ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A speeding ticket can ruin your day and wind up costing you big bucks.
But is there something else driving a cop’s decision to pull you over?
VERIFY viewer Lorraine said she feels like she always sees more drivers getting pulled over at the end of the month and wondered if it’s because police have ticket quotas to meet.
Do cops have ticket quotas? Do they rush to ticket people at the end of the month?
No, police do not have ticket quotas because traffic citation quotas are against the law in Florida. But that doesn’t mean law enforcement agencies haven’t tried getting around it.
WHAT WE FOUND
State law is clear.
Florida statute 316.640 7(b) states: “A traffic enforcement agency may not establish a traffic citation quota.”
The law was passed in 2015. It was nicknamed the “Waldo bill.”
“We used to have Waldo, Fla. which was kind of internationally famous for the amount of tickets they gave out,” explained Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who chaired the transportation committee at the time. “We came to find out they had ticket quotas, and the legislature put a stop to that.”
It was uncovered, according to 10 Tampa Bay archival reporting, that the tiny north Florida town of Waldo was generating nearly half of its revenue just from traffic tickets.
The town was infamously known as one of the biggest speed traps in the country.
But agencies have tried to get around the law since.
In 2017 two high-ranking Florida Highway Patrol officers – Lt. Col. Mike Thomas and Maj. Mark Welch – resigned after backlash over an email sent to troopers telling them they weren't writing enough tickets. The email specified they needed to be issuing two tickets per hour.
In the email, Welch wrote, “this is not a quota." He defended it as a “goal.”
Attorney Josh Burnett with the Florida Ticket Firm said it’s just a quota by a different name and still a violation of the law.
“The goal is to enforce traffic laws in general without defining a certain number,” Burnett said. “As long as they don’t define a minimum number of citations for a specific period of time they’re going to be fine.”
While agencies cannot define a certain number of tickets be written for a specific period of time, they can still target certain times and roads for tickets.
“There are ways in which law enforcement can encourage more than the typical number of citations during a typical time period without violating the law,” Burnett said.
Setting a speed stop, or “trap,” to focus on a particular area known for speeding for example, “they can give out as many traffic citations as they want,” Burnett said.
Bottom line, “we want traffic to be enforced,” Brandes said. “But we’re not setting specific numbers to enforce that.”
To ensure departments don’t rely too heavily on tickets for revenue, Florida law also requires cities and counties to report to the state if traffic ticket revenue exceeds a third of the agency’s operating costs.