Courts across the country have struggled to process traffic tickets safely and efficiently during the pandemic. A new portal is offering jurisdictions a free and virtual means of handling tickets.
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on court systems, changing everything from cybersecurity concerns to court proceedings. In the future, handling a speeding ticket may no longer require someone to take off work and go on a half-day adventure to a traffic court.
That’s the idea behind Online Traffic Resolution, a new portal from Atlanta-based company Judicial Innovations. The portal, which can be used by jurisdictions for free, is in response to a standstill of sorts with traffic courts. Across the country, many traffic courts aren’t open for business. In some cases, one may have to wait months, rather than weeks as in the past, to have a court date for settling a ticket.
Jarrett Gorlin, CEO of Judicial Innovations, said the pandemic has exacerbated a system that was already ripe for innovation.
“Traffic courts, I believe, were stuck in their old ways pre-pandemic, doing things the way they’d always been done,” said Gorlin, who has a law enforcement background. “Typically that’s how a lot of government works. They’ve been doing it so long, changing it is difficult.”
Here’s how Online Traffic Resolution works: A citizen creates an account via an online portal and looks up their ticket. A judge in a video tells the citizen their rights. From there, the citizen may plead guilty or not guilty. A citizen’s explanation, which may include uploaded documents, can be approved or rejected by a judge. If the citizen has to pay the ticket, they will be directed to a payment screen.
Jurisdictions don’t have to pay a penny for a license to use the online portal. Judicial Innovations just wants the ability to process credit card payments. Gorlin said his company’s fee for payment processing is, in most cases, less than the fee charged by another vendor.
“We can sit down with the court and go through the system,” Gorlin said. “It takes us about half an hour. We can virtually set up the system in about a day.”
Misty Day, clerk of court for Acworth, Ga., said her city started using the portal several weeks ago. She confirmed the quick set-up time.
“If the court wanted it tomorrow, I don’t see any reason they couldn’t as long as they get a username and password,” Day said. “There’s no hardware. There’s no expense to the court.”
Currently, Acworth is working on getting the word out about the system. Day said it can be a bit shocking leaving behind a process that involves traditional tools like paper and pens, but the automated system also gives a court a greater sense of security in that one can rely on the portal in the case of a pandemic.
When COVID-19 first turned society upside down last year, Day said her court had no procedures in place to deal with the situation. Officers were even instructed to scale back their ticket writing.
“In essence, everything stopped,” Day recalled.
Although Acworth has completed only a few traffic cases since adopting the portal, Day, who has held her position since 2005, believes the system will be hit once people become aware of it.
“I would say any moment now, it’s going to start spreading like wildfire,” she said.
Gorlin emphasized the increased safety that comes with using the system while the pandemic runs its course. Safety concerns can blow up to something big, as seen in the case in Los Angeles where a judge has been sued for demanding residents to appear at in-person traffic hearings.
“I tell our customers, we are not your magic bullet,” Gorlin said. “We are not your 100 percent solution … [but] if we can reduce that foot traffic to the courthouse by 50 percent, it’s a win for the courthouse, it’s a win for the finances of the courthouse … and it’s a win for the citizens who are able to deal with a basic traffic ticket.”
Gorlin also argued that an online traffic ticket system creates a more accessible and reasonable justice system for all. Day agreed, citing cases where mothers are asked to come to court despite not having a way to provide care for their children when they leave home.
“That guy working a job at McDonalds or Walmart has a real decision to make,” Gorlin said. “‘Do I take off work and risk losing money to take care of this ticket?’ … That’s not fair. All for a minor traffic violation.”
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