A Traffic Citation is a Courtesy – The Cop Could Arrest and Lock You Up on the Spot.

Written by Gregory Monte.

The function to be served by a citation is to avoid the unceremonious removal, perhaps in the middle of the night, of the responsible citizen from the highway and his subsequent incarceration in the local lockup in lieu of bail … The citation does not compel appearance and is nothing more than a uniform traffic ticket issued as a courtesy to defendant, giving him advance notice of the prosecution and affording to him the right to voluntarily appear before the issuing authority.”

Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Justice Beckert

I guess we should all be thankful for the “courtesy” of only getting a citation/ticket.

I was first clued into this whole idea while doing research for my upcoming book on how to beat a speeding ticket.  In case you are not familiar with my story, I became interested in fighting traffic tickets after my son received a bogus stop sign citation back in 2018.  I was so inspired (pissed off) by this event that I wrote a book which contains every possible defense related to stop signs.  My son applied what I learned and beat that bogus ticket.  If you are interested, you can read all about it in my free eBook How My Son Beat an Unfair Stop Sign Ticket in Pennsylvania.

But back to the current issue …

The specific case which alerted me to this chilling possibility was an old one – Commonwealth v. Colbert, 56 Pa. D. & C. 2d 419 – Pa: Court of Common Pleas 1972 – but what the judge said in his decision (quoted at the start of this post) led me to some interesting information.

In Pennsylvania (and, most likely, other states), the police are permitted to “arrest without a warrant” anyone who violates a motor vehicle law. 

Title 75, Section 6304(a):

“Pennsylvania State Police.–A member of the Pennsylvania State Police who is in uniform may arrest without a warrant any person who violates any provision of this title in the presence of the police officer making the arrest.”

For some reason (maybe because they can leave the state to avoid the fine), non-residents get their own statute which is more detailed when it comes to what happens after the arrest.  They can be immediately brought before the nearest judge and be required to post bond.

Title 75, Section 6304(b):

“Other police officers.–Any police officer who is in uniform may arrest without a warrant any nonresident who violates any provision of this title in the presence of the police officer making the arrest.”

Title 75, Section 6305(a):

“General rule.–Upon arrest of a nonresident for any violation of this title, a police officer shall escort the defendant to the appropriate issuing authority for a hearing, posting of bond or payment of the applicable fine and costs, unless the defendant chooses to place the amount of the applicable fine (or the maximum fine in the case of a variable fine) and costs in a stamped envelope addressed to the appropriate issuing authority and mails the envelope in the presence of the police officer.”

The implications are pretty chilling, in my opinion.  Just imagine getting pulled over for a minor traffic infraction and then being either immediately brought before a judge or (worse) thrown in jail.

If I say that these statutes really suck, would I be understating the case?

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