Judge keeps busy

William Thompson

From the beginning of July until Aug. 26, Municipal Court Judge Joe Dominguez has seen around 350 motorists inside his court for various traffic violations.

Dominguez said the high number of motorists ticketed is due to seat belt and DWI blitz campaigns on the part of local and state police. “I really don’t have the right to comment on how the police conduct their business,” said Dominguez. “I don’t believe the number of traffic cases is abnormally high.”
Tucumcari Police Chief Dennis Townsend said his officers have no quotas to fill. “None of our officers has a quota with regard to traffic offenses or any other offense,” said Townsend. “Quotas are illegal.”

Judge Dominguez usually holds court Monday through Friday at 8 a.m. He said some people who are cited for seat belt violations are aggravated. “Sometimes people think it’s okay to have their seat belt on just partially, and they think they haven’t done anything wrong,” said Dominguez, “but when I explain to them the law, that the seat belt has to be worn correctly, they usually understand.”

More than 100 speeding tickets were issued in July and August and 190 motorists were cited for no seat belt. Dominguez said he is aware that some residents cannot afford to pay steep traffic tickets in one lump sum.
“I will work with people who cannot afford to pay all at once,” said Dominguez. “I can often work out an installment plan with them with installments as little as $25.”
More than 30 individuals were cited for no insurance during July and August. Judge Dominguez said he can be lenient up to a point. “I will give a person several days to get their insurance,” he said. “I figure that once they have insurance then the problem is solved, so I give them a chance. I will do that once, maybe twice for the same person, but that would be it.”

The fine for no insurance is $200 plus $28 in court costs. The fine for no seat belt is $25 plus $28 in court costs and the fine for speeding up to 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit is $15 plus $28 in court costs. Around 80 motorists were ticketed for speeding at 10 m.p.h. or less over the speed limit in July and August.

Lt. Charles Newman, of the Tucumcari Police Department, said that officers will ticket anyone traveling over the speed limit. “If a sign is posted that says 25 m.p.h., and you are going 26 m.p.h., you will get a ticket,” said Newman.
Newman said there is currently a national DWI blitz in effect.