Maryland delegate wants special judges for traffic offenses

WASHINGTON – The District led the way. Maryland almost followed suit.

Hearing officers control the fate of people in D.C. when it comes to almost all traffic cases, including red light and speed camera tickets.

Tiffany Alston, a Prince George’s delegate to the General Assembly, sponsored a bill calling for special masters in Maryland to judge non-jailable traffic offenses.

“Right now in the state, we have a deficit in judges,” she said.

The bill died in committee, but Alston plans to reintroduce the bill next session.

AAA opposes the idea of having these masters rule on traffic cases like speed and red light camera tickets. John Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic says in D.C. people that go before hearing officers are automatically presumed to be guilty the moment they get a ticket, and the system sets a high burden of proof.

“It would allow masters who are lawyers to adjudicate these cases,” Townsend said. “They would be paid out of, or could possibly be paid out of, the automated enforcement ticket revenue and we think that presents a conflict of interest”

But Alston says the process would be no different than judges’ salaries coming from tax dollars and court fees.

WTOP’s Veronica Robinson contributed to this report.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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