HOWTO buy your way out of a California speeding ticket

Pricenomics revisits the perennial scandal of the 11-99 Foundation, which benefits California Highway Patrol officers and their families in times of crisis. Major donors to the foundation receive a license-plate frame that, drivers believe, acts as a license to speed on California highways. The plates were withdrawn in 2006 after a CHP commissioner's investigation seemed to validate the idea that CHP officers would let off drivers with the frames. The frames are back now, thanks to a funding crisis from 11-99, and some posters on cop-message boards say that the frames themselves aren't enough to get you out of a ticket -- because many of them are counterfeits -- but if you have a member's card, too, well, that's another story, wink, nudge.

On Officer.com, in a discussion about 11-99 frames (and fakes) mentioned earlier, a number of cops weighed in. Priceonomics is still trying to verify identities, so their statements could be fabrications. But it presents an intriguing perspective of officers’ potential views on the 11-99 frames.

A number of cops reported ignoring the license plate frames when they decided whether to pull over and ticket drivers. One cop describes a driver whose “first words” were about the stickers indicating the donations he made. When the driver insisted that they required big donations, the cop replied, “Well, paying for these citations shouldn’t be a problem.”

But some answers indicate that people have reason to believe that the frames will help them avoid tickets. In addition to the frames, the CHP 11-99 Foundation gives out membership cards to big donors. In reference to secondhand or fake frames, one cop wrote, “Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you, no love will be shown.” Another added, “Ya gotta have more than just a license plate frame or a sticker.” The implication from these officers seems to be that buying a fake license plate frame is useless, but real donors will receive some leniency.

Can You Buy A License to Speed? [Alex Mayyasi/Pricenomics]

(via Naked Capitalism)

Notable Replies

  1. It is well known that a Philadelphia Police Benevolent Society decal in your car window can do wonders for your driving life. And they added the year to the decals a while back. So... better be current!

  2. Back in the 90s, one of my friends had a Fraternal Order of Police medallion on his license plate. It illegally covered several of the characters on the plate and he in general drove like an idiot, Apparently it worked since he rarely got pulled over and never got tickets. The funny thing is that he stole it off another car.

  3. They really need better authentication on their bribery scheme. Next thing you know they are going to be counterfeiting the membership cards. Soon they will needing biometrics.

    We need a disruptive solution to solve the problem of knowing who has legitimately bribed someone.

  4. We need the Speedr app that allows a cop to accept a bribe based on your license plate and GPS co-ordinates.

  5. I've got a family member, and a number of friends in law enforcement in a number of states. And frankly the way I hear (and my experience from friends who have them) it the FOP badges, charity license plates, and other stickers and doodads you stick on your car don't work for shit. There's the rare cop who does give a shit (and he's unlikely to spot your horse shit before he pulls you over), but for the most part noone cares. In fact many of the officers I know are more likely to ticket some one with one of these things than otherwise, because they find the implication that you can buy the police just as offensive as everyone else. In my experience people who donate to police orgs with the sole aim of getting special treatment tend to be giant entitled assholes, which doesn't help them out either.

    There's a couple reasons why people think they work, and its mostly simple confirmation bias. The fact is your pretty damned unlikely to get pulled over (outside of speed traps and municipalities cracking down on moving violations) regardless of how much, where, or when you are speeding. Whatever you feel like sticking on your car. Think about the number of times you've been pulled over versus the amount of time you spend speeding. I'm pretty much never not speeding, and I've been pulled over maybe 5 times in my life. The other thing at play is that for the most part once the officer pulls you over for a moving violation its entirely up to his discretion whether to issue a citation or a warning. And he might go with a warning for any number of reasons. You are probably best off being known to the officer, just being nice, or being a pretty woman. For the most part officers (even in highway enforcement) don't like, or want to give traffic tickets. It's why traffic enforcement is often used as a punishment or relegated to officers with the least seniority. Many officers aren't looking to issue tickets, they're looking to spot more serious violations. Like drunk and high drivers. So in a lot of cases the guy who pulled you over is looking for an excuse not to ticket you.

    What does tend to work are the small "spouse badges" as they're called, and the courtesy cards issued by the police unions (PBA cards). Both are issued by an officer, and are typically tagged in pen with his name, badge and phone number. And they're, as the term for the cards indicates, intended to foster polite treatment for members of the officers family and a courtesy phone call to the officer in question should anything happen. That's the baseline. I won't treat you like an asshole and I'll let your dad know when I lock you up. But the badges are pretty infrequently issued these days and usually purchased privately from a jeweler by the officer. Since they're openly purchasable on the market they don't carry much weight without some sort of ID, like the PBA cards I mentioned. Which are less effective these days then they've ever been. Enough officers hand them out like fucking candy that its undermined the whole idea behind the cards. So the PBA has started to issue lifetime,permanent membership cards to officer's families. They are printed with the holder's full name; the officer's name, rank, and badge number; and the family relationship (son, brother in law, spouse etc). Most officers choose to issue a warning instead of citation when presented with a family card or spouse badge, many will still do it for the regular card. But it isn't guaranteed, warnings are recorded in the officers log book, he'll still make the call to whoever gave you the card, and the cards can be rescinded at any time by any union member. So if you make an ass of yourself, or cause a continued problem whatever privileges you may eek out from the thing evaporate. The officer's discretion to issue a warning also evaporates beyond anything more serious than a simple mail-in fine. Anything more serious, or requiring an arrest, or involving a court appearance all that happens is that call to an officer who might be able or willing to help in some way.

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