Law enforcement should be about public safety, not filling government coffers.
But a bill in the state House of Representatives that would allow police to issue $150 "warning tickets" to drivers traveling less than 10 mph over the speed limit is a potential money-maker for state and local governments.
Such a ticket -- hardly a warning -- would come with a higher fine, but no points against the driver's record. A difference between this and some municipal tickets for "careless operation of a vehicle" is that the state would be guaranteed a cut of the proceeds.
With the possibility of keeping their driving records clean, drivers are much less likely to fight the tickets and much more likely to pay the higher fine, particularly out-of-state drivers.
A similar bill died in committee in 2009. It would have allowed police officers to write warning tickets that carried $80 fines but no points on driving records. The local government would keep 90 percent of the revenue.
Objections then still hold true today: It would encourage police departments near tourist destinations or major highways to pull over people going slightly over the speed limit as a way to generate revenue.
Instead of encouraging this type of law enforcement, lawmakers should discourage it. That's what the legislature did when it required traffic violations to be reported on a uniform traffic ticket, points assessed and state fines collected.
In 2006, the state investigated Bluffton for issuing town tickets in place of some state traffic tickets. Drivers could plead guilty to a town charge of careless operation of a vehicle instead of the violation originally charged. That meant a higher fine but no points on their driving records. The town kept all the money. Bluffton eventually agreed to pay the state $471,832 for fines not collected.
Questions have been raised about Ridgeland citing speeders on Interstate 95 for violating a town ordinance rather than a state speeding law. The drivers, whom the town has charged with going more than 10 mph over the speed limit, do not get points on their driving records if they choose to pay the careless-operation fine, but the town does send the state its share of fines collected.
Law enforcement officials insist they don't issue tickets to raise money. Lawmakers shouldn't make it easier to do just that.