Hunt: New E-Citation Machine But One Step On Long Road to Fixing Dallas's Muni Courts

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Back in March 2009, the Office of the City Auditor released that damning report about the state of the Dallas Municipal Court. To which Angela Hunt, chair of the council's Judiciary Committee (for now), responds with this update, which says, long story short: "Over the last year and a half, we've made significant progress." Such as?

* Collection of fines is up $3 million
* Average revenue per case is up from $69 to $83
* Docket capacity is up 70%
* The time it takes to get a court date has been reduced from 9 months to 3 months

Hunt mentions that by way of reminding readers that on Wednesday, the city council passed yet another court-fixin' initiative: the so-called E-Ticket machine, which lets police officers swipe a speeder's license rather than hand-write a citation. Hunt explains: Phase 1 of the e-citation system, which'll first land in the motorcycle cop's tool bag, will cost the city $620,000 over the next five years but "result in saving and revenue enhancements of $1,370,000." And this is just the beginning, she writes, pointing to more proposals forthcoming in January and February. Because, look, muni court's been a mess for a very long time.

I remember when Councilmember Jerry Allen and I toured our municipal courts three years ago along with judges, bailiffs, court administrators, police, and prosecutors. One thing that stood out was the inefficient system for processing police citations.

Boxes of handwritten tickets were delivered to the court daily. The tickets were sorted by one group of people, scanned in by another, then another group manually entered the information into the computer system. The process was not only unnecessarily labor-intensive, but rife with opportunity for mistakes. If a date were mistyped or a name entered incorrectly at any point in the process, the ticket could be tossed. That meant people violating the rules of the road would go unpunished, as well as revenue being lost to the city. The process could take as long as ten days to enter a citation into the computer system. So if you wanted to pay your citation, you couldn't for at least ten days.

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