WASHINGTON -- Nothing changes a person's mood faster than seeing a parking ticket tucked under the windshield wiper of their car.
Until now, there's been little an offending driver can do, other than curse their carelessness or the likely departed traffic officer who wrote the ticket.
But a new smartphone app empowers drivers with a variety of ways to deal with the ticket on the spot.
"A lot of people consider it a 'walk of shame' when they come into our office," says Stephen Lustig, a South Florida defense attorney. "They're nothing to be ashamed of -- traffic tickets are very common, almost like a tax on the population."
Lustig's law firm has launched a free iOS app, called Ticket Titan, that enables drivers to hire an attorney to fight the ticket, or pay it, without the inconvenience of braving lines or countless phone calls.
"We're the first app ever to automate legal services, where you can retain the attorney without ever speaking to anyone," says Lustig.
Lustig says the service will soon be available nationwide.
Through the app, drivers can contest or pay traffic or red-light camera tickets, and pay (but not contest) parking tickets, Lustig says.
"Some people don't want to deal with it; they'd rather pay it. So go ahead, just push the button, put in your credit-card information, and it's done."
Or the driver can click "fight ticket."
"If you decide you want to fight it, we receive all your information, and we have an attorney appear in court for you," says Lustig. "You're also afforded the opportunity to tell your side of things in the app; you can write a couple lines to assist us in your defense."
A virtual hand-holding
After getting a ticket and downloading the Ticket Titan app, a driver takes a photo of the ticket.
The app informs the driver what the charges are and details the consequences, penalties, points and insurance ramifications of the specific charge.
If the driver chooses to pay the ticket, he or she can pay with a credit card, PayPal or taking a picture of a personal check with the phone.
To fight the ticket, entering the credit-card information constitutes the act of hiring his firm, says Lustig.
As the ticket makes its way through the court system, Lustig says the driver is constantly updated. "The push notification tells you your court dates," says Lustig.
And the driver doesn't have to spend hours waiting in a courthouse.
"You don't have to appear in court unless it's a criminal offense, like a suspended license with knowledge," says Lustig. "Generally, for speeding tickets, red-light tickets, you don't have to appear in court; we go for you."
Lustig acknowledges that some drivers hire an attorney for the comfort of hand- holding through confusing legal proceedings.
"It's a personal relationship; it's just between you and your phone," says Lustig.
Many jurisdictions allow free online payment of parking and traffic tickets, though the payment process can be user-unfriendly, says Lustig.
The service charge for paying a parking ticket through the Ticket Titan app is $1.25; for a traffic ticket, it's $5.
A similar app, called Fixed, lets drivers resolve tickets in San Francisco, although that company has hopes of providing services nationwide.
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