Kansas City has reopened the gate for speeders and even drunken drivers to plea bargain down to “defective equipment,” reports the Kansas City Star. Restrictions had been placed on the practice in the spring, but tightening up pleas had created a huge backlog of municipal court cases, potentially costing the city millions in lost revenue. Mayor Kay Barnes voted no on the change, calling it a “radical” step.
Defense attorneys, who earn fees for arranging plea bargains, had pressed the council to allow defective-equipment pleas. Under a system that had been in place for decades, bad drivers were allowed to repeatedly reduce speeding or other moving violations to a guilty plea to having defective equipment. Some drivers were doing it four or more times in a year, the Star reported earlier. Last year, about 30,000 people pleaded guilty to defective equipment, but that in only 54 of those cases was that what the ticket was for. Under the system, the city received more money in fines, and the offending drivers were able to avoid points on their records that could drive up insurance premiums. Some safety advocates, including some municipal judges, expressed concern about the system, known as “buying points.” The practice theoretically allowed dangerous drivers to get away with bad behavior, causing danger to others.