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FHP Director Julie Jones Is Shocked, Shocked to Hear of Troopers Issuing Fake Tickets

| June 4, 2013

It's not a fake car. (Bob Brown)

It’s not a fake car. (Bob Brown)

The director of the agency that oversees the Florida Highway Patrol said she never heard of an unwritten policy in which state lawmakers would be issued tickets for lesser offenses when pulled over for speeding.

Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Julie Jones said she expects the agency will look into such allegations, described last week by a handful of former and current troopers during an administrative hearing on the firing of former FHP Trooper Charles Swindle.

But Jones, speaking to reporters Tuesday after appearing before Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet, backed her agency’s action on Swindle, maintaining that issuing tickets that contain “fake” information harms the credibility of the trooper.

“All I can say is, I don’t know of any unwritten policy,” said Jones, a former law-enforcement officer with the old Game and Freshwater Fish Commission. “We give officers discretion to write a ticket or to not write a ticket. We do not allow officers to write tickets for things that did not happen.”

Swindle contends he was fired because he followed a decades-old, unwritten agency policy when he issued a $10, nonmoving violation last November to state Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, rather than a speeding ticket that would have cost about $250. Swindle pulled over McBurney along Interstate 10 in Madison County

Swindle’s attorney argued that the trooper is the first ever fired for such a violation.

A handful of current and former FHP troopers said they’ve been advised since their academy training to practice such “discretion” when making traffic stops that involve state lawmakers.

The state maintains Swindle is out a job because he signed tickets issued to McBurney and Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, that contained false information. Clelland was stopped on the same day as McBurney.

Jones agreed that officers are allowed to make judgment calls based upon circumstances, but they cannot create untrue documents.

“We do not allow them to write tickets for situations that do not occur. That goes to the basic credibility of the officer,” Jones said. “If you’re a defense attorney and you have an officer that writes tickets randomly for events that did not occur, I’d want to ask that officer, ‘Did this really happen or is this one of those fake tickets you wrote?’ ”

A Public Employees Relations Commission hearing officer could issue a ruling in Swindle’s case by the middle of next week.

Both legislators were clocked at 87 mph before being pulled over, though McBurney disputed he was going that fast. The tickets issued by Swindle were for failure to have proper proof of insurance. Clelland also was ticketed for not having proof of registration.

Both lawmakers later told investigators they had the documents during the traffic stops.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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8 Responses for “FHP Director Julie Jones Is Shocked, Shocked to Hear of Troopers Issuing Fake Tickets”

  1. Sherry Epley says:

    OK, so the FHP Director is essentially saying that it is OK to NOT issue a ticket to “certain” people driving unsafely at 87 miles per hour. . . but, it is NOT legal to issue a ticket for a lessor offense. No matter how you slice it and dice it. . . this practice is wrong! EVERYONE should be subject to the same rules! A politican’s car is capable of injuring and killing people, exactly the same as a ditch digger’s vehicle.

    It’s interesting that the FHP Director wasn’t even savvy enough to be “politically correct” when answering this question. What she should do is reinstate the officer and make sure a new “official” policy is written to make it clear that “appropriate” tickets are to be written for ALL of those who put the public safety at risk, regardless of their political, public or personal position.

  2. Think About it says:

    I don’t think ANYONE should be allow “special treatment” for ANY moving voilation. The officer certainly didn’t think, gee I think I’ll pull him or her over because I think they may or may not have insurance or registration papers on them..
    If ANYONE speeds, or drives reckless they should get a ticket just like anyone else. If not then they can drive at will and put US in danger.

  3. Rick says:

    It’s purely a “suma” rule. Suma the rules for suma the people suma the time. If you’re not politically employed, obey the laws.

  4. E. C. H. says:

    Hey, this sounds like some of the hanky-panky that goes on in Palm Coast Code Enforcement:

    $24,000.00 in fines and counting for health and safety hazards that simply do not exist.

    When Flagler County Health Dept. was called to investigate, they said there were none.

    The 30 day notification law required prior to Code Enforcement Board Meetings (F.S. 162.12) to discuss the false allegations was violated.

    Notice was sent only 12 days prior to the meeting instead of the required 30.

    Notice was received 8 days after the meeting.

    A false USPS Track & Confirm was submitted to claim proper notice had been served. Is that fraud?

    The city attorney violated F.S. 162.5 by representing both the city and the Code Enforcement Board.

    He also sent a letter referring to an ex parte agreement that had been made outside of a Code Enforcement Board meeting between the city, Code Enforcement, and the Code Enforcement Board not to hear the case.

    At the May 1 Code Enforcement Board meeting, the Code Enforcement Board attorney pushed the evidence away from her and asked Code Enforcement if another letter had been sent. They said, “No.”

    She then said she was not aware of the process. How much did she get paid to attend that meeting and not know the very laws she gets paid to know?

    When asked if they were aware everything was being recorded, the Chairman said I would be removed if I spoke when I was not spoken to.

    It will cost $1,200.00 just to request the right to due process and be heard in court.

    No city employee will pay a single penny in legal fees. Their money grows on our tax tree.

    What message do you suppose they are really trying to send?

  5. It's About Time says:

    It’s about time that they finally got to the bottom of this old-age situation in which those with the power get away with everything, including breaking the law on the highways! If you go 17 miles above the posted speed limit, you deserve that citation! Not some bogus $10 no proof of insurance or proof of registration citation. Any law enforcement officer that would tarnish his credibility to simply help a politician avoid a hefty fine is basically guilty of bribery of a public official, which is in itself a felony. I understand that troopers and police officers often reduce the speed on a citation to the next lower bracket, which can lower the fine some $150 to $200. But in this case, the driver is still issues the citation and must pay the fine. This simply reduces the chances of the driver requesting a court hearing to fight the citation, because let’s face it, what judge is going to believe someone who received a citation for 9 miles over the limit? The next time these two boneheads decide to use I-10 as their own personal Daytona International Speedway, I hope they get the ticket for the highest fine possible. They can surely afford to call the Ticket Clinic Law Firm at 1-800-CITATION!

  6. really? says:

    Everybody should be treated the same. It shouldn’t matter if you know the Sheriff, are a politician or are a law enforcement officer. If you get busted, suck it up and pay the penalty and move on with your life. If you don’t want a speeding ticket……don’t speed.

  7. rickg says:

    Having worked with DHSMV as a vendor this kind of action and policy has gone on for a long time. The former Chief even bragged about giving former Sec of State Katherine Harris a FHP escort from Jacksonville to Tallahassee…. Legislators are treated totally different than you and I. Julie Jones should have and I bet knew this was happening.

  8. Raul Troche says:

    The lies,corruption and law breaking by our code enforcement officials just blows my mind . Many of them should be in jail and suffer loss of retirement benefits. To often they are in cahoots with law enforcement and polititions. What a racket. Power corrupts,absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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