More and more county District Attorneys, municipal justices and elected officials are speaking out against a new scheme by the Division of State Police to disallow Troopers from prosecuting or plea-bargaining traffic tickets. Below is an article from the Times Herald-Record newspaper of Middletown, in which the Sullivan County District Attorney talks about the hardship this short-sighted plan by the Division of State Police will cause his office.
April 13, 2006
DA prepares for influx of speed cases
By Victor Whitman
Monticello – Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen said yesterday he’ll soon be overwhelmed tracking down speeders and will need more staff when the state police stop doing deals before trial.
"I have six months to try to deal with 25,000 tickets," he said. "I can’t do it on Sept. 1 the way (the office) is structured."
State police brass told troopers that after Sept. 1 they can’t make plea deals that turn speeding tickets into lesser offenses such as parking on pavement. The move throws plea negotiations and trials into the lap of district attorneys.
Lungen told county legislators that his staff of eight assistant district attorneys can’t handle the load. He needs three additional assistant district attorneys, a secretary and office space at a cost of about $250,000.
Lungen’s office rarely gets involved in traffic cases, only in cases of exceptional speed or serious violations.
Lungen said he’s happy to get tough on speeders. An average of 25 people each year are dying in wrecks on Sullivan’s roads. But the office is on pace to handle more than 400 indictments for drugs, assault and sexual abuse, among other felonies.
Sullivan averages 25,000 traffic tickets annually.
"They planted this on us in the middle of the year," he said.
"To a county like Sullivan it is not a small budget item, and you just don’t hire lawyers over night."
Legislators committed no money, but agreed to study Lungen’s proposal and lobby state legislators to pressure the state police to give counties more time.