Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cop may not appear at hearing, but somebody must

Reading Police Chief Bill Heim says it's perfectly legal for a person to be found guilty even if a cop doesn't show up for a parking ticket hearing.
He cites Title 4, Section 454, subsection B as proof.
That section says:
(B) If the defendant pleads guilty, the issuing authority shall impose sentence. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the issuing authority shall try the case in the same manner as trials in criminal cases are conducted in the courts of common pleas when jury trial has been waived; however, in all summary cases arising under the Vehicle Code or local traffic ordinances, the law enforcement officer observing the defendant’s alleged offense may, but shall not be required to, appear and testify against the defendant. In no event shall the failure of the law enforcement officer to appear, by itself, be a basis for dismissal of the charges against the defendant.

However, the chief fails to mention subsection C, which states:
(C) The attorney for the Commonwealth may appear and assume charge of the prosecution. When the violation of an ordinance of a municipality is charged, an attorney representing that municipality, with the consent of the attorney for the Commonwealth, may appear and assume charge of the prosecution. When no attorney appears on behalf of the Commonwealth, the affiant may be permitted to ask questions of any witness who testifies.

It's clear to me that though an officer is not required to show up at a parking ticket hearing, someone else must appear in his stead. It can be an assistant district attorney, or if it's a city ticket, it can be the city solicitor or his deputy. But clearly somebody has to appear.
The law was written this way because traditionally cops were paid a lot less than ADAs or city attorneys.

Nowadays, with the average cop making about $90,000 in salary and benefits and getting overtime for court appearances on top of that, it's a closer call as to which is cheaper.
Heim said he'd like to do what the parking authority does, which is to send one representative of the authority to answer for all tickets issued by the cold-blooded, heartless meter maids.
However, the chief said the move to spread parking tickets among four magistrates instead of one, would make his plan to send one police representative to handle all parking tickets unworkable.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Scrooge parking cop can't crush Judge's Christmas spirit

Reading Magisterial District Judge Wally Scott said a Reading Parking Authority meter maid cited him for parking overtime at a meter as he was setting up for the tree-lighting ceremony for the Childrens Tree of Christmas earllier today.
Scott, who is spearheading the Childrens Tree program with the city school district, said he was parked at a meter near the corner of Ninth and Washington streets about 10 a.m. today when a meter maid approached his SUV on a bicycle and began to write a ticket.
"I went over and told her that when I put a quarter in the meter it said it was out of order," Scott said.
He said the meter maid, whose name he did not get, told him the city's parking ordinance prohibits people from parking in spaces with faulty meters.
"She told me the ordinance says anyone who parks in a parking authority space has to pay," Scott said. "I told her again that I did put a quarter in the meter, it just didn't register, but I had paid."
Scott said the meter maid, who knew him to be a city judge, told him to move his car or she would give him a ticket.
"I said go ahead and give me a ticket because it's not my meter that is broken," Scott said.
Scott said he was ticketed and plans to fight the citation in court.
The further irony in this case is that Scott had just arranged with Muhlenberg Township Parks and Rec to receive a donation of mulch to surround and add to the magic of the Childrens Tree of Reading.
The concept is a gift to the beleagured citizens of Reading from the children who live and go to school there.
Scott, like Reading Schools Superintendent Tom Chapman, is a big fan of Christmas and the whole Childrens Tree project is largely their doing. Scott helps decorate the whole 900 block of Washington Street every year. Chapman has a Christmas Tree in his office year round.
They're big Yuletide fans, but they have had help.
Already installed on the vacant lot across from Scott's district court office at Ninth and Washington streets, is an 18-foot Douglas fir donated by Mar-Jo Tree Nursery of Boyertown, white picket fencing and light poles donated by Amity Fence Co., old-fashioned lights donated by WalMart.
Sam's Club also has donated 1,500 cups of hot cocoa to be used for chilly nights of caroling to come.
"And our latest donation is a citation from the Reading Parking Authority," Scott said.