Source: The Lens/Samantha Sunne
Jay Dixon was heading home from Baton Rouge to Lafayette one day when he got pulled over for speeding. As the deputy handed him the ticket, Dixon said, he was told to flip it over. On the back, Dixon found instructions saying he could pay the ticket by mailing a $175 money order made out to “DA P.T.D.”
If he paid the ticket that way, the deputy told him, it wouldn’t go on his record. Plus, it wouldn’t go through court, so he wouldn’t have to pay court costs.
“Who wouldn’t want to do it?” Dixon asked as he recounted what happened.
“P.T.D.” stands for Pre-Trial Diversion, and it’s an increasingly common sight on traffic tickets in Louisiana, according to research by The Lens. These fines do not go through the court system, which divides revenue among several agencies. Instead, the money goes straight to the district attorney.
Historically, pretrial diversion programs have been used to “divert” criminal defendants to drug rehab and counseling programs. The goal is to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail, address problems that contribute to crime, and reduce jail costs.
But diverting traffic tickets is a newer phenomenon, according to prosecutors and public defenders in Louisiana. Offenders are spared not from jail time, but from higher insurance premiums that could result from speeding tickets.