NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - If you get a traffic ticket in Orleans Parish in the next 30 days, don't plan on pleading it down to a lesser charge. The city is cracking down on offenses. It's a plan that could impact your car insurance rates.
"If something happens that affects everyone, then the rates go up for everybody," said Don Fearn, owner of Mid-City Auto Title & Insurance.
New Orleans already has some of the highest car insurance rates in the country. Fearn predicts they could go even higher with the city's new plan to cut out plea deals at traffic court.
"If you can't plead something down to a lesser offense, you'll have more points on your record, the premiums are higher, you're going to pay more for your insurance," Fearn explained.
"It makes no sense. It's not good for the City of New Orleans, it's not good for the people of New Orleans," FOX 8 legal analyst Joseph Raspanti said.
Raspanti doesn't think the plan will work. A city spokesperson said the goal is to reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses. But the precess is where Raspanti sees trouble.
"If you make people go to trial, the prosecution has to have witnesses. Those witnesses are policemen, so we're gonna have a policeman come in here for a three-hour trial on a speeding ticket. You tell me if that makes any sense to you," Raspanti said.
Without a witness, Raspanti said the judge is likely to dismiss the charges, meaning the city won't make any money. People we spoke to at Traffic Court on Tuesday said they think motorists should be allowed a little leeway.
"Things happen sometimes, and I think everybody deserve a break," Anjanique Lawson said.
Alvarez Peters adds, "I think it's terrible, it's a terrible deal."
While the city's plan is being executed on a trial basis for the moment, Fearn fears his business may take a hit if it continues long-term. He thinks that if rates soar, people who can't afford the increases will start dropping their policies - in violation of the state's mandatory insurance law.
"A lot of times it seems the government does things and they don't think it through, and then it has that ripple effect and we all suffer for it," Fearn said.
When asked about the NOPD manpower issue - how police officers will be able to take time out to show up to traffic court to testify - a city spokesperson simply said the policy and its impacts on the department will be evaluated over the next month, and improvements will be made, if necessary.