Jefferson City, MO (STL.News) – Yesterday, Missouri Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, announced a lawsuit against the City of Diamond for enforcing ticket quotas and using tickets to generate additional municipal revenue. Enforcing ticket quotas and using abusive ticketing tactics are in violation of reforms brought by Senate Bill 5, Senate Bill 572, and Senate Bill 765.
“Taxation by citation is an outdated, unsustainable, and unacceptable system. Enforcing ticket quotas and writing tickets purely to generate revenue breaks down trust between municipalities and the citizens they serve,” said AG Schmitt. “I was honored to be a part of the passage of Senate Bill 5 in 2015, and four years later I’m doing everything in my ability to enforce it as Attorney General. Missourians should not be used as ATMs.”
In pictures taken by a whistleblower familiar with the operations of the City of Diamond and obtained by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, instructions on a whiteboard in the City of Diamond Police Department’s office read: “We R $5,000 B hind issue some tickets RFN (RFN meaning “right [expletive] now”).” An additional message on the whiteboard read “way behind on highway safety enforcement.”
Mandating ticket quotas and overzealously issuing tickets to generate revenue or fill coffers is in violation of statutes spurred by Senate Bill 5, Senate Bill 572, and Senate Bill 765 – specifically Missouri Revised Statutes § 304.125 and § 575.320. Missouri Revised Statute § 304.125 provides: “No political subdivision or law enforcement agency shall have a policy requiring or encouraging an employee to issue a certain number of citations for traffic violations on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or other quota basis…”
Attorney General Schmitt has been at the forefront of fighting to end taxation by citation. When he was in the Missouri State Senate, Schmitt worked to pass Senate Bill 5 following the events in Ferguson. Senate Bill 5 works to curb abusive or overzealous ticketing tactics, and lowered the limit to 20 percent for how much a municipality’s revenue could be generated by traffic fines and fees. Municipalities are required by the Senate Bill 5 reforms to file an addendum annually with the State Auditor’s Office. These addendums allow citizens to easily identify how much of a municipality’s revenue is collected from fines, fees, and tickets.
Additionally, Schmitt has fought for court reform and in one of his first acts as Attorney General, he filed an Amicus Brief in the State of Missouri v. Richey, opposing the practice of modern day “debtors’ prisons.” Schmitt praised the recent Supreme Court of Missouri ruling in State v. Richey, stating, “Missourians shouldn’t be forced into a cycle of incarceration and used as an ATM simply for being unable to pay jail debts, and classifying jail debts, or board bills, as court costs continues that cycle.”