Officer Michelle Brown speaks with a motorist at a
Taylor Boulevard in Louisville.
Traffic school vs. traffic school
Kentucky traffic school vs. Jefferson County attorney’s Drive Safe Louisville.
|State class||County attorney class|
|Hours to complete||4||2|
|Cost||$181.50, online; $149, in person*||$150|
|Points assessed against license||No||No|
|Final exam||Must get 80 to pass, can take 3 times||No final exam or minimum score|
|Courthouse trip required?||Yes. Must apply in court or with clerk||No. Invited by letter from county attorney|
|Penalty for failing to complete||License suspension||Reinstatement of citation in court|
|Frequency||Can take once every year||Can take once every 2 years|
|Eligible offenses||Moving violations, up to 25 mph over||Moving violations, speeding up to 25 mph over|
Ineligible: DUI, driving without insurance DUI, driving without insurance
*Includes $134 court costs.
Source: Jefferson County attorney’s office; PSI of Kentucky; Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
next speeding ticket you pay may help cover the salaries of prosecutors
in Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell’s office.
for revenue because of state budget cuts, O’Connell has joined about 50
county attorneys statewide in offering his own traffic school, which
the legislature authorized last year.
you’re cited in Jefferson County for any of 17 traffic violations —
including speeding up to 25 mph over the speed limit, or running a red
light — you can pay $150 to take a two-hour online class and never have
to go to court. Complete the course and your citation is dismissed — it
won’t appear on your driving record and no points will be assessed
against your license.
vendor that O’Connell hired to run the “Drive Safe Louisville” course,
which was launched two weeks ago, calls it a “convenient, interactive
way” to satisfy violations “in the comfort of home.”
But some lawyers and judges, including Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., say they have concerns.
don’t see what the point of the law is other than to put money into the
county attorney’s hands,” criminal defense lawyer Skip Daleure said.
said he is bothered by “any type of system that raises money based on
fees.” The program is a throwback to the days before court reform in
Kentucky when the courts were funded by fines.
Defense lawyer Paul Gold, who practices in district court, sees both good and bad.
says it is a “fantastic program for the accused” because it is cheaper
than state traffic school online that costs $181. But he said he’s
worried it will eliminate review by judges of alleged dangerous driving
and that it creates a “pay-to-get-out-of-it situation.”
defense attorney, Benham Sims, said he finds it “offensive” that
O’Connell maintains a policy of opposing expungement of prior criminal
offenses for offenders who have so much as a traffic ticket since their
conviction, “but now, if you pay him $150, he will make the charge go
however, noted that the General Assembly last year enacted legislation
specifically authorizing county attorneys to run their own traffic
programs — and to collect a reasonable fee — although some had been
doing so for years.
Drivers will be accepted into his office’s program on a case-by-case
basis, he said, based on the offense charged, the driver’s history and
other “relevant information,” O’Connell said.
said there there is a “real education component” to the program, though
he and other prosecutors concede the intent is to raise cash.
A search for funding
attorneys have endured cuts in state funding as well as a dramatic
decline in the fees they once reaped from collecting on bad checks — an
amount that has dropped with the decline in the number of checks
written, said Robert Neace, president of the Kentucky County Attorneys
no statewide figures are available, Neace said check-collection fees
have dropped 60 percent to 70 percent in Boone County since 2007.
“Times are tough,” said Neace, the Boone county attorney.
Bill 480 doesn’t spell out the curriculum for county attorney traffic
schools, meaning every county attorney can set his own requirements.
Christian County, for example, drivers must write a term paper on safe
driving, while in Henderson County they must complete two hours of
community service. In Fayette, they must attend an hourlong class taught
personally by County Attorney Larry Roberts.
The Jefferson County class is two hours and offered online only. It features a traffic safety quiz, slides and videos.
$150 fee is divided three ways: O’Connell’s office gets $76, while $49
goes to the vendor, Lexington-based PSI of Kentucky, and $25 to the
Administrative Office of the Courts, where it is put into a fund to hire
more deputy clerks and enhance their pay.
said he doesn’t know how much the program will generate because it is
impossible to predict how many drivers will be eligible. Drivers can
take the class only once every two years in O’Connell’s program.
with 21,439 pre-payable citations issued in Jefferson County in 2011
for moving violations, according to the Jefferson circuit clerk’s
office, there is a potential for O’Connell’s office and PSI to generate
If the class were taken for every citation in 2011, it would have
raised about $1.6 million for the county attorney’s office and about $1
million for the vendor.
Judge Ann Bailey Smith said that judges have not been briefed on the
program and that she could not predict what the impact will be on the
court’s docket. She said judges will have to approve the dismissal of
Minton said it is impossible to predict the financial impact, although it may produce more money for the courts.
drivers won’t pay court costs — $134 in Jefferson County. But the
largest portion of that goes to the general fund, and only about $6 goes
directly to the courts, compared with $25 of the county attorney
traffic school fee.
clerks supported the traffic school law because of that, said Hardin
Circuit Clerk Loretta Crady, the president of the state circuit clerks’
Circuit Clerk David Nicholson also said he supports O’Connell’s traffic
program, as did Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad, who has
ordered officers to set court dates six weeks from when they cite
drivers to give them time to complete the program.
there is a program that will help our citizens and make our roads safe,
I am supportive of that, regardless of who offers that program,”
Choice of programs
gave the no-bid contract to PSI, a fledgling company formed last year
that operates programs for six county attorneys, over the more
experienced adventfs.com, which operates online traffic schools for 40
counties and provides an array of other services, such as processing the
collection of delinquent taxes.
said he liked PSI’s “product” better and the fact that it is offering
daylong programs in schools on the dangers of distracted driving.
Although PSI is a for-profit company, its “Drive Safe Kentucky” website has the look of an official government site.
It bears the seal of the state of Kentucky and is labeled “Kentucky Prosecutor’s (sic) Traffic Safety.”
Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts, who runs his own traffic
diversion program without a vendor, says that is misleading because
there is no statewide county attorney traffic program.
General Jack Conway’s office declined to comment specifically on the
site, but spokeswoman Shelley Johnson said using a seal in a
solicitation or advertisement that suggests it is endorsed by the
commonwealth could violate the state Consumer Protection Act.
PSI chief executive Guy Huguelet said county attorneys are all “employees of the commonwealth. That is why the seal is there.”
However, he added: “If it is not appropriate, we will take it down. We sure wouldn’t want to do anything that is wrong.”
was founded by Jake Patrick, 26, the son of Bill Patrick, who is
executive director of the county attorneys’ association and a former
chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.
said the elder Patrick never lobbied for his son’s company, and other
county attorneys also said he has stayed out of the business.
“To his credit, I never had one single conversation with Bill,” O’Connell said.
Hartlage, president of adventfs.com, which is based in Elizabethtown
and provides technology services to 200 counties in the Midwest and
southeastern United States, declined to comment on losing the contract
“We wish Jefferson County the best of luck,” he said.
Labels: General information