Florida law intended to rein in speed trap towns

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/16/2015

A new law in Florida forbids law enforcement agencies to pad their budgets with speed trap revenue.

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill to prohibit departments from forcing police to issue a certain number of tickets to meet a mandate. Previously SB264, the new law swept through both chambers in the statehouse with only one vote in opposition.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, has said it is important that people understand whether their local law enforcement agency is being supported by nothing but traffic revenues, or whether it is in large part used to support the agency.

The legislative effort is in response to activities in a north Florida town where officers were ordered to enforce a ticket quota.

The town of Waldo, located between Jacksonville and Gainesville along state Highway 24 and U.S. 301, disbanded its police department in October 2014. The change was made after allegations that the former police chief instituted ticket quotas.

According to reports, the Waldo Police used speeding tickets to support nearly two-thirds of the department’s budget. In 2012, the town even held the distinction from the National Motorists Association as the third-worst speed trap city in North America in the under-50,000 population category.

The new law clarifies that state, county and municipal traffic enforcement agencies are prohibited from establishing citation quotas.

The amount of traffic fine revenue that municipalities can keep is also limited. Specifically, counties or municipalities could keep up to 33 percent of the total expenses incurred in one year to run the agency.

Bradley previously said during discussion on the bill that no one wants over-enforcement of traffic laws.

“We just want police to enforce traffic laws when public safety issues are involved, not to raise revenue to support the cost of a department.”

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol now provide security for the town of Waldo and its 1,000 residents.

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