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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > Do Virginia Cops Have Ticket Quotas?

Do Virginia Cops Have Ticket Quotas?

If you have ever seen the police out in force on a holiday or during a special event, you have probably wondered if the police somehow have a requirement to ticket people. Perhaps you were cited for going 5 miles per hour over the speed limit and feel like you got a raw deal. The police must have a “quota” to meet. This sentiment is pretty common, especially in states like Virginia, where citation fees can be excessive and even lead to criminal charges. But is there any truth to this statement?

A few states have outlawed citation quotas

In a handful of states, the law actually prohibits law enforcement agencies from creating citation quotas. In the Sunshine State, FL. STAT. 316.640 directly expresses that “a traffic enforcement agency may not establish a traffic citation quota.” Likewise, in Illinois, a police department may not require “a police officer to issue a specific number of citations within a designated period of time” 20 ILCS 805/805-537. A few other states have similar laws, namely, New York and California.

What about Virginia?

Here in Virginia, drivers are not as lucky as those living in Illinois and Florida. In Virginia, no such law exists. However, does this mean law enforcement actually employ citation quotas? Well, not necessarily. According to one news report by CBS, Richmond-area delegate Delores McQuinn attempted to pass legislation in the 2014-15 session that would have placed similar restrictions on law enforcement in Virginia; however, the bill failed in February of last year.

What do the police say?

Police argue that there are no true quotas, but rather, there are performance standards that require officers to be diligent and aggressive with ticketing violators. After all, we have statistics that show the number of speeders and traffic infraction violations that typically occur throughout the state. So if the police are doing their jobs – or so the argument goes – there should be a proportionate and representative number of violators being cited for those infractions. By comparing an officer’s citation record to his peers, a department can determine whether the officer is being sufficiently aggressive and diligent in performing traffic stops and catching lawbreakers.

Other possible reasons for “unspoken quotas”

While Virginia law enforcement agencies will not readily admit to using a quota system, “performance standards” act much like a quota system by incentivizing high citation numbers. But there is more to the story than just catching violators. There is also money. In addition to the large pool of revenue that a department can generate, there are also grants. The Virginia Highway Safety Office administers federal grants from the U.S. government. These grants are generally designed to help departments increase efforts to prevent drunk driving, speeding, and other safety-related problems. These grants are often heavily tied to the department’s ability to enforce existing laws. Therefore, the more citations, the more money can be obtained. For more detailed analysis, see the Governor’s Annual Highway Safety Plan.

Virginia’s traffic laws are always changing. If you are ticketed or arrested for a moving violation or criminal offense in Leesburg, Loudoun county or Fairfax county, contact the skilled and aggressive criminal and traffic defense lawyers at Simms Showers, LLP.

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