Thursday, December 7, 2023

Traffic tickets: pay the cop or pay at the station?

When pulled over by police for traffic violations, motorists in Mexico often face a dilemma: to demand a written citation that can be paid at a police station, which will likely draw out the ordeal, or pay a fine directly to the officer, which will get it over with quickly but will possibly contribute to corruption.

But a column by Mike Bibb in the Eastern Arizona Courier questions the conventional wisdom that says motorists should ask to pay fines at the police station.

Bibb, who lives in Arizona, has been visiting Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, for over 30 years, and has never had any negative interactions with the police and a trip he took in June with his wife Eilene seemed no different.

But on their way home to Arizona they had to drive through the border town of Sonoyta, where the speed limit quickly drops from highway speeds to 40 kilometers per hour. Bibb was not able to slow down fast enough, and a police officer pulled him over, having clocked him at nine km/h above the limit.

After taking Bibb’s license and registration, the officer disappeared for a few minutes, during which Bibb assumed he was writing a citation. But when the officer came back, there was no physical ticket, only a verbal notification that Bibb owed a fine to the city of Sonoyta, which could be paid directly to the officer, or in town at the police station.

Following his belief that paying fines directly to officers encourages police corruption, Bibb asked to be allowed to pay the fine at the station. As the officer instructed, Bibb followed the squad car to the police station. But when they got there, the officer disappeared into the building as Bibb was looking for parking.

When Bibb finally made it into the police station lobby, he ended up facing another officer, behind a glass barrier, who was in possession of his driver’s license. Bibb was informed that his debt to the city of Sonoyta was US $93, payable in cash.

Anxious to get his license back Bibb quickly handed over five $20 bills. But since the police station was unable to make change, and Bibb didn’t have any smaller bills, the officer decided to lower the fine to $80, and gave Bibb his license back with one of the bills.

Bibb asked for a receipt but the officer told him he couldn’t have one.

Bibb now questions what he achieved by demanding to pay at the station, wondering whether it would have been easier to just pony up and pay the cop directly.

Source: Eastern Arizona Courier (en)

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