Do Traffic Ticket Quotas Really Exist?

Written by Staff Writer

Traffic tickets generate millions every year for states and local municipalities. The sudden appearance of speed traps and weekend wolf packs' have many drivers believing the law enforcement is merely out in force to meet traffic ticket quotas and not to protect the public. Traffic ticket quotas are explicitly prohibited by most jurisdictions. But is this really true?

Though ticket quotas are continuously denied to exist by police chiefs and uniformed officers around the country, evidence suggests there is an unspoken directive in some police stations and state trooper offices.

In Florida in July, 2006, an internal memo from a lieutenant to all patrol personnel appears to imply a quota for writing tickets. According to a First Coast News report, the memo, in part read: "After assessing the April Statistics it was obvious I had not made the department's expectations for an Officer's monthly activity known. Thus, following is a list of my expectations for the minimum activity for each patrol officer/supervisor each month.

  1. Approximately 2 UTC's for each shift worked.
  2. Approximately 2 traffic warnings for each shift worked."

A U-T-C is a Uniform Traffic Citation. But Florida State Law forbids quotas. According to the 2003 Legislative session, Title XXIII Motor Vehicles 316.640: "An agency of the state as described in subparagraph 1. is prohibited from establishing a traffic citation quota."

Florida is not the only state where ticket quotas are a reality, and states like Missouri and Pennsylvania have experienced similar revelations. Pennsylvania State Police documents show that not only is there a system of monetary reward and punishment for state troopers based upon numeric ticket goals, there is a clear effort to prevent anyone from ever speaking about it.

In 2002, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette uncovered the creative methods that top police officials developed to avoid the letter of the law. The specific number of tickets that troopers must now meet is known as the "station average." Each trooper must log the number of traffic stops and citations and if a trooper for any reason issues fewer tickets than his colleagues — the station average — he will be disciplined.

And, according to at least five police officers in Monroe, Louisiana have been disciplined for not writing a sufficient number of traffic tickets. These officers were told they could not work a second job while off-duty to help make ends meet. Because this punishment is outside of the normal disciplinary process, the officers have no right to appeal the decision.

While traffic ticket quotas are not legally mandated, there is enough evidence to suggest they do exist in some law enforcement agencies. Driving Safety Articles: This article was written by defensive driving staff writers and reviewed for accuracy by defensive driving instructors. All articles are based on current traffic laws and defensive driving practices. This article is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as legal advice or literal interpretation of any specific traffic law.