, will forget their due date written on the bottom of their ticket. The court then charges an additional $300 fine for not taking care of ticket by the due date. It’s another way for the courts to get more than the average $300 to $600 original fine.”

Some San Diego County courts have already reduced other non-constitutionally mandated services such as the closure of some civil courtrooms and no longer providing court reporters in civil cases.

Faced with this year’s budget reduction, Dalton said, “The court had to choose between reductions in Family and Juvenile Court or Traffic Court.  The court decided to make the needed budget reduction through the consolidation of traffic services.”

Disclosure: Until last month, this writer operated a locally based, statewide traffic school. He was the past president of the San Diego County Traffic School Assn. and the secretary of the California Traffic School Assn.

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The San Diego County traffic courts in the East County’s and South Bay’s superior courts are scheduled for the chopping block. As a cost-saving measure, the San Diego Superior Court’s proposed budget for the 2014–15 fiscal year calls for the relocation and consolidation of traffic operations that serve half of the county’s population. Traffic courts in El Cajon and Chula Vista will be moved to the Kearny Mesa court.

Motorists that receive tickets from La Mesa — eastward, to the county line, and south to Mexican border — would now be under the jurisdiction of the Clairemont Mesa Boulevard courthouse. If one wants to challenge their case, it would mean two trips to the out-of-the-area courthouse, one for the arraignment hearing – to plead not guilty – and one for the trial.

As any agency issuing a ticket is required to advise the offender where the court of jurisdiction is located, traffic officers will need to be retrained to assign the correct jurisdiction.

Because this is a significant change in operations, the court is required to advise all local law-enforcement agencies, the CHP, state-park rangers, campus police, animal-control departments, and individual cities’ code-enforcement officers of the proposed change. The agencies will have several months to comment.

Karen Dalton, spokesperson for San Diego County Superior Court said, “At this time, there is no specific date for this move.”

According to a source familiar with the operations of the traffic courts, the public announcement wasn’t supposed to be until October. But, the source advised, “It’s a done deal. The traffic-court employees have all been notified.”

Due to the state’s budget crisis, the San Diego courts have had their budget reduced by $42 million over the past six years. Dalton said, “Over the next two years, we will need to reduce the budget by another $9 million.”

One cost-cutting example: in 2013, San Diego County traffic courts stopped providing a list of approved traffic schools to violators, even though required by the DMV.

When challenged by the San Diego County Traffic School Association, executive officer of the San Diego Superior Court Michael Roddy said his courts could no longer afford the three-dollar cost to print, insert, and mail a traffic-school list to violators, even though mandated by the DMV and the legislature. As a result, many area traffic schools were forced out of business because of this change — potential students could not find a complete list traffic schools for their area.

One possible cost-saving move feared by court-watchers is the possible elimination of the mailing of “courtesy notices” — a formal notice regarding the amount of fines and fees, the charges against the violator, and one’s options for handling the case. To date, Sacramento County is the largest metropolitan county that has eliminated the mailing of courtesy notices.

According to one traffic-school-industry expert, “The court knows most people, without receiving a courtesy notice, will forget their due date written on the bottom of their ticket. The court then charges an additional $300 fine for not taking care of ticket by the due date. It’s another way for the courts to get more than the average $300 to $600 original fine.”

Some San Diego County courts have already reduced other non-constitutionally mandated services such as the closure of some civil courtrooms and no longer providing court reporters in civil cases.

Faced with this year’s budget reduction, Dalton said, “The court had to choose between reductions in Family and Juvenile Court or Traffic Court.  The court decided to make the needed budget reduction through the consolidation of traffic services.”

Disclosure: Until last month, this writer operated a locally based, statewide traffic school. He was the past president of the San Diego County Traffic School Assn. and the secretary of the California Traffic School Assn.

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Comments
1

Have you been to the Clairemont Traffic Court? I really don't see how they can accommodate any more people. The "court" such as it is, was built to service a very small population. There is limited parking and all the area parking lots have "tow away" signs. Street parking is zero. The facility is outdated with no room to expand. It may take months to get to court.

Sept. 13, 2014

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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