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Letter: Tickets' intent is safety

The Suffolk County seal.

The Suffolk County seal.

Newsday's editorial completely missed the mark

In some states, the police may issue a written warning for certain traffic and safety issues. New York does not allow for written warnings. Instead, police can issue a verbal warning, allow for the repair of a safety issue on the spot (in front of the officer), or if the defect cannot be repaired on site, officers can write a traffic ticket with the understanding that it can be dismissed if the motorist makes repairs before 30 minutes after sunset of the next business day.

When the law was enacted in 1968, the legislature's intent was to encourage the repair of the defect so that vehicle might be made safe as soon as possible. The secondary intent was to avoid penalizing a motorist who might experience a broken lamp or cracked windshield while out on his or her current drive.

The rationale behind driving laws is to encourage and reinforce safety. Police officers are not engaged in the business of revenue generation. To force a citizen to pay an administrative fee after the motorist has timely and properly corrected a safety issue flies in the face of the legislative intent.

I was a New York City police officer for almost 20 years and have been an attorney for almost 30 years. I have never once been instructed, heard or believed that the police department or its officers should focus on revenue generation. While it is true that a consequence of issuing a ticket increases the coffers of government, this is not the primary goal of law enforcement.

Adding an administrative or processing fee to a dismissed ticket is an insult to every police officer and motorist on the road. Get real -- this is not the way to fix a budget deficit!

I support the Suffolk County Legislature's bill, scheduled for a vote this week, that would drop the administrative fee in dismissed cases going forward.

Barry M. Smolowitz, Kings Park


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