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Columbia lawmakers increase ticket fines

In light of recent budget constraints, moves by city legislators in Columbia, South Carolina, have prohibited traffic ticket offenders from enjoying reduced fines simply because they plead guilty. New traffic ticket rules are designed to pad the municipality's coffers by inflicting the full value of most charges, increasing revenue by nearly a half a million dollars. Criminal defense in connection with these minor violations has thus changed dramatically, according to legal experts.

The additional income from the increased traffic ticket fines is expected to contribute to the windfall that has reduced the city's budget deficit from a whopping $4 million to just about $222,000. The city council is prohibited from approving a budget that does not effectively balance income and expenditures, according to local law.

In years past, Columbians who got tickets could simply plead guilty to charges, enjoying a smaller fine than would have resulted from a complete trial. Now, that option has been eliminated, causing all traffic ticket violations to be paid at full price. In addition, more officers are being dispatched to enforce traffic laws; estimates show that they will bring in nearly 50 percent more in traffic fines than they did in 2012. That means that Columbians will be paying $1.5 million in traffic tickets as compared to last year's $998,000.

The council is also taking measures to fix the deficit by raising property taxes, charging additional fees for first responders' services and imposing additional costs for public events at parks.

Community members are understandably upset about the across-the-board changes, but traffic tickets are among the most irksome modifications. Individuals who have been issued traffic tickets in the Columbia area would benefit from talking to a specialized criminal attorney who can review their individual cases. Many traffic ticket situations are different, and a criminal attorney can help you understand your rights and responsibilities before you ever enter the courtroom. Consider enlisting a lawyer's help to minimize the legal impact of your recent traffic ticket.

Source:  thestate.com, "Higher court fines and fees to help Columbia???s bottom line" Clif LeBlanc, Apr. 25, 2013

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