Detroit court starts cracking down on old traffic tickets

By Shawn Ley, Local 4 Reporter, @ShawnLeyLive, sley@wdiv.com
Published On: May 09 2013 04:38:13 PM EDT
Updated On: May 09 2013 06:19:19 PM EDT

After failing to collect more than $240 million dollars in traffic fines, the court is finally getting tough on collecting badly needed dollars.

DETROIT -

Judge Kenneth King How better off would Detroit be with $240 million added right to its general fund?

That's how much money is missing after traffic fines were not paid over the years at the 36th District Court. Now, the court is getting serious about collections and violators are being ordered to face a judge who is called "The Lie Detector."

The offenders come from all over Metro Detroit and even from out of state. Their crime is never paying their old traffic tickets.

Everyone has a different story to tell Judge Kenneth King.

Judge King is a former prosecutor. It is his job to start collecting more than $240 million in fines that were never paid and never followed up on.

With so many excuses to hear in such a short period of time, Judge King is getting that nickname, and the 36th District Court finally is getting tough on fines.

The court is sending out hundreds of notices ordering people to appear at a "show cause" hearing, which means appearing in court to state your case to the judge.

The word is out: You better bring some cash. Most are paying a little now and then more each month.

Why didn't the court collect this cash in the first place?

"There's a culture that exists in this community and even among some of our past judges that when you come to the 36th District Court you don't have to come with any money," said King. "So people come down and they get assessed the cost in fines and they leave, and we never hear from them again."

For example, the court says Tiffany Johnson owes $870 but she says her name is Tiffany Lee and she didn't her identification to prove her case.

That's when Judge King becomes "The Lie Detector." He has to make a call on the spot.

"The repeating the question that I ask is always a tipoff, just the overall body language," the judge said.

Judge King said this is going to take a while. He is not going to stop, though, and the court is not going to stop. King says what's next is seizing property and putting people who don't pay in jail.

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