The California Highway Patrol (CHP) wants to implement a statewide electronic ticketing system for traffic citations over the next few years and is starting the process with a small-scale pilot.

California Highway Patrol CIO Reginald Chappelle would like to see each of California’s 58 counties move from the CHP’s current paper-based ticketing to processing traffic citations on handheld devices — a trend happening among law enforcement agencies nationwide. Once the new system is in place, ticketing information processed through the handheld devices would be sent to California courts in 48 hours or less.

“It takes several weeks for paper copies to make it to the courts,” Chappelle said. “If it’s someone that you want to revoke their driving privilege for or get them into the court system as soon as possible, sometimes you’re held up by the [current system’s] clerical processing.”

On Sept. 30, the CHP will begin a six-month test of 400 Motorola devices running Advanced Public Safety software. The pilot will include three court jurisdictions: one CHP office in Santa Clara County, another in San Bernardino County and three CHP offices in Orange County.

The mobile devices planned for the e-ticketing pilot include a thumb-print scanner, magnetic stripe reader, camera and a Windows operation system. In some cases, officers would use the camera and thumb-print scanner for identification verification.

The CHP received a $2.4 million grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety to complete the pilot in the three counties, with the goal of eliminating manual data entry from the CHP’s clerical staff into a more than 25-year-old legacy system. If the CHP eventually opts for a statewide rollout, it would cost another $22 million — funds California hasn’t secured yet.

Chappelle said writing tickets on mobile devices takes officers less than two minutes, whereas writing a paper ticket can take five to 10 minutes. 

“Right now the process for paper citations is the officer goes out, they bring it back to a local office and the CHP clerical staff will enter that data into a legacy system on a little green-screen system. But it doesn’t capture all the fields from a citation,” Chappelle said.

The legacy system — because of limited memory — only captures the first two violations written on a single citation, so some of the forms were incomplete, according to Chappelle. The new e-ticketing solution would be able to record multiple violations on a single ticket.

If the project goes statewide, Chappelle said the CHP will go back to the state Office of Traffic Safety for more funding to purchase the necessary hardware and software to run the handheld citation devices.

To adequately equip the CHP’s 7,000 officers, an additional 3,500 devices would need to be purchased. Each officer wouldn’t need his or her own device.

“We wouldn’t do all of that in one fiscal year because the courts and the jurisdictions need to be willing and ready to accept the data electronically,” Chappelle explained. “Otherwise, you’re still printing and sending in the citations the way we’re doing it now. You’re just printing it from a handheld device instead of a desktop PC.”

The upcoming test in September won’t be the first time the CHP has piloted handheld citation devices. In 2006, the CHP used a grant to pilot handheld citation devices for officers on a limited basis in Ventura County and in three courts in Los Angeles. After the pilot concluded, few jurisdictions wanted to expand the project into their counties.

At the time, the CHP didn’t want to write separate agreements supporting e-ticketing in each of the state’s 58 counties and hundreds of courts because individual projects would have been too difficult to manage, Chappelle said.

Years ago the CHP asked the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts to develop a single standard for the e-ticketing data so it could be stored in one location. The CHP wants that data to go into the California Court Case Management System (CCMS), a long-awaited but delayed unification of the state’s superior courts data. Started in 2003, the CCMS is still incomplete and has taken criticism from some counties, as well as judges and lawmakers.

Chappelle conceded that the CCMS would have to be operational before the e-ticketing system can be launched statewide. Consequently the CHP might have to wait at least a few years.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.