Scottsdale has quietly begun to thwart photo enforcement violators who try to dodge process servers, repeatedly motioning the city court to allow tickets to be mailed or posted to a scofflaw's front door.
Thanks to efforts by New Times and others, most Arizonans now understand the limitations of photo enforcement tickets. Unless the violator is properly served under the state's Rules of Civil Procedure, or waives the right to proper service, a mailed ticket has no teeth. Within 120 days of being filed in court, unserved photo enforcement tickets must be dismissed completely from the system.
Proper service doesn't always mean someone has to hand you the ticket, though. A more obscure section of the court's rules allows for something called "alternate service" — a legal action Scottsdale has been using much more frequently in recent months, New Times has learned.
Caron Close, Scottsdale City Prosecutor, says the alternate service motions are intended to reduce the number of citations being tossed because of the 120-day rule. Though the motions consume more time and resources, they result in more tickets being paid, she says.
"It's cost-effective, yes," Close says, adding that she didn't know how often the city was doing it.
The use of alternate service isn't widespread, in part because it's kind of a pain for the court system. Once a dodger has been identified, city prosecutors file a motion with the court for alternate service, attaching an affidavit showing the due diligence of the process server. Servers must have tried to deliver the ticket three times — at morning, noon and night on separate days.
If the judge grants the motion, the prosecutor's office sends the citation back to the process serving company. A server makes another trip to the residence, taping a copy of the citation to the front door. Another copy is mailed to the motorist — but this time the mailed citation has the legal weight of an officer-issued ticket.
Kyle Smith of Hawkins and E-Z Messenger Legal Support Providers LLC, which serves photo enforcement tickets for Scottsdale and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, says Scottsdale uses alternate service in about 50 to 75 cases a month.
Scottsdale hasn't touted its new tack against people who ignore tickets, meaning some people might think they have nothing to worry about it as long as the ticket is not hand-delivered. For sure, anyone playing the game of "dodge-the-server" should study up on the rulebook.